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Life is too short to drive a boring car, especially considering how much time the average driver spends behind the wheel. Don’t fret; spirited cruises and commutes aren’t reserved for those wealthy enough to pick up the keys to a Porsche 911. Instead, affordable, fun cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Mazda MX-5, or Toyota GR86 could be your budget-friendly ticket to miles of smiles.

What small cars are fun to drive? 

Many small cars are fun to drive, like the venerable Mazda MX-5. However, eager vehicles don’t have to be small to be fun. These models offer fun across the spectrum of sizes. 

  • Toyota GR86
  • Mazda MX-5
  • Ford Mustang GT Convertible
  • Chevrolet Camaro LT1
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI

These five vehicles span from hot hatchbacks to convertible muscle cars, but they’re all fun. For instance, the Toyota GR86 and Mazda MX-5 might not produce vast reserves of horsepower, but they make up for it with enthusiastic handling and rev-happy engines. 

Is the Toyota GR86 a fun car?

The Toyota GR86 takes the stance that a fun sports car need not be an expensive or even complicated vehicle. There is no turbocharger or electric assistance; the GR86 just has a manual transmission, a noisy, quirky, 228-horsepower flat-four-cylinder engine, and no shortage of smiles. 

Of course, the GR86 is one of two twins. Fans who don’t care for the Toyota badge can get much of the same vehicle in the Subaru BRZ, down to the engine, transmission, and most of the styling. However, the Toyota GR86’s suspension and handling characteristics are tighter, making for a more enthusiastic driver’s car. 

An orange 2023 Toyota GR86 shows off its fun sports car proportions.
2023 Toyota GR86 | Toyota

What is so fun about a Miata?

Mazda MX-5 fans will jest that “Miata is always the answer.” However, they’re not exactly wrong; the Miata has been an affordable, fun sports car for decades. Specifically, potential owners can snag an entry-level Sport trim for around $29,215, per TrueCar.

Of course, like every option on this list, the Miata offers an optional manual transmission. Moreover, the latest 2023 Mazda MX-5 also gives fans a choice of a soft top or a retractable hardtop RF trim for a bit of refinement. 

A gray Mazda MX-5 shows off its fun sports car convertible styling against a skyline.
Mazda MX-5 | Mazda

Is the Mustang GT a fun car?

The 2023 Ford Mustang GT is the last of the S550 generation before the Blue Oval launches the seventh-generation Mustang. However, the outgoing model has redeeming qualities, including a fun, commute-friendly Mustang GT Convertible with a Coyote V8 and 450 horsepower on tap. 

Moreover, with Ford’s changes to the upcoming S650 lineup, the GT Premium Convertible is more expensive than ever. As a result, a 2023 GT Premium Convertible might be the better choice for budget-minded convertible hunters who want a fun car. 

Is the Camaro LT1 a V6 or V8?

The Chevrolet Camaro LT1 packs a 455-horsepower, naturally aspirated 6.2L V8. Also, with a choice of a six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission, the cheapest V8 Camaro can be an absolute riot. 

For extra vitamin D, drop-top fanatics can get the LT1 with a soft top for an additional $6,000. Still, without the convertible option, the LT1 starts at around $37,195, roughly $2,500 less than the V8-powered Mustang GT. 

Why do people love the VW Golf?

It’s no mystery why Volkswagen fans and less brand-loyal car enthusiasts love the Golf; it’s one of the original hot hatchbacks. For 2023, the fun little Golf GTI packs a six-speed manual or a lightning-fast seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Moreover, it’s an eager corner carver with track-ready components like an electronic limited-slip differential.

A red 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI parks next to a hilly landscape.
2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Volkswagen Group

Fun Cars: 6 for Less Than $30,000 in 2022