Budget-Friendly Fast Cars Under $25,000

By: James Diaz | July 28, 2024

On the hunt for a swift, exciting ride but working with a budget? No need to sweat it— at MotoPickers we’re here to guide you to your dream wheels. After diving into the details, we’ve pulled together a list of the top affordable, zippy cars up for grabs right now. We’ve set a ceiling of $25,000—and the cheaper the car, the sweeter the deal! These high-octane, wallet-friendly cars are either speedy, super-fast, or both. We’ve rated them on their speed, bang for your buck, and the all-crucial (though admittedly subjective) fun factor.

Each of these budget sports cars was selected with a typical mileage for its age (we gave a nod to the newer, readily available models), and whenever it was doable we picked the higher-horsepower versions, as long as it didn’t tip them over our maximum price.

The Fair Retail Price (Reputable Market Price) for each car represents the average price for the best value models within the range of available production years, according to the most frequented used car websites. So, without further ado, here’s our MotoPickers pick of the best budget-conscious speedy rides you can get your hands on today for $25,000 or less.

Mini Cooper S

MotoPickers Rating 7/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2002-2012
  • Engine Power: 163-181 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.3 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 142 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $15,500 (2012 2-Door base coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $85.63 per hp
Mini Cooper S

Pulling up the rear, a tad unexpectedly, is the Mini Cooper S, which struggled to keep pace with most of its rivals—both literally and metaphorically. Even with the swifter ‘S’ version, the Mini places a significant chunk of change on your tab, offering fairly average performance in return.

Although the Mini bagged its reputation more on handling than sheer acceleration, with a 0-60 mph time of 6.3 seconds, a steep $85.63 horsepower cost, and a top speed lingering at the lower end of our ranking, the Cooper S may be best saved for devout Mini aficionados or folks after something besides just speed. In its favour, however, it remains a distinctive looking car and the earlier versions had especially good neat lines.

Subaru BRZ (Toyota 86)

MotoPickers Rating 7.5/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2013-2020
  • Engine Power: 200 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.3 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 142 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $16,488 (2013 BRZ Limited)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $82.44 per hp
Subaru BRZ

Like its Toyota 86 sibling, the BRZ certainly looks the part when it comes to speed and performance. However, despite their racy posture and driver-focused cabins, the BRZ and 86 have historically faltered in the power department, despite their nifty handling (though the new-gen models have attempted to address the power shortfall).

Given a ballpark figure of six seconds for the sprint to 60 mph, the BRZ/86’s less than thrilling time of 6.3 seconds registers as the fifth slowest top speed in our lineup. Couple this with a fairly steep price tag, and this brings the car closer to the tail end of our budget performance roster.

On the upside, it looks good!

Honda Civic Si

MotoPickers Rating 7.6/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2007-2020
  • Engine Power: 197-205 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.3 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 137 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $14,200 (2013 sedan)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $70.64 per hp
Honda Civic Si

True, the Civic Si enjoys a long-standing fanbase, and its tuning capacities are pretty incredible. However, the stock Si version doesn’t exactly shock with its stats. Despite sporting Front Wheel Drive, the Si takes over six seconds to clock 60 mph, offering the third slowest top speed here —a bit of a downer in the ‘speedy’ or ‘fast’ spectrum in this comparison.

Sure, the Civic Type R would be a more exciting contender in the performance stakes, but snagging one for under $25,000 may well be a tall order.

In spite of the slightly slower than expected 0-60 mph time, however, Honda produced a fine all-rounder in the Civic Si and it’s likely to prove a reliable and enjoyable car to own.

Ford Focus ST

MotoPickers Rating 7.6/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2013-2018
  • Engine Power: 252 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.3 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $12,995 (2014 base)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $51.56 per hp
Ford Focus ST

Ford’s underrated contender in the hot hatch segment slips in with very decent performance, delivering a solid 252 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbocharged heart. As a relatively recent model, the Focus ST doesn’t exactly scream ‘best value’.

