5 Great Performance Cars (I’ve Driven) Under $45,000

The concept for this article has been on my mind for a long time. Originally I was going to do Best Car’s Under $45,000 but then it’s hard to define what the ‘best’ is for each individual. For me the best car is the one that offers the most enjoyable driving experience but I haven’t driven all of my suspected best cars under $45k so I decided to keep it to ones I had.

I find it amusing that over the last decade, the category that most consumers aspired to enter, the med sized European luxury sedan, has created the most over priced and over rated cars on the market. As a motoring enthusiast I will never buy a car just because of its badge and I recommend you don’t either – you’re destined for disappointment.

Buying a new car is about making informed decisions and the two most important ones for me are price and performance. Too many guys want to step into a category they can’t really afford and think just because the car’s got a badge it’s going to blow them away, it isn’t. I’m constantly asked by friends about cars I’ve driven and what I’d recommend for under x amount, and often I find myself replying with one or more of the cars in the list below.

If you’re looking for a new car my top piece of advice would be to drop the pretentiousness – you might just find something you truly love. Below are 5 Great Performance Cars Under $45,000 (all of which I’ve driven). All of them are 2014 models.

Ford Focus ST – $38,990


I drove the Focus ST almost 2 years ago and copped a bit of flack for how enthusiastic I was about it. I still, to this very day, recommend it to almost anyone looking for a new car and I always will. Aside from making me smile every time I got in it for the whole week I had it, it had the best multimedia system in it out of anything I’ve driven since I started TVG. If you’re keen to spend less, the gents at Car Advice claim the Fiesta ST is even better and will cost you under $30k.

Toyota 86 GTS  – $39,880


I’ve driven the Toyota 86 on a number of occasions and it’s a seriously fun piece of kit. For sheer driving enjoyment it’s unbeatable at this price. It’s not particularly flash inside but it looks great and handles brilliantly – similar fun will cost you in excess of $100k from the likes of the Porsche Cayman or Jaguar F-Type Coupe.

Audi A1 TFSI – $42,880


The Audi A1 TFSI is a fantastic car, one I’ve had the pleasure of throwing around the Skid Pan at Sydney Motorsport Park. When I climbed into it I wasn’t expecting much, when I put my foot down I was instantly impressed – the TFSI engine is a beauty, especially in this 1290kg car. It may cost you a little more than the Fords but you get the Audi luxury factor! For those keen on the A1 you may want to hold your horses for the new S1 which is sure to be a mental little machine.

Subaru WRX – $43,490


I had the keys to not one but two WRX’s on my desk last month. If you’ve read my review you’ll know I preferred the manual model, which is also the cheaper model. The new WRX is as poised as anything I’ve driven and has a mind blowing amount of grip through the bends. It’s a devastating vehicle for the European market as it shows just how much car you can get for such an approachable amount of money.

Skoda Octavia RS – $44,490


There’s no doubt the 2014 Octavia has lost the aggressive stance it one held but this car is still a very solid offering, especially when you stack it up next to its VW cousins. There’s two serious highlights worth mentioning with the Skoda Octavia. Number 1, they have a wagon variant – perfect for any weekend activity you throw at it. Number 2, you get the same VW engines featured in the Golf GTI/GTD models for a fraction of the price. Winning.


James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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