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Finding a decent used car for under $10,000 can be daunting in today’s market. Even more challenging is snagging one with performance chops. Fortunately, bargains remain for the shrewdest of enthusiasts seeking speed and agility. Autotrader is an excellent source for identifying used car deals, especially models packing plenty of excitement. Here are the site’s top seven used performance cars on a $10,000 budget.

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth

Best used performance cars under $10,000: 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth
2013 Fiat 500 Abarth | Alan Look/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Fiat 500 might seem more like a city-friendly runabout than a performance car. However, the Abarth is a buzzy, nimble, faster-than-it-looks package of stylish speed. Its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes only 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, but that’s enough. With a six-speed manual transmission, this hot hatch can zip from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, CarIndigo reports. Boasting stiffer springs and enhanced suspension geometry, the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth is a lively ride with a historic Scorpion-badged origin story

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Although the smallest Ford performance model produces the least power, the 2014 Fiesta ST is a serious competitor. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder Ecoboost engine produces 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. At just under 1.4 tons, this party on wheels has the same power-to-weight ratio as a first-generation E30 M3, Road & Track reports. So sprints to 60 mph take only 6.9 seconds, fast enough for any energetic daily driver.

2013 Ford Focus ST

Slightly bigger than its Fiesta sibling, the Ford Focus ST is another pint-sized performer. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder puts down an impressive 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Even more remarkable is its mid-six-second 0-to-60-mph time. Along with its six-speed manual transmission, the performance-tuned suspension and steering give drivers an action-packed ride. Yet the five-door hatchback body style means the Focus ST doesn’t sacrifice practicality for excitement.

2008 Ford Mustang

For the nostalgia-minded, look no further than the iconic Mustang. Although the 2008 model is a bit old-fashioned, there’s no discounting old-school fun with rear-wheel drive and a big engine. Ford’s 4.6-liter V8 harnesses 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Mustangs don’t handle like smaller Ford models, but this pony car can reach 0 to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds, Edmunds reports.

2011 Honda Civic Si

The Honda Civic Si has been an excellent used performance car since its debut in the mid-’80s. Known for its balance of performance and comfort, the Civic Si represents a mature yet dynamic choice for enthusiasts. Edmunds says the 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 197 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque, enough for a 7.1-second 0-to-60-mph time. With speedy shifting in a five- or six-speed manual transmission, the 2011 Civic Si is the perfect blend of vibrance and easy-to-maintain efficiency.

2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata

According to Autotrader, the Miata is the best-selling two-seat sports car in history. But that isn’t because of the average 0-to-60 time of 6.5 seconds that MotorTrend coaxed out of it. The MX-5 Miata — of any generation — is the benchmark for affordable performance cars. The NC-generation Miata can be a stripped-down track car or an amenity-packed daily driver, but any trim level provides a fun ride. With rear-wheel drive, a six-speed transmission, and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 167 hp and 140 lb-feet of torque, this iconic roadster is a real driver’s car.

2010 Mazdaspeed3


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With a notable 0-to-60-mph split of 6.1 seconds, the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 melds practicality with brute power. Its 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder generates 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Because Mazda set up the suspension more for aggressive handling than shopping-mall crawling, the Mazdaspeed represents a near-perfect sleeper car. Regardless, Car and Driver warns that the immense power going through the front wheels presents the risk of torque steer.

Which is the best used performance car under $10,000?

For those who think there’s no replacement for displacement, only one choice will suffice. However, the decision is a little more involved for enthusiasts pondering convertible versus coupe and turbocharged versus naturally aspirated. Each model on this list features a manual transmission, swift acceleration, and intuitive handling — apart from the Mustang. But naming the best used performance car under $10,000 is as subjective as choosing the prettiest color.

Nevertheless, one stands out from the pack. Given that any budget performance car worth its salt is measured against the Miata, we say, what’s wrong with convention?