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Budget Performance: Five Upcoming Affordable Enthusiast Cars to Be Excited About

If you like high performance and enthusiast-oriented vehicles, today’s market offers a lot of cars to be excited about—from the mid-engined C8 Corvette to the envelope-pushing Shelby GT500 Mustang.

Yet as great as those new cars are, they still remain out of reach for a lot of gearheads when it comes to price. Fortunately though, if you are looking for a fun, exciting, new car that doesn’t break the bank there’s a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline that proves budget performance is alive and well.

Here are five upcoming models in particular that will be worth the wait.

2022 Subaru WRX

Ever since it arrived in North America nearly 20 years ago, the Subaru WRX has been a textbook example of cheap (and practical) speed. The WRX has evolved over the years, but its AWD, turbocharged boxer formula has remained the same.

Subaru VIZIV Performance Concept Front

The current iteration of the WRX has been available since 2014 with just minor appearance changes in the years since—and It still provides a great bang for the buck. It’s getting long in the tooth particularly in terms of exterior and interior style, and it’s currently the only Subaru product that hasn’t moved to the brand’s much-improved new global platform.

Subaru VIZIV Performance Concept Rear

At this point we don’t know exactly what the next gen WRX will look like, but Subaru’s recent VIZIV Performance Concept provides a pretty good idea of the direction the next gen WRX may be heading when it moves to the new platform. The next WRX should bring a nice improvement in refinement and tech over the current car, and rumors suggest it should be showing up pretty soon.

Subaru VIZIV Performance Concept Side View

2021 Mazda3 Turbo

While earning praise for the styling and handling, Mazda’s recent cars have never been known for the generous horsepower ratings. However, in the last couple years the brand has started offering its turbocharged 2.5 liter SkyActiv engine into more of its vehicles.

2019 Mazda3 Hatchback Red Front

The most recent to get the turbocharged engine is the upcoming 2021 Mazda3, which will pair the available 250hp, 320 foot pound of torque engine with an all-wheel-drive system for maximum traction.

2019 Mazda3 Hatchback Side View

Is the Mazda3 Turbo going to be the second coming of the fire-breathing MazdaSpeed3? Most likely not. What it will do though, is take the high-end feel and great dynamics that Mazda3 is known for and add a big helping of turbocharged torque.

Mazda3 TCR Race Car Front

Second Gen Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ

It’s been more than eight years since the rear-drive two-door coupe engineered by Subaru and Toyota broke onto the scene as a breath of fresh air for driving enthusiasts.

Subaru BRZ White

Needless to say there’s been a lot of anticipation for a second generation of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, and while we still don’t know exactly when the next gen version will appear, we know that Toyota and Subaru are working on it.

Toyota 86 Red Snow Drift

One of the biggest criticisms of the current car is its lack of power, and while we don’t expect the new one to be radically different, rumors suggest a displacement bump to 2.4 liters should give the next gen version a noticeable increase in both horsepower and torque.

Subaru BRZ White Driving

2022 Mk.8 Volkswagen GTI

The Volkswagen GTI is a car that has written the book on affordable and practical performance. Volkswagen has long used an iterative approach when releasing a new version of the GTI, and the upcoming Mk.8 version very much follows that pattern.

2022 Volkswagen GTI Mk8 Red Front

Taking everything that’s great about the current GTI and improving it, the Mk.8 GTI will make 241hp from its 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder, with a six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic.

2022 Volkswagen GTI Interior

If there’s one problem with the Mk.8 GTI it’s that those of us in North America will have long wait to get one. In Europe that car will be arriving before the end of this year, but over here it won’t arrive until the 2022 model year.

2022 Volkswagen GTI Mk8 Rear View

Toyota Corolla GR Hot Hatch

Last but not least we get to a car that will be a newcomer to the world of affordable enthusiast cars—a turbocharged, hot hatch version of the Toyota Corolla.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Blue

Toyota recently debuted a rally-bred version of its subcompact Yaris for overseas markets, packing a 257hp turbocharged three-cylinder engine with a manual transmission and AWD, but sadly that car won’t be coming to the USA.

Toyota GR Yaris Drivetrain

Instead, Toyota has heavily hinted that the American market will get a hot hatch version of the larger Corolla instead. We don’t know whether it will feature the same drivetrain as the Yaris, but we expect to know more in the coming months.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Rear View

As you can see, it’s not just the high end, high dollar performance cars that are the big story these days. All of the aforementioned cars should be able to handle both track days and the daily commute while hopefully coming in near or even below the $30,000 starting mark.

Bring ‘em on.

Click here to see the updates to the new Honda Civic Type R.

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