If our ranking involved tuning potential, however, the Focus ST would definitely have punched above its weight. However, in its standard form, it lacks the wow factor to offset its middle-of-the-road performance, clocking a 0-60 mph time just over the six-second mark.

Volkswagen GTI

MotoPickers Rating 7.6/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2003-2018
  • Engine Power: 197-220 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.0 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $12,600 (2013 4-Door)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $63.00 per hp
Volkswagen GTI

However, with easy availability, decent performance, hatchback versatility and a fair price tag, the GTI makes for a good catch. It will also be an easy resale should you want something even faster!

Similar to the Civic Si, the GTI boasts a large fanbase and a lively aftermarket scene. But when we stick to pure speed comparisons, a 0-60 mph time hovering around six seconds doesn’t really get the adrenaline pumping.

Toyota MR2 Spyder

MotoPickers Rating 7.7/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2000-2007
  • Engine Power: 138 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.6 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 142 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $12,500 (2002)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $90.57 per hp
Toyota MR2 Spyder

Despite sitting towards the tail end of both speed (second slowest to 60 mph) and value scales (second priciest horsepower-to-dollar ratio), the MR2 Spyder steals the spotlight with its sheer fun quotient. A rare bird on today’s roads, the MR2 is one of only two mid-engine sports cars on our list, with its pricier cousin the Porsche Boxster being the other.

Upsides to the MR2 include its drop-top feature and a relatively light price tag. Even though it’s a bit light on grunt, the MR2 represents an affordable, unique sports car that offers a hoot behind the wheel.

Fiat 500 Abarth

MotoPickers Rating 7.7/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2012-2019
  • Engine Power: 160 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.8 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 130 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $6,700 (2012 Sport)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $41.87 per hp
Fiat 500 Abarth

Clocking the slowest 0-60-mph time in our mix at 6.8 seconds, the Fiat 500 Abarth does still pack a punch as the most cost-effective option—shaving nearly two grand off the others, with prices just shy of the $7,000 mark. Its compact dimensions and distinctive style are definite head-turners.

When it comes to the thrill factor, the Abarth, with a modest 160 horsepower, doesn’t quite hit the spot. However, its affordable sticker price keeps its horsepower-to-dollar ratio very attractive. Plus, with the cash saved, you have a solid aftermarket selection to give the Abarth’s tame 160 horsepower a welcome boost.

It unquestionably scores for style, and though tall drivers may find it cramped, it’s like being inside a hurtling ball when you go flat out!

Dodge Neon SRT-4

MotoPickers Rating 7.8/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2003-2005
  • Engine Power: 215-230 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.4 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 148 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $14,900 (2004)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $64.78 per hp
Dodge Neon SRT-4

The Dodge Neon SRT-4 possibly offers the thriftiest power-per-dollar ratio among used performance rides out there. However, it seems this pocket rocket’s notoriety as an economical power pact—what with its swift 0-60mph dash of a mere 5.4 seconds and a readily tunable turbo engine—is beginning to catch on.

Consequently, its resale values are witnessing an upward trend, pushing it down in the ranks when pitted against its rivals. But as a fast ride in a smooth machine, it scores!

Chevy Cobalt SS

MotoPickers Rating 7.9/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2005-2010
  • Engine Power: 171-260 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.5 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $9,100 (2007)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $44.39 per hp
Chevy Cobalt SS

The Chevy Cobalt SS often goes under the radar among the hot hatch brigade. In its prime (stock condition), it can zip from 0 to 60 mph in a swift 5.5 seconds—roughly keeping stride with the bulk of the nineties’ JDM racers, which are now fetching steep prices.

The turbo-four engine packs a punch of 260 hp for around a modest $10k, which is pretty much a steal. Owing to its lack of popularity among tuning enthusiasts, the Cobalt SS remains a budget-friendly speedster. However, its rather plain-Jane exterior design does cut some points away.

