Affordable Everyday Fun Cars, Spec Sheet. Click image to enlarge
Review by Jeff Wilson, Jonathan Yarkony and Jacob Black. Photos by Jeff Wilson and Chris Coughlin
Life is full of rules and restrictions; regulations designed, I suppose, for the betterment of humankind and to protect our own personal safety. But sometimes you can’t help but feel that all these rules are just choking the fun out of life.
No trespassing! Always wear sunscreen! Eat healthier food! Don’t come to work without pants… again!
Enough is enough! We need to live a little!
There comes a point where a little break from reality becomes a necessity for survival and what we have here is an assemblage of machines that are the very antidote to our regulatory society. The best part? These cars are as much fun as an all-access pass to the Playboy Mansion (or I suppose Disney World – whichever you prefer), but without the crippling cost of admission.
We’ve gathered together some of the most coveted affordable fun-boxes available on the market. Each one of these in their respective performance trim (save for the Mazda) starts at under $30,000, making them reasonably affordable for most Canadians.
They all have four-cylinder engines and for what is believed to be unprecedented in Autos.ca comparison test history – all seven cars are equipped with an honest-to-goodness manual transmission.
Praise be to [insert preferred deity here]!
Before we go further, it should be noted that there are some absences in our congregation. Ford offers up not one, but two excellent hot hatches starting under $30K, and both worthy of any enthusiast’s shopping list. The Focus ST was unavailable at the time and its little brother, the Fiesta ST – a beloved little rascal – was recently (soundly and unanimously) beaten in a comparison test by the Mini Cooper S. Hyundai is apparently finished with offering bargain basement four-cylinder Genesis Coupes after this year, so it wasn’t invited to the party either.
That leaves us with these seven wonderful little scamps.
Enthusiasts around the world get excited when Subaru brings out a new WRX, their snorty little turbo-boxer-powered sedan known in a past life for being a rally champion. Volkswagen has long been recognized as the originator of the hot-hatchback genre with their acclaimed GTI lineage going back more than three decades.
Both are brand new for 2015 and both are in this test.
Mini’s turbocharged Cooper S is also up for a good time, showing off its new-for-2014 big kid clothes at the party along with a mildly updated (again) Honda Civic Si, sporting a slight power boost and bigger wheels.
Last year’s darlings – the BRZ and FR-S twins – are represented here by Toyota’s youth division to play with its rear-wheel-drive competitor, Mazda’s stalwart MX-5 roadster in its final showing before a replacement is due next year.
And not wanting to be bad hosts, we invited Nissan’s newest, err… sporting, umm, creation, the Juke Nismo RS; a hot hatch, or sports crossover, or… well, whatever it is, it was welcome to come out to play too because let’s be honest, you can never have too many affordable fun cars. And, well, it qualified on paper.
After a couple of glorious days of driving, photographing, arguing, name-calling and more than a few broken rules, we all picked a winner. In fact, we all picked the same winner. And it was a big win, too.
Affordable Everyday Fun Cars. Click image to enlarge