Daily drivers that also pull double duty as track-day racers can be tough to afford without a six-figure executive salary. Don’t let that get you down, though. We tore through every manufacturer’s lineup to find 13 new cars that can earn you respect on the street and track while staying on a budget.
For this list, we capped the budget at $30,000, but there are plenty of cars here that fall in the low $20,000 range and below. Here’s what we dug up.
Ford Focus ST
When seeking a track-day car that is also plenty capable on the street without killing your budget, I recommend my track-day rig, the Focus ST. Granted mine is a little older, but the 2018 Focus ST is still plenty capable with its 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant pairs with a slick six-speed manual transmission to deliver a 6.3-second sprint to 60 mph.
Getting into the 2018 Ford Focus ST is relatively affordable too at $25,170.
Ford Fiesta ST
Can’t pull off the Focus ST’s payment? You can shave a few thousand dollars off by downsizing to the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST. Sure, it is not as potent as the Focus ST at 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque, but this less powerful engine motivates a lighter car, resulting in a respectable 6.9-second 0-to-60 sprint. What’s more, when you aren’t racing the Fiesta ST, its 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway blow the Focus out of the water, saving you more money as your daily commuter.
The Ford Fiesta ST starts at just $21,285, making it an insane value.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
When you get into the higher trim levels, the 2018 Mazda Miata can get downright expensive, but Mazda keeps its entry point relatively low. What’s more, the Miata is the same track-focused roadster it has always been. Sure, it only has 155 horsepower, but its 2,332-pound curb weight and row-your-own gearbox result in a surprising sub-six-second 0-to-60 time. Plus, its tight suspension, quick-grabbing brakes, and perfect balance make it a beast on the autocross circuit.
All this comes in a package that will set you back just $25,295.
You will never confuse me for a fan of the Toyota 86, but I would be mistaken to say it doesn’t make a good track-day car on a budget. Its engine isn’t overly impressive at 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque, but it is potent enough to launch this sports coupe to 60 mph in around 7.5 seconds. That’s not going to hang well in the straights, but the 86 does its best work in the corners where its back end’s dance is easy to control and very predictable.
At just $26,455, the 2019 Toyota 86 is a decent track-day value.
I cannot mention the Toyota 86 without talking about its badge-engineered cousin, the Subaru BRZ. The BRZ carries the same powertrain and body as the 86, but it is a dozen pounds heavier. Fortunately, the added weight should make no difference on the track, so you can expect roughly identical performance as the 86.
Where the BRZ makes its case against the 86 is its slightly lower price tag of $25,595.
Another Scoobie worth looking into for a track-day rig is the WRX. Yes, they are played out as virtually every wannabe racer has one, but it’s popular for a good reason. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer engine injects a healthy 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque into Subaru’s legendary symmetrical all-wheel-drive system for a mid-five-second 0-to-60 sprint time. Plus, this all-wheel drive system helps in the slippery stuff and in the corners.
Where the WRX loses a step is its pricing, which starts from $27,195.
If you’ve got a seriously tight budget, the Chevy Sonic LT Turbo may be the track-day car for you. Yes, its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine only produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, but its small footprint and low curb weight allow it to hit 60 mph in just over eight seconds.
You can grab the Chevy Sonic with the turbocharged engine for as little as $18,095, leaving a lot of room to upgrade it with some aftermarket goodies.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The hot hatch that started it all, the Golf GTI remains a dominant force in the segment it created. This Autobahn-tuned hatchback is a little light on the power at 220 horses, but its adjustable suspension and optional dual-clutch transmission give it the upper hand on many of its competitors. The GTI churns out 0-to-60 sprints in 6.2-second clips with the manual transmission or sub-six-second clips with the dual-clutch transmission.
The Golf GTI is also quite affordable with a starting price of $26,415.
Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec
Maybe one of the best values for the speed on this list is the 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec. The R-Spec model foregoes all the niceties in favor of a row-your-own six-speed gearbox with a B&M short shifter and sticky Michelin rubber. This amounts to a 0-to-60 sprint of just 6.2 seconds paired with an MSRP of just $21,900.
Mini Cooper S
It may get a few gawks and giggles, but the Mini Cooper S remains an outstanding track-day car on a budget. Its BMW-sourced 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine punches out 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, which leads to a 6.4-second gallop to 60 mph. Plus, its tiny footprint makes it easy to toss it around the track, especially a tight autocross circuit.
All this comes in a package that runs just $25,900.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Much like the Cooper S, the Fiat 500 Abarth may get a few chuckles, but this pint-size hatchback is no joke on the track. It’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine pops and burbles its way to 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. This doesn’t look like much on paper, but it’s plenty to toss its lightweight body to 60 mph in just under seven seconds.
And with a starting price of just $20,495, the Fiat 500 Abarth is one of the cheapest thrills on the market.
Ford Mustang EcoBoost
Having grown up in the 1980s and ’90s, I never thought a base Mustang would amount to more than a rental-fleet rig. That is certainly not the case with the Mustang EcoBoost. This Mustang uses a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to pound out an incredible 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. This amounts to a 0-to-60 sprint time in the mid-five-second range. Plus, the Mustang is plenty comfortable in the corners.
All this comes in a package that runs just $26,120.
Where there is a Mustang, a Camaro is sure to show up, and this list is no exception. While the V-8-powered Camaro SS isn’t a value, its base model with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is. This engine pumps out 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, resulting in a 0-to-60 time in the mid-five-second range. Like its Ford rival, the base Camaro doesn’t shy away from the twisty stuff either.
Getting into this track-day rig will set you back just $26,900.