Cruise Control: These 4 Affordable Sports Cars are Just Your Speed

a 2017 Mazda MX-5 pictured parked in the road between buildings
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Cars can mean different things to different people. While some see their vehicles simply as a means to get from point A to point B, others treat them like members of the family and see them as a status symbol.

If you fall into the latter group, you probably dream of driving a stylish, sporty car that reflects your unique personality.

But if you’re living on a budget you might think that you’re destined to drive old beaters and sensible sedans for the rest of your life. But it is possible to pursue your automotive dream — even on a budget.

Here are a few affordable sports cars to consider. All prices reflect manufacturer’s suggested retail price for base model.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport: $24,915

a 2017 Mazda MX-5 pictured parked in the road between buildings
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The Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most recognizable sports cars on the road. It’s been in constant production since 1989 and has developed quite the following due to its cheap price tag and sporty design.

The MX-5 Miata was born from Mazda’s desire to create a lightweight roadster to fill the gap left by British sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s. It’s currently in its fourth generation and still boasts a low price tag and an impressive fuel efficiency rating of 35 miles per gallon on the highway with the available automatic transmission.

For 2017, the Mazda MX-5 Miata offers LED head- and taillights, an aluminum hood and trunk lid, cruise control, push-button start and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. It also comes with standard Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports to make it easier to charge your devices.

Additionally, the MX-5 Miata was named to Car and Driver’s 10Best list (2017 was the 16th such time) and was named an Top Rated Convertible. The experts agree that the MX-5 Miata gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Subaru BRZ: $25,495

a red 2017 subaru BRZ driving on the road
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The Subaru BRZ is a strong contender in the sports coupe segment. Subaru and fellow Japanese carmaker, Toyota, joined forces to create a new sports car with a low price tag to compete with the likes of the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Currently, Subaru sells the car under the BRZ name in the United States, and Toyota sells a version with a slightly different design called the 86. However, both vehicles use the Subaru-developed boxer engine, which is widely known for its reliability. The Subaru BRZ has a lower price tag than the Toyota 86 for essentially the same vehicle.

The 2017 Subaru BRZ comes with standard LED headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle, a simulated leather dashboard trim and Subaru’s STARLINK infotainment system with a 6.2-inch screen. The slightly more expensive Limited trim (MSRP $27,645) adds leather seats, dual-zone climate control and fog lights, among other features.

The Subaru BRZ scored the highest possible ratings of “good” in the majority of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crashworthiness testing. Standard safety features include an advanced frontal airbag system, side-curtain airbags and even a LATCH child seat anchor system.

Chevrolet Camaro: $25,905

a white 2017 chevy camaro driving on the road
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The Chevrolet Camaro has been in almost constant production since 1966, making it one of the longest-standing cars on this list. First designed as a competitor to the Ford Mustang, the Camaro has developed a following of its own, much like its main opponent.

For 2018, the Camaro is in its sixth generation and is lighter and more nimble than ever before. It comes with a standard 2.0-liter turbo engine that pumps out 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque — impressive numbers for a car with a relatively low starting price.

Standard features include SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system with a 7-inch diagonal touch screen, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a rear vision camera.

The Camaro also comes with Chevy’s Teen Driver system, which lets you limit some vehicle features and create personalized settings to encourage safe driving among teens. It will even produce a report card that lets you check up on how your new driver is doing behind the wheel, so you can help coach and advise them on how to become a better driver.

Ford Focus ST: $25,075

yellow 2016 Ford Focus ST driving on the road with a city in the background
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The Ford Focus ST is different from the other cars on this list: Rather than being a coupe or convertible, the Focus ST is a hatchback that’s powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that gets up to 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque.

Standard equipment includes Ford’s ST sport suspension for a smoother ride, cloth sport seats with an ST logo, Ford’s SYNC infotainment system, a backup camera and a leather steering wheel.

With the rear seats folded down, there’s a maximum cargo capacity of 43.9 cubic feet, and with a rear hatch it’s easier to load luggage or groceries than in a coupe or convertible. The rear seats even have 33.2 inches of legroom, which will suit the average adult for shorter rides but might be a tight squeeze for your tall friends or family members.

The 2017 Ford Focus was awarded a 5-star overall safety rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its excellent performance in crash tests.

Affordable Alternatives

If one of the above choices still isn’t in your budget, look for a used version. You might not be able to get the exact same technology as you would in a new model, but you can likely get more for your money.

If buying a used car, make sure you do your research and get a thorough inspection by a certified mechanic before signing on the dotted line. Alternatively, look for certified pre-owned cars at your local dealerships — these vehicles offer limited warranties and other perks that come with their seal of approval from the manufacturer.

Whether you want a sporty roadster or a performance hatchback, these affordable sports cars are out there just waiting to go for a cruise.

Catherine Hiles has been writing for the auto industry for five years, but she still has trouble explaining torque. If she had to pick one of the cars listed above, she would go with the Mazda MX-5 Miata.