Honda S2000

MotoPickers Rating 8/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1999-2009
  • Engine Power: 237 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.8 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 147 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $23,800 (2003)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $100.42 per hp
Honda S2000

Easily claiming the ‘coolest car’ title in our lineup, the S2K unfortunately trails with the steepest money-to-horsepower ratio. Its slowpoke-ish 60-mph dash—just shy of six seconds—pulls its ranking down a notch.

However, it scores high with its ultra-high-revving four-cylinder beast that maxes out at a walloping 9,000 rpm, an uber-cool digital dashboard, evergreen aesthetics, and a proud Honda racing heritage. As the S2000 is likely to appreciate in value, its $23,800 price tag might soon emerge as a bargain—so better watch this space!

Mazda MX-5 Miata

MotoPickers Rating 8.1/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1990-2020
  • Engine Power: 155-178 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.8 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 129 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $10,600 (2007 Sport)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $63.85 per hp
Mazda MX-5 Miata

Cranking up the fun dial more than the power gauge, the Mazda MX-5 Miata enjoys legendary status. With a price tag below $25,000, you can choose from a tantalizing spread of 30 years’ worth of cars, each an open-air convertible sporting one of the smoothest manual gears ever conceived.

While it doesn’t match the high-octane offerings of a Corvette or SRT8, with its quickest 0-60-mph dash of 5.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 129 mph (the lowest on our list), its sheer exhilaration on a twisty route on a sunny day makes it an undoubtedly worthy buy.

Mazda RX-8

MotoPickers Rating 8.1/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2004-2012
  • Engine Power: 212-250 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 6.0 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 145 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $8,885 (2004 base)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $37.33 per hp
Mazda RX-8

Succeeding the iconic ’90s JDM classic, the RX-7, the RX-8 often flies under the radar due to its somewhat compromised performance and less appealing design. As the price of the RX-7 steadily climbs, the RX-8 remains a pocket-friendly choice, landing the third lowest price in our list.

Standing alone, not in the RX-7’s shadow, the RX-8 holds its own as a decent performer. While a 0-60 mph sprint time of 6.0 seconds may not drop jaws, its distinctive “suicide” rear-hinged doors, rotary engine, and modest price tag certainly pack enough intrigue to help you steal the show in any lot.

Audi S8

MotoPickers Rating 8.1/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2006-2010
  • Engine Power: 450 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.2 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $20,627 (2007 Sedan)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $45.83 per hp
Audi S8

The Audi S8 is a true master of disguise. The second-gen S8 runs on a slightly tamed version of the same 5.2-liter V-10 that fuels the Lamborghini Gallardo. Even though its output was trimmed down a bit to a wholesome 450 hp, the S8 doesn’t disappoint.

Equipped with Audi’s admired Quattro all-wheel drive, this imposing sedan notches up the quickest acceleration time on our list, zipping to 60 mph in an impressive 4.2 seconds. Despite holding the third most expensive title on our list, the S8 undoubtedly delivers value-for-money high-performance thrills.

BMW Z4

MotoPickers Rating 8.2/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2003-2016
  • Engine Power: 240-335 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.7 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $19,450 (2009 sDrive35i)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $58.09 per hp
BMW Z4

The Z4, oozing pizzazz, is a perfect budget-speedster for anyone, regardless of age. Choosing a newer model will get you the beefier 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine that cranks out a healthy 335 hp. This powerplant propels the sleek 3,549-pound convertible to 60 mph in a brisk 4.7 seconds.

The Z4 is one of the three cars on our roster that features a hardtop convertible. While it does sport a substantial price tag, the Z4 undoubtedly delivers a high-performance bargain for the budget-conscious buyer.

