Ford Mustang GT
The Ford Mustang GT is a proper, 435-horsepower American muscle car with a base price right around $35,000. While this may not seem like the most affordable price, you have to consider the value proposition on this one. Iconic namesake? Check. Revised styling? Check. Rear wheel drive? Check. A big, free-breathing V8 engine linked to a manual transmission? That's another check.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The Golf GTI has been arguably the definitive hot hatchback for decades now. While the GTIs have never been massive on power, they do provide a great mix of features that keep drivers coming back for more. With a peppy little engine, classic FWD handling and plenty of space for all your stuff, the Golf GTI is a perfect car for someone that needs their car to be exciting AND usable. With pricing starting around $25,000, it's easy to understand why the GTI is now in its seventh generation.
The 86 (formerly known as the Toyota GT 86 or Scion FR-S) is Toyota's take on a fun, small sports car for the masses. The two-seat coupe provides a classic combination of a front-engine layout, manual gearbox, and rear-wheel drive for an affordable price of around $27,000. While its 200 horsepower won't set anyone's pants on fire, the way it attacks corners has a tendency to leave drivers grinning. With its relatively tiny rear tires, the 86 has the ability to slide unlike most sports cars out there, allowing for some immense fun under the right circumstances.
The Mazda MX-5, or 'Miata' as we Americans seem to love calling it, is the best-selling two-seater sports car in history. While cars these days are getting bulkier and heavier, it's the Miata that manages to retain its long-held lightweight ethos. Power has always come from a rev-happy four-cylinder engine. This engine sends its power to the rear wheels through a manual gearbox, providing a classic sports car experience. Like the Toyota 86, the MX-5 is no hero in terms of straight line speed. However, introduce the car to a winding back road and you'll be met with dynamic, predictable handling. All this, plus the wind-in-your-hair freedom, can be had for just about $25,000.
For years, the Subaru WRX has been a go-to for those who want usable performance, regardless of weather conditions. Thanks to Subaru's advanced all-wheel drive system, drivers can easily push the car's boxer engine and actually put the power down. While the more powerful WRX STI model can quickly reach into the range of 40 grand, the mid-range WRX model can be had for around $30,000. At this price, you'll be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded performance sedan.