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You don’t have to break the bank when buying a performance car. Cheap fast cars come in many forms. Convertibles, hatchbacks, sedans, and coupes can provide plenty of excitement without a premium price. Autotrader compiled a list of the best used performance cars on a $15,000 budget. Here’s a closer look at the top choices.

2013 BMW 3 Series

The 2013 BMW 3 Series provides four engine options. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 180 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque in the 320i. Upgrade to the 328i for a 2.0-liter turbo-four producing 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. Or bump up to the 3.0-liter turbo-six for 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque in the 335i. Last, a 3.0-liter turbo-six hybrid harnesses 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque in the ActiveHybrid 3. All are likely within reach below the $15,000 budget cap.

However, this used car provides more than power. The 2013 model was the second following a major redesign that saw more potent, efficient engines. Combined fuel economy ranges from 28 mpg in the 320i and ActiveHybrid 3 to 23 mpg in the 335i. That power and efficiency pair with excellent handling, braking, and steering. This cheap fast car also offers a luxurious interior with standard features such as a premium sound system and supple leatherette.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro

Used performance cars and cheap fast cars: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro
2014 Chevrolet Camaro | Cheverolet

Of the eight trims in the 2014 Chevy Camaro’s lineup, only the range-topping ZL1 and Z/28 are likely outside the $15,000 price range of cheap fast cars. Still, the Camaro is an excellent choice for a used performance car. The standard 3.6-liter V6 in the 1LS, 2LS, 1LT, and 2LT trims produces an impressive 323 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. However, with just 20 mpg combined, this muscle car isn’t as fuel-efficient as the BMW 3 Series. 

Expect standard features like cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system starting with the 1LS. Bump up to the SS for an impressive 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque from a 6.2-liter V8. 

Other performance upgrades include a limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Not bad for a cheap fast car with plenty of aftermarket upgrades available.

2014 Ford Focus ST

Maybe your ideal cheap fast car isn’t a luxury sedan like the BMW 3 Series or a pony car like the Camaro. You’re in luck: The 2014 Ford Focus ST gives you performance with the utility of a hatchback. 

The Focus ST packs a 2.0-liter turbo-four producing 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It balances that power with excellent gas mileage of 26 mpg combined. The front-wheel-drive Focus ST provides aggressive handling and responsive steering. Power-wise, the 2.0-liter engine slots the Focus ST between the 3 Series and the Camaro, but the hatchback offers enough room to fit five adults and some cargo. 

All Focus ST models have numerous performance-focused features: performance brakes, electronically controlled limited-slip front differential, and performance suspension upgrades. Upgrading to the ST2 or ST3 package brings premium seats, a larger infotainment touchscreen, and a navigation system. 

The car’s rear legroom is similar to that of a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, so taller passengers might feel cramped. And though it doesn’t deliver the same power as the Camaro, the Focus ST gives you exciting dynamics and space for passengers and cargo.

2014 Ford Mustang

Another cheap fast car from the Blue Oval, the 2014 Ford Mustang sports coupe won’t break the bank. The standard model has a 3.7-liter V6 engine producing 305 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The Premium trim takes the same powertrain and upgrades many features, like leather upholstery and an eight-speaker sound system. However, the V8-powered GT and GT Premium may be out of the $15,000 price range, much like the top Camaro trims.

Autotrader notes the Camaro is more of a sports car than the Mustang, but the latter is the quicker cheap performance car. It’ll reach 60 mph faster and is more than 200 pounds lighter. Per GoodCarBadCar, Ford sold more than 82,000 Mustangs in 2014, so you should find many on the used performance car market.

2013 Mazda Mazdaspeed3

Like the Focus ST, the 2013 Mazdaspeed3 provides a powerful engine in a five-seat hatchback. Its 2.3-liter turbo-four produces 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque with a front-wheel drivetrain. It can reach 60 mph a few tenths of a second faster than the Focus ST and offers a limited-slip differential. 

In addition, a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and leather and cloth-trimmed upholstery give the Mazdaspeed3 a comfortable cabin. And rear-seat riders will have more leg, shoulder, and hip room than in the Focus ST. But the Mazdaspeed3 offers less cargo space, with 17.0 cubic feet with all seats in place, compared to the Focus ST’s 23.8. But overall, the Mazda is a great cheap fast car packing plenty of zoom-zoom.

What is the fastest budget sports car?

The 2014 Chevy Camaro boasts the most horsepower and torque in a base model. But if acceleration is your priority in a used performance car, the 2014 Ford Mustang gets you from 0 to 60 mph a bit faster.

The other top choices on Autotrader’s list don’t match the Camaro’s and Mustang’s power and speed, but they boast other pluses. For instance, the 2013 BMW 3 Series delivers luxury on a budget, the Focus ST provides plenty of cargo space, and the Mazdaspeed3 gives you a zippy hatchback with a roomy interior.


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