BMW 550i

MotoPickers Rating 8.3/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2008-2016
  • Engine Power: 360-445 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.7 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $17,995 (2013)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $40.43 per hp
BMW 550i

Our list features a fair share of Beemers, but none sport the genuine M-badge, given they usually steer towards pricier realms. The 550i, a member of the 5 Series, is more in line with BMW’s mainstream offerings. Well, not exactly mainstream.

During its sixth generation run (2010-2017), the 550i employed a scaled-down variant of the M5’s beefy 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, cranking out a solid 445 hp (compared to the M5’s 560). This power allows the 4,365-pound family transporter to make tracks, clocking a standout 0-60-mph time of 4.7 seconds in true style.

If it’s speed with luxury with unquestionable class you’re after, the 550i may be perfect for you!

Porsche Boxster

MotoPickers Rating 8.4/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1996-2012
  • Engine Power: 204-320 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.4 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 170 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $17,485 (2002 S)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $54.64 per hp
Porsche Boxster

Sharing mid-engine honors with the MR2 Spyder on our list is the Boxster. A joyride ever since its inception during the Clinton years, this convertibles gives a surprising kick of performance. In more precise terms, the Boxster S doesn’t just mark its presence; it takes any car in our list head-on when it comes to acceleration (dashing 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds) and top speed (clocking in at 170 mph), securing a commendable third place in both areas.

Toss into the mix a wind-in-the-hair driving thrill, your choice of a nifty traditional six-speed manual or one of the smoothest dual-clutch automatic gearboxes in the game, and you’ve got a budget-friendly racer that’s fast and fun, meeting pretty much anyone’s pocket size.

Nissan 370Z

MotoPickers Rating 8.4/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2009-2018
  • Engine Power: 332-350 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.9 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $15,449 (2011 coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $46.53 per hp
Nissan 370Z

The Nissan 370Z and its cousin the Infiniti G37 pack a formidable blend of power and amusement at a fair price. Owing to its over half-a-century-long legacy, the Z holds a special place in car collectors’ hearts, who are willing to shell out extra bucks for the brand.

This ride zips to 60 mph in a noteworthy 4.9 seconds, courtesy of its robust 300+ HP V-6 engine. Given its ace engine, chic design, and crisp handling, the 370Z delivers splendid speed and is perfect for the budget conscious.

Audi S4

MotoPickers Rating 8.5/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2001-2014
  • Engine Power: 250-340 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.9 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $13,995 (2006 Sedan)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $41.16 per hp
Audi S4

The S4 makes a compelling case for value-for-money and performance, and would undoubtedly take the crown if we had a ‘stealth’ category, outclassing its Audi sibling, the S8. Touting a substantial 340 hp and a sub-five-second 0-60 mph time, the S4 packs ample hustle.

Yet, at a glance, it’s just another four-door sedan, which, albeit a big plus for those keen on keeping a low profile, doesn’t exactly ratchet up its ‘excitement’ rank.

Infiniti G37

MotoPickers Rating 8.5/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2008-2015
  • Engine Power: 330 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.2 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 157 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $11,995 (2008 Sport)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $36.34 per hp
Infiniti G37

While the G35 could have landed a spot on our roster, it turns out the beefier, superior-performing, and newer G37 justifies its marginally higher price tag over its predecessor.

This sleek coupe comes with a luxury badge and a surprising 0-60 mph dash of a mere 5.2 seconds, branding the Infiniti as a remarkable performance sedan on a shoe-string. It draws power from the identical VQ 3.7-liter V-6 engine that also fuels its kin, the Nissan 370Z.

Mercedes-Benz CLK55

MotoPickers Rating 8.6/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1997-2003
  • Engine Power: 362 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.9 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $15,995 (’03 Coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $44.18 per hp
Mercedes-Benz CLK55

While it may seem a bit retro now, back in the day, the CLK55 was the speediest Mercedes you could snag in the States. Under its hood, it housed a roaring 5.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8 that put out a whopping 362 hp back then and propelled the Mercedes to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds.

