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New and exciting enthusiast-level cars have been popping into manufacturer line-ups over the past few years. Vehicles with manual transmissions, turbochargers, and big brakes have once again satisfied the demands of buyers. With fun cars like the Honda Civic Si or Hyundai Elantra N now available, there is no better place to enjoy them than your local track. So for someone without a large race team budget, what are the top five cars for your first time on the track?

1. 2023 Honda Civic Si

2023 Honda Civic Si gray
2023 Honda Civic Si | Honda

Giving you the best of both worlds, the 2023 Honda Civic Si can be used as a fun commuter or a weekend track warrior. Starting at $29,595, the Civic Si gives you some of the best bang for your buck. Exterior styling and sleek additions, such as the trunk spoiler, are sharp. The design carries over to the interior, with red accents on the seats, dash, and door cards. A peppy 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine gives you enough power to attack the track but enough reliability to run lap after lap, unlike most track cars. 

2. 2023 Honda Civic Type R

2023 Honda Civic Type R white
2023 Honda Civic Type R | Honda

When you thought it couldn’t get any better, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R takes everything you love about the Si and gives you more. Even though the new Type R has dialed in the extravagance of the previous generation, it is still exciting to drive. Starting at $44,390, it is still within a budget-friendly price range for a track car. Car and Driver listed the new Civic Type R on their top ten best cars of 2023. The new Civic Type R uses the same engine as the previous generation but with power dialed up to 315 horsepower. 

3. 2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2019 Mazda MX-5 white
2019 Mazda MX-5 | Mazda

It wouldn’t be a track car list without mentioning the Mazda Miata. For 2023, there aren’t many updates to the beloved roadster, but its price point remains the same. Starting at $29,115, it is still some of the most fun you can have under $30,000. A balance of 50/50 weight distribution, a throaty inline four-cylinder engine, and an assortment of aftermarket parts makes the Miata a stand-out choice for the track. 

4. 2023 Hyundai Elantra N

2023 Hyundai Elantra N rolling
2023 Hyundai Elantra N | Hyundai

Pound for pound, the 2023 Hyundai Elantra N is the best performance value on the market. Considering the Elantra N starts at $34,015 and has a similar performance output to the 2023 Honda Civic Type R, it is hard to ignore. For nearly $10,000 less than the Type R, the 2023 Elantra N uses a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder that produces 286 horsepower. Although it lacks power, the Elantra N still puts down a 5.1 second 0-60 mph time. Therefore, the Elantra N should be heavily considered if you want the most value from your weekend track car.

5. 2023 Toyota GR86

2023 Toyota GR86 Orange
2023 Toyota GR86 | Toyota

Lastly, the 2023 Toyota GR86 rounds out this top-five track car list. It may not be the most powerful or spacious car, but it is certainly just as fun to drive as the other cars mentioned above. The facelift of the 2023 GR86 brought a welcomed sleekness to the chassis. Starting at $29,495, it squeaks in just under that budgeted price range. Much like the Miata, the GR86 uses good weight distribution, a peppy engine, and a rear-wheel drive layout to create a tossable but predictable driving experience. If you only need to worry about one passenger, it also makes for a great daily driver.

What is the best first-time track car in 2023?

If you are after a track car that can still carry the family through the week, a 2023 Hyundai Elantra N gives you the most for your money. Its performance is on par with the more expensive Honda Civic Type R, but at a price range that is more agreeable for something you will be driving every day. If you are looking for more of a weekend car that can still be driven throughout the week, the 2023 Mazda Miata is a great choice. There is nothing better than dropping the top for your drive to the track and then bullying a BMW through the corners.


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