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Friday, January 29, 2010


Inexpensive and practical performance cars are becoming a harder find than we'd all like to believe. At $28,395, a V8-engined Ford Mustang GT is by no means practical and not all that inexpensive, either. Yet you wouldn't dare doubt its inherent value. 315 horsepower and looks to kill? Bam. Over at General Motors, the hot-selling Chevrolet Camaro offers over 300 horsepower for $22,680 and can be had in V8 form for a smidge over $30K.

Where does that leave the practical performance cars? There's certainly room beneath the Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro LS for quick, nimble, high quality cars to shine. How many performance cars fall comfortably into that price bracket? Keep scrolling for a look-see.


#1 - NISSAN SENTRA SE-R Spec V: $20,800 - Cheap in more ways than one, this performance-minded Sentra is active when on the boil. The chassis engineers, however, lost the plot. That's not to say the Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V isn't worth the money; only that you get what you pay for.

#2 - HONDA CIVIC Si: $22,765 - Here then is as obvious a choice as can be found for buyers who want big speed but understand the responsibilities of adult life bring about other crucial expenses. 197 horsepower doesn't sound like much in 2010, but this high-revving 2.0L provides plenty of fun.
#3 - MAZDASPEED 3: $23,945 - Big horsepower and a hunger for the twisties build on Mazda's already dynamically talented 3. Less refined than the GTI, quicker than the Si, more capable than the Spec V; the MazdaSpeed 3 is tantalizing to say the least.
#4 - VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI: $24,414 - This Good 12-winning nameplate provides more thrills than its modest output and appearance would have you believe. High-class in every way, the GTI isn't lighting in a bottle, just fun and mature.

#5 - MINI COOPER S CLUBMAN: $25,250 - She ain't pretty like the regular Mini. Still, some say the extra wheelbase length helps the Clubman's ride and handling. No problem at all, there. A rather indirect alternative to a Camaro though, don't you think?
#6 - CHEVROLET COBALT SS: $25,255 - Although likely $2,000 cheaper with discounting included straight from the Build It Now section of Chevrolet's website, the Cobalt seems strikingly expensive compared with the more powerful V6 Camaro. Fun and surprisingly competent, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS isn't the traditional choice but would be interesting.
#7 - SUBARU IMPREZA WRX: $25,690 - The least-expensive all-wheel drive member of the group, Subaru's 265-bhp Impreza has heritage on its side. Rally wins and gold wheels won't make up for the need to spend an extra $5K over the Nissan in the non-enthusiast's mind. For those in the know, nothing but the Subaru WRX will do.

#8 - MITSUBISHI LANCER RALLIART: $27,935 - Fitted with much, but not all, of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X's tech, the Lancer Ralliart demands much, but not all, of the Evo X's MSRP. Power is down substantially when contrasted with the Subaru. Way, way down compared with the Ford Mustang GT.

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