However, with just six years in the market and Mercedes-Benz AMG going all-out in the following decade, the CLK55 came close to fading from our performance car memory. But be in no doubt, this is a fast and luxurious beast, and could be a brilliant way to bag a fast Merc.

Cadillac XLR

MotoPickers Rating 8.6/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2004-2009
  • Engine Power: 320 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.4 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $15,100 (2004 Base)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $47.18 per hp
Cadillac XLR

If you put a premium on rarity and coolness, then the Cadillac XLR has your name on it. Although it holds a mid-range position in performance, power, and price, it stands out as one of the three two-seater hardtop convertibles on our list, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Z4 and 335i. The XLR also masquerades as Cadillac’s maiden bid in conjuring a two-seat sports car.

Sure, the XLR-V speeds past the base model, but finding one under $25,000 might be a stretch. However, the base model delivers ample zip, shooting from 0 to 60 mph in a quick 5.4 seconds. In its heyday, it went toe-to-toe with other luxury convertibles. Plus, topping 155 mph with the wind sweeping your hair back feels pretty thrilling.

Subaru WRX

MotoPickers Rating 8.7/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2002-2019
  • Engine Power: 227-305 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.7 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $12,990 (2010 base)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $49.01 per hp
Subaru WRX

Usually, it’s tough to judge a four-door ride as ridiculously fun, but the WRX shatters that stereotype on multiple fronts and it’s been a hoot to drive since its debut. Its distinctive flat-four boxer engine belts out one of the most distinctive soundtracks, aiding the all-wheel-drive WRX in tearing through 0-60 mph in an impressive 4.7 seconds.

No doubt, the STI variant churns out more speed but with only an additional 37 hp, that increased oomph doesn’t quite justify the higher price-per-horsepower you fork out for the STI.

Pontiac GTO

MotoPickers Rating 8.8/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2003-2006
  • Engine Power: 350-400 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.8 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $12,900 (’05)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $32.25 per hp
Pontiac GTO

Don’t let the revived GTO slip under your radar; it’s running a tight race for the second-best horsepower-to-dollar ratio on our lineup. The rebooted GTO borrows its blueprint from the Holden Commodore, campaigned by GM’s then-Australian offshoot—a sound decision, indeed.

Initially driven by GM’s LS1 V-8, the GTO later advanced to the mightier LS2 engine—which also powered the 2005-2007 C6 Corvette—delivering a punchy 400 hp, ensuing in a brisk 4.8-second sprint to 60 mph. Outfitted with a fitting aftermarket exhaust, its small-block V-8 rekindles the soundscape of its iconic namesake.

Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo (Mitsubishi 3000GT)

MotoPickers Rating 8.9/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1990-1996
  • Engine Power: 300-320 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.8 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $12,400 (1994 R/T)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $38.75 per hp
Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo

As one of the vintage contenders on our list, the Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo perennially lurks under the limelight of its more celebrated doppelganger, the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4. Regrettably, for purse-friendly speed enthusiasts, the 3000GT VR-4 has been slowly inching from the affordable bracket to the inflated, sought-after, pricy territory of used cars.

Undeniably, the 3000GT is the more aesthetically pleasing sibling, yet the Stealth R/T Turbo, with the same underpinnings, is no eyesore. With a reasonable average price tag hovering around $12,000, you’d struggle to spot a VR-4 sporting similar specs for twice that amount, oddly positioning the Dodge as the performance car to look out for.

BMWs 335i

MotoPickers Rating 9/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2007-2013
  • Engine Power: 300 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.3 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $11,750 (2011 335i coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $39.16 per hp
BMWs Finest 335i

Arguably the most undervalued entry on our roster, the 335i was the pioneer 3 Series to wield a turbocharged powerplant. Its N54 inline-six engine, packing a solid 300 hp, has shown it can effortlessly manage twice that figure with factory internals.

