As cars get more expensive, the threshold for what classifies an “affordable” car gets a little cloudy, but just because you’re buying a new car on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, too. Although it might be hard to picture a car that is both fun and affordable, here is a list of 10 fun cars under $25,000 for 2016 to prove that you don’t have to break the bank to have fun in a new car.
At any price, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is an easy choice for anyone looking for a small and extremely fun-to-drive car. The 2016 Miata pushes the envelope of this category with a price of $24,915, but this lightweight roadster is impossible to beat when it comes to value and driving pleasure. For 27 years, the Miata has cornered the market for fun, and this two-seater gets even better in 2016 with cutting-edge styling, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that balances power (155 hp) with efficiency (27 mpg in the city and up to 36 mpg on the highway) and a folding soft top that is still one of the easiest tops to operate of any modern car.
Long before the Miata was ever even dreamt up, the Volkswagen GTI has been the epitome of fun and affordable. For 2016, the original hot hatch is priced at $24,995 for the two-door version, but there’s also a four-door hatchback model for a little added practicality. In either flavor, the 2016 Volkswagen GTI is a pocket rocket with 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 220 hp. Fun doesn’t mean the GTI isn’t fuel efficient as all models are rated at 25 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
Rivalling the GTI, the 2016 Ford Focus ST delivers more power with better value as this $24,425 hot hatch uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 252 hp. Standing as the middle sibling between the standard Focus and the all-out Focus RS, the 2016 Ford Focus ST has the performance to back up its mean look without giving up fuel economy as this car still gets EPA-rated estimates of 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. For buyers who might think the Focus ST is a little too much car for them, Ford also offers the subcompact 2016 Ford Fiesta ST with its $20,970 starting price and peppy 197-hp output. Of course, there’s also the $24,145 2016 Ford Mustang V-6.
A different take on the hot hatch segment, the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth blends the retro Fiat 500 styling with a gutsy engine and a killer exhaust note. This sport-tuned hatchback starts at just $22,575, and the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine belts out 160 hp. Despite its performance, the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth still shows its minicar size by returning fuel economy of 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. For a little extra money, the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio brings a retractable soft top to the party.
A hatchback doesn’t have to be “hot” to be fun. Just look at the 2016 Honda Fit. This subcompact hatchback is priced starting at just $15,790, but its funky look, small footprint and massive interior make this an incredibly cool car. The Magic Seats also help out in this regard allowing the Fit to, well, fit just about anything (tall and/or long) in its interior, and the front seats can fold almost completely flat making for a perfect alternative to a hotel while on a long road trip. Rather than fast acceleration, the 130-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder used by the 2016 Honda Fit provides fun with excellent fuel economy rated up to 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.
Sticking in the small car category, Toyota literally stole a page out of the Mazda playbook to deliver the 2016 Scion iA. In other parts of the world, this car would be the subcompact Mazda2, but here in the U.S., it is Scion’s first-ever sedan and it costs just $17,595. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder offers up just 106 hp, but the iA’s light weight and nimble suspension tuning are more than enough to make this a fun car to drive. Top that with the engine’s direct injection and a pair of advanced transmissions, and the 2016 Scion iA is also very efficient with EPA fuel economy up to 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway.
Pickup trucks always bring their own level of cool to the party, and the 2016 GMC Canyon is proof. Priced starting at $20,955, the Canyon is slightly more expensive than its sibling, the Chevrolet Colorado, but GMC designers did a much better job of making this mid-size truck look cool. The big, bold grille and projector headlights with LED accents give this truck great curb appeal, while the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds with the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder means that truck ownership can still be fun and practical.
The 2016 Jeep Wrangler is about as much fun as you can have with a street-legal vehicle as it allows the ability to remove the top and doors. To get a 2016 Jeep Wrangler under $25,000, though, will be a feat of self-control as a base Wrangler with no options and destination charge is priced at $24,890, and you’ll have to skip the added versatility of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. Still, you’re not going to find a more fun driving experience than sticking your leg out the door opening at 60 mph.
The 2016 Nissan Juke might be one of the funkiest-looking crossovers currently on sale, and with a starting price of $20,250, it’s also one of the most affordable. Upping the fun factor, the 2016 Nissan Juke NISMO brings a more aggressive styling and a sport-tuned suspension, and it is priced at $24,830. This version looks and rides like a sports car, but it still has the price and fuel economy to be considered an economy car. Oddly enough, the sporty 2016 Nissan Juke NISMO is the most efficient trim level of the 2016 Nissan Juke lineup with EPA ratings of 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Proving that there’s even room for some luxury in the sub-$25,000 category, the 2016 Buick Encore is a small crossover with plenty of space. The fun here, of course, is being able to drive a spacious five-passenger crossover that costs $24,065 and offers goodies such as the IntelliLink infotainment system including the standard OnStar with 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Under the hood, the 138-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged engine can be a hoot to drive in this small crossover, and it’s also plenty efficient returning EPA fuel economy of up to 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
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