We know most of you are probably trying to be responsible by saving up for that next investment property (or a $2M Aston Martin), but that doesn’t mean the notion of cheap thrills needs to escape you.
Previously we proved that smiles behind the wheel could be obtained both at the AU$20,0000 and $5,000 mark. Today we’re slotting into the middle to hunt down those remaining killer drives we may have missed.
These are the most rewarding cars to drive for under $10,000.
#1 Mercedes-Benz 300E
The 80s was a special time in European motoring with masculine car designs oozing loads of character onto the streets. This eventually made them the perfect ride amongst gangsters and Miami Vice types. Mercedes-Benz was one such brand which gave off this appeal back in the day, but fast forward to the present and their 300E is now the perfect sub-$10K candidate for those who love a good cruise. Find one in good condition and it could come with a full AMG bodykit to further accentuate the car’s sportier lines. Its 3.0-litre in-line six cylinder engine only affords 135kW but you do get creature comforts like electric sunroof and electric seats.
#2 Renault Megane Sport 225
Some have questioned the reliability of Renaults but one can’t deny the firecracker performance of their little Megane in Sport 225 trim. Yes, it’s butt-ugly, yes it may breakdown eventually, but all cars do and the Megane Sport 225 makes up for that with a sweet sounding 2.0-litre turbo which loves to sing across the rev range. Besides 165kW and 300Nm to get things moving, the car also comes optioned with a host of modern goodies like eight airbags, ABS Brembo brakes, rain sensors and leather all round. Did we mention under $10,000?
#3 Honda Integra Type-R
Back in the 90s when Honda had the balls to build civilian cars that excited the senses, there came a FWD coupe called the Integra Type R. The car was so well-received for its engineering precision that it reached a cult like status for almost a decade after its release. Besides being the poster child for street racing hoons, cleaner examples that were left unmolested remained a sought after ride, lauded for its high-revving 1.8-litre motor and razor sharp lightweight chassis. A guarantee to provide endless smiles through the bends with factory Recaro seats holding you tightly in the driver’s seat.
#4 Mazda 6 MPS
Stepping away from the frantic hot hatches and coupes that dominate this price bracket, we have the forgotten performance sedan from Mazda. Those familiar with the Mazda 6 will know of it as an economical family sedan which could get you from point A to B without a hassle. With the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord also competing in this segment, no one really catered to the older gentlemen who had families but longed for the days of speed. Mazda answered that call and came up with an AWD version of the 6 before cramming in its manic 190kW 2.3-litre four cylinder engine borrowed from the Mazda 3 MPS. It was a bigger and heavier car but it’s one hell of a sleeper that could get up to speed if it wanted to. It didn’t sell well because it only came in a six-speed manual – but that’s a good thing in your world, isn’t it?
#5 Volkwagen Golf GTI
Jumping into another iconic hot hatch that will get the blood pumping in no time is the MK V GTI. It’s relatively reliable as a go-getter around town but take it onto the twisties and the GTI will take on another character thanks to its 2.0-litre turbo four which musters a 147kW and 280Nm to the front wheels. Given it’s not too old a car, it also afford modern luxuries like climate control and 7.0L/100km fuel efficiency.
#6 Mazda 3 MPS
Welcome to torque steer central. That