Despite its age, the fifth-gen 3 Series STILL charms with its looks, over a decade and a half since its debut—think of it as the George Clooney of cars. Blend that age-defying appeal with a nifty 5.3-second blitz to 60 mph, all under a $12k price tag, and you’ve bagged a performance car steal.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

MotoPickers Rating 9.2/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2009-2016
  • Engine Power: 348 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.2 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 149 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $9,495 (2011 3.8 R-Spec)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $27.28 per hp
hyundai genesis coupe

If we were to rank solely based on the horsepower-per-dollar figure, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe would gallop ahead in this race. But considering two other aspects, the Genesis Coupe still pulls off a healthy sixth spot on our best bargain sports car list.

Boasting 348 hp, its naturally aspirated V-6 fires the athletic Hyundai to 60 mph in a swift 5.2 seconds. It’s the lone car on our roundup that delivers over 300 hp for under $10,000, making it one of the top value-for-money performance cars in the market.

Dodge Charger SRT8

MotoPickers Rating 9.3/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2006-2014
  • Engine Power: 425-470 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.3 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 175 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $20,950 (2013)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $44.57 per hp
Dodge Charger SRT8

The Dodge Charger SRT8 takes the crown for the most power-packed car on our list, pumping out a hefty 470 hp from a colossal, naturally aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi V-8. This mammoth might all but defies the laws of physics, enabling the SRT8 to execute a blistering 0-60-mph sprint in a mere 4.3 seconds—second only to its Lamborghini-powered S8 competitor on our roster.

Free of power-robbing electronic limiters dogging several rivals, the SRT8 stands alone, hitting a peak speed of 175 mph—topping our list. On pure price grounds, the SRT8 bows to the Honda S2000. However, given its roughly double horsepower compared to the S2K, the SRT8 finds itself mid-table for the horsepower-to-dollar ratio—earning it the reputation as an absolute top-five performance car steal.

Ford Mustang GT

MotoPickers Rating 9.5/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1999-2014
  • Engine Power: 260-412 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.4 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 155 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $17,490 (2011 GT coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $42.45 per hp
Ford Mustang GT

In a twist fitting of their long-standing rivalry, the 5.0-liter V-8 Coyote-fueled Mustang GT finds itself in a nose-to-nose race with the Camaro SS. They match stride for stride with identical best 0-60-mph sprints (both clocking in at 4.4 seconds) and peak horsepower figures mere hairs apart (412 hp for the GT and 426 hp for the SS). The only area where the Camaro edges past the Mustang is in the horsepower-per-dollar contest.

However, our stats are based on average figures, suggesting you might just stumble upon a GT or two priced similarly to a comparably-specced SS—leading us, yet again, to a photo finish between the Mustang and Camaro. Most likely, the decision between a pre-loved Mustang GT and Camaro SS will boil down to what it has since the ’60s: personal taste and brand allegiance.

Chevy Camaro SS

MotoPickers Rating 9.5/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1998-2015
  • Engine Power: 320-426 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.4 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 165 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $16,500 (2010 2SS Coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $38.73 per hp
Chevy Camaro SS

Featuring the fourth mightiest horsepower and the sixth best bang-for-your-buck ratio, the Camaro SS secures its spot as our third top performance car that’s easy on the wallet. The Camaro, in nearly every version, has consistently been a solid performer that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, particularly the V-8 models.

The fifth-gen Camaro, which hit the road in 2009, packs a thumping LS3 small-block V-8. Cranking out a stout 426 hp sans turbocharging, the Camaro can sprint to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, tying for third fastest on our list. Sure, the later-introduced Z/28 and ZL-1 pack significantly more of a punch and are quicker than the SS, but if you can land one for less than $25,000, do let us know—we’d happily snatch up a couple!

