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Sporty cars are not dead. Rumors of their demise are premature. Thrill-packed machinery litters the automotive landscape, available to suit nearly every budget.

When it comes to motoring fun, one of the most intriguing segments is the under $30,000 price bracket, where several enticing choices can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Want a traditional rear-wheel drive coupe or convertible? There is iconic Mazda MX-5 and the Scion FR-S. Looking for a sport compact coupe? Honda will gladly sell you the freshly updated Civic Si. What about a hot hatch? Well, there is an all-new 2015 Volkswagen GTI and a pair of recently introduced Fords, the Focus ST and the Fiesta ST. Or maybe an all-wheel drive street legal rally sedan is more your flavor? Good news, 2015 sees the introduction of a brand-new Subaru WRX. Or how about something completely different, like the Nissan Juke NISMO RS?
But Which One is More Fun?

All of these cars offer a different take on the old ‘fun-to-drive’ adage. But which one is the best? To find out, we assembled all eight cars to perform an epic track and street shootout. Emphasis would be put on how fun they are to drive, how engaging the driving experience is and how quick they are at the track. Superfluous things like audio systems, interior materials and gee-whiz technology wouldn’t factor into the scoring at all, but a small concession would be made to price, fuel economy, comfort and practicality. Most people shopping in this price range are budget conscious and most likely; this will be their only/daily car.

There are a few notable vehicles missing from the test, so we feel we should take a moment to explain their absence. The all-new MINI Cooper S is not in attendance as we could not gain approval to track test it. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 would not fit under the $30K price bracket after destination charges and the 2.0T is being phased out. The Veloster Turbo may be decently quick in a straight line, and it’s affordable, but it’s not that fun to drive and handling is not its forte.

With our group assembled, we headed out to the AutoGuide.com test track to time these eight vehicles. But first, we found a twisting set of country roads to put these cars through their paces and see which one is a back-road blast.
Read the complete Affordable Performance Car Shootout at AutoGuide.com
 

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FR-S or BRZ would be my pick, while the mk7 gti seems to gain a lot of power from a tune, I just don't see it a big enough upgrade from my current mk6. And I really do like the fr-s/brz in keeping things simple.

The fiesta st I'll say was fun to drive when I went to the ecoboost event in daytona, and I loved how it was willing to rotate.
 

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Discussion Starter #4



Yesterday we took eight fun-to-drive performance vehicles under $30,000 and put them through their paces on the street.

After much deliberation, we chose the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST as the king of the street. Despite a somewhat harsh ride, nothing else matches the raw, hilariously fun driving experience behind the wheel.

But now it’s time to get serious. We have come to the AutoGuide.com test track to complete the second half of our under $30,000 shootout. Every car will be taken around the track and scored on two criteria only; how fast it completes a lap and how fun it is when driven at the limit. That score, combined with yesterday’s street score is used to determine the final finishing order.

To keep things interesting, this is an elimination round, as we compile the data the track and the street to determine which cars are headed home, and which will move on to the top three.

Tomorrow we’ll unveil the overall winner of the AutoGuide.com Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout.
Read the detailed Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout at AutoGuide.com
 

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It'll be interesting to see how this continues as time goes on.

I can't see spending more than used car money ($10k or less) on anything that doesn't have:

- a double wishbone, front and rear,
- <$100/month maintenance cost for the average joe (amortized over several years),
- mid-engine, rear wheel drive,
- easy-to-work-on component locations so specialty tools aren't really needed much.
- reliability
- >250 HP off of the showroom floor
- 14 second quarter mile times off the showroom floor

With all of that said, i did drive some VWs at the Red Bull Rally Cross in DC and found the new models to have quite the kick and handling ability on the little auto-x course they had set up.
 
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