Skip to main content

What cars offer the most smiles per mile? And what vehicles on that list can be had for under $35K? No, the answer isn’t always a Miata. A Miata might be one of them, but it isn’t the only answer.

What are the most fun cars to drive under $35k?

There are several familiar picks you might expect to see and a few surprises coming up on this list. Does Hyundai have the answer? Honda? Or maybe Nissan? Read on to find out. 

Honda Civic Si

2020 Honda Civic Si Coupe | Honda
2020 Honda Civic Si Coupe | Honda

Honda has a history of being exceptionally good at keeping things fun and affordable. So it’s likely that you aren’t surprised to see the Civic Si has made this list. Enthusiasts and industry insiders all give this vehicle high praise. The steering is excellent, and it delivers enough power to make it fun to drive at a very accessible price of around $26K.

Subaru WRX

2020 Subaru WRX driving on a canyon road.
2020 Subaru WRX | Subaru

Just under $30K can put you behind the wheel of the Subaru WRX. Previous years might leave you lagging, but 2020 won’t disappoint. The AWD system and manual option are what you want to choose for optimal fun. 

Jeep Wrangler Sport

2020 Jeep Wrangler
2020 Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep name might be all we need to say. Offroad fun for $27K. Wanna get some sun? Take the top and doors off. Wanna get dirty? It can handle that too. In fact, name your adventure. There isn’t much you can’t do.

Volkswagen Jetta GTI: Fun, fast, and turbocharged

The Volkswagen GTI, a high-performance version of the iconic VW Golf hatchback, first debuted back in 1976 and has improved with each successive generation. It earns praise from automotive enthusiasts and critics alike. It’s hard not to love this car with its combination of playful performance and hatchback versatility. It offers 280 hp and a starting MSRP of just under $29K for a 2020 VW Golf GTI with six-speed manual transmission.  

Nissan 370Z

Following major enhancements for the 2018 model year – including a revised exterior featuring dark headlight treatment, dark tinted rear combination lights, a blackout rear lower fascia and redesigned 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheel design – Nissan’s iconic 370Z Coupe enters 2019 with two new color themes for the 370Z Heritage Edition, standard auto-dimming rearview mirror with RearView Monitor, and the combining of the previous Touring and Sport Tech trim levels into a new Sport Touring grade.

The Nissan 370Z delivers 332 horsepower from a legendary V6. A perfectly balanced chassis. From the hairpin to the sweeper to the straightaway – nothing else feels like a Z. A six-speed manual will come in right at $30k, and for just a hair over $36K, you can even have one of two 50th Anniversary trim levels. 

Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

A combination of “velocity” and “roadster” Hyundai has earned its place on the list of affordable fun. Motor1 tells us the upcoming edition of the Nürburgring-developed Veloster also comes with an option to upgrade to N light sports bucket seats, enhancing even the daily drive experience. 

Mazda Miata MX5

View this post on Instagram

Love at first double-take. #MX5

A post shared by MazdaUSA (@mazdausa) on

Of course, the Mazda MX-5 Miata made this list too. It will always leave you with a smile. I know we said the answer isn’t always a Miata, but it is often the obvious choice. There is no denying that they are fun to drive and can be found well under $35K.


5 Reasons Why You Should buy a 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack