Top 10 sporty cars for under 15K
Looking for a sporty but practical daily driver for under 15K? We only included cars that are fairly easy to find on the US used car market within a price range of $10,000 – $15,000.
Acura TL, RL 2004-2012
2009 Acura TL.
Acura TL combines sportiness and luxury in a well-rounded package. The TL is a mid-size front-wheel drive sedan with an upscale interior and 270-hp V6 engine.
The 2009-plus TL offers more power and available AWD. The SH-AWD TL models are rare, but very fast; the 0 to 60 mph time is around 6 seconds. Acura TL requires premium gasoline and parts are expensive, but it's very reliable. Crash-test ratings are good too.
The 2007 3.2-liter Acura TL is rated at 18/26 mpg city/highway. Acura RL is a very similar car, although it's harder to find.
BMW 3-series 2004-2011
2008 BMW 335i Coupe.
The 3-series is a best-selling luxury car with a classy interior and strong engine. Thanks to its compact rear-wheel drive platform, the 3-series offers an unmatched driving experience, but be prepared to spend more on repairs and maintenance. It also needs premium gasoline. The 3-series comes as a sedan, wagon, coupe or convertible with rear- or all-wheel drive. The 330i offers the most power without turbochargers. The 2009-plus 328i is rated better for long-term reliability. If you don't mind the higher maintenance costs of a turbocharged engine, the 2007-2010 twin-turbo 335i does 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds.
Infiniti G35/G37 2005-2010
2005 Infiniti G35.
Infiniti G35/G37 is often mentioned as a more affordable alternative to the BMW 3-series. The G handles well and has plenty of power. It's available as a sedan or coupe. The G35/G37 has a rear-wheel drive platform and comes with a 3.5L or 3.7L V6. The AWD option is available in sedan models. Infiniti G35/G37 is reliable but parts are expensive. Some models require premium gasoline, others can run on regular. The G37 accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
Volkswagen GTI/ Golf R32
2006 Volkswagen GTI.
The European hot hatch VW GTI is arguably the most fun-to-drive compact car. For under 15K you can find the 5-th generation GTI powered by a 2.0L direct-injected turbocharged FSI engine. It comes as a front-wheel drive 3- or 5-door hatch. The Golf R32, although rare, also should not be excluded. The R32 has a 3.2L VR6 engine with all-wheel drive. The reliability is questionable, but the interior quality and fun factor should make up for this. The variety of available mods is another plus.
Ford Mustang 2005-2010
2009 Ford Mustang GT.
The iconic Mustang is widely available for under $15,000. The Mustang comes as a coupe or convertible; it rides on a rear-wheel drive platform with struts in the front and a solid axle in the back. Powertrain choices include a V6 or V8 and a manual or automatic transmission. The 2005-2010 Mustang is rated well for reliability and most of the trims can run on regular gasoline. The 0 to 60 times are 5.6 seconds for the GT (V8) and 6.6 seconds for the V6 (for 2010 model). The 2010 V8 Mustang gets 17/23 mpg city/highway.
2010 Mazda 3.
The Mazda 3 is a sporty compact car that offers a stylish interior and responsive handling. It comes as a front-wheel drive sedan or wagon. The Mazda 3 "s" model offers a low-maintenance 2.5L engine that provides plenty of power for a car of this size. The top GT trim level is well equipped, including heated leather seats and a premium Bose stereo. Mazda 3 is very reliable and won't cost a lot to maintain. It's also the most fuel efficient car on this list and it will happily run on regular gasoline. The 2010 2.5L Mazda 3 auto gets 22/29 mpg. The 0 to 60 time is 7.4 seconds for the 2.5L engine.
Lexus IS 2003-2010
2007 Lexus IS.
The 2001-2005 IS has a rear-wheel drive platform with a 3.0L inline-6 engine, similar to the last generation of the Toyota Supra. The IS 300 was offered with a manual or automatic transmission. Redesigned for 2006, the Lexus IS got the 2.5L and 3.5L V6 engines and an available all-wheel drive. The Lexus IS interior is tight. In terms of handling, the IS is not as good as the BMW 3-series, but it's a very reliable upscale car. Like other luxury cars, the IS needs premium gasoline and parts are expensive.
Honda Civic Si 2006-2011
2006 Honda Civic Si.
The Civic Si is a very solid, reliable small car. If you like performance mods, there is no better candidate. The Civic Si is available as a sedan or coupe. It comes with a high-revving 197-hp 2.0L i-VTEC engine and only a 6-speed manual transmission; no automatic was offered. The 2009 Honda Civic Si is rated at 21/29 mpg, but requires premium gasoline. All Civic models except the 2006 coupe have good safety ratings.
Subaru Impreza WRX 2002-2008
2007 Subaru WRX.
Not that many of them are available, but this 91-octane turbocharged Subie is a true sports car and if 230 horsepower is not enough, it can be easily modified. The WRX has a turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine and standard all-wheel drive. The Subaru AWD system is one of the best out there and works well in snow. The Impreza WRX is available as a sedan or wagon. The 2007 stock WRX does 0 to 60 in around 6 seconds. We even found a few WRX STI models within this price range.
Reader's choice: Nissan 350Z/370Z 2005-plus
2008 Nissan 350Z.
We ran the poll among our readers that offered to select one more car. The "Z" picked up most of your votes. The Nissan 350Z/370Z is a small, fast rear-wheel drive V6-powered two-seater available as a coupe or convertible. It's a bit front-heavy and the interior is tight, but the reliability is above average. The 2010 370Z sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 sec.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Ralliart X came second. The 2010-plus Hyundai Genesis Coupe won the third place in our poll.
– hot small roadster, but hard to find and not very practical.
Hyundai Genesis Coupe
– rear wheel drive coupe with a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo or 3.8L V6 engine. Currently not many are available for this price.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
– great little two-seat roadster. It's widely available, reliable and easy to maintain, but not very practical for daily commuting.
You can spot a 6-foot-plus driver by a bump in the soft top.
Dodge Challenger 2009-plus
– excellent cruiser, but not many are currently available for under 15K.
– sporty, but not very reliable.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo/Ralliart
– either one is very rare to find: we only found a few Evo IX and several 2009-plus Ralliart models.
– few 2010 models are already available for under 15K, but the visibility issues make it not very practical.
– mid-size luxury sports car. Reliability is not the best, but crisp styling and upscale interior make it very appealing.
– very few are available within this price range.
– perfectly balanced, handles like a dream, but the rotary engine has no low-end torque and is too sensitive to driving style/poor maintenance; parts are expensive too. Anyone who drives it has to know how to de-flood the engine.
– we have already included the Civic Si, which is a very similar car.