Pontiac Solstice GXP/Saturn Sky Redline

MotoPickers Rating 9.6/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 2006-2010
  • Engine Power: 173-260 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 5.4 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 142 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $8,495 (’07 GXP)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $32.67 per hp
Pontiac Solstice GXP/Saturn Sky Redline

Just a reminder that the prime focus of this list is on “speed” and “affordability,” with “joyride” factoring in as a valued third. However, this might stir up a bit of controversy. The briefly lived and often overlooked Pontiac Solstice GXP (and its twin, the Saturn Sky Redline) clinches the second spot in our best affordable speedsters lineup. The Solstice rises to the occasion in value and fun factors but stumbles a bit in the performance stakes, notwithstanding its potent 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine.

Churning out 260 hp, the Solstice records a middle-of-the-pack best 0-60-mph sprint of 5.4 seconds and shares the third slowest top speed title at 142 mph. No, it’s not the top performer on the driver’s scale, but if you can point out a nippier, more entertaining ride under $8,500, do inform us. As long as you don’t have any ambitions to race against anything brandishing an SRT badge, we promise you’ll relish every moment in this exhilarating roadster.

C5 Corvette

MotoPickers Rating 9.8/10

  • Qualifying Model Years: 1997-2007
  • Engine Power: 345-405 hp
  • Fastest 0-60 mph Dash: 4.7 seconds
  • Peak Speed: 175 mph
  • Reputable Market Price: $13,900 (1998 Coupe)
  • Cost-to-Horsepower Ratio: $39.71 per hp
C5 Corvette

Our quest for the ultimate speedy yet affordable car concludes here, with the C5 Corvette snatching the crown. This speedster ticks just about every box any high-performance car buff could dream of on a budget. Yes, the Z06 does pack more of a punch, and you might stumble upon one under $25,000 in prime shape. But the base C5 dishes out a mighty 345 hp from its near-indestructible LS1 small-block V-8, letting you in on the enduring Corvette legacy. 

Its 0-60-mph dash of 4.7 seconds might not be the quickest in our roundup, yet it ties with the Charger SRT8 for the top dog position at a peak speed of 175 mph. You might even spot a convertible variant at a steal of a price if you fancy an open-top experience. But even with the coupe, you score a detachable targa top. However, if you choose the fixed-roof coupe (FRC)—the rarest and lightest member of the C5 family—it tips the scales at a mere 3,120 pounds and is 12% stiffer than the coupe. A well-maintained C5 Corvette going for less than $15,000 should put a full stop to your hunt for the best economical and speedy performance car.

Budget Speedsters FAQ

Which vehicle zooms 0 to 60 mph fastest?

Powering to the front with a swift 4.2-second sprint, the Audi S8, with its V-10 engine, takes the quickest spot.

Which automobile flaunts the most horsepower?

Boasting a whopping 470 hp, the Dodge Charger SRT8 tops the horsepower chart.

Which vehicle takes the longest from 0 to 60 mph?

Clocking the longest 0-60 mph sprint time of 6.8 seconds, the Fiat 500 Abarth trails at the end of the pack.

Which car wields the least horsepower?

With a modest output of just 138 hp, the Toyota MR2 Spyder sits at the low end of horsepower availability.

Which speedster comes with the smallest price tag?

The Fiat 500 Abarth shines as the most wallet-friendly option, with a decent used model averaging around $7,500.

Which vehicle maxes out the price scale?

The Honda S2000 sits at the pricier end of the spectrum with an appealing used model averaging around a hefty $23,800.

Which car boasts the best horsepower-to-dollar ratio?

The Hyundai Genesis Coupe claims the top spot for best value, costing a mere $27.28 per horsepower.

Which racer claims the prime spot for top speed?

Given that most cars are electronically capped at 155 mph, the speed kings on our list—the C5 Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Charger SRT8—outstrip the rest with a searing top speed of 175 mph.

Which vehicle features the lowest top speed?

On the lower end of the speed scale, the Mazda MX-5 Miata clocks in with a modest top speed of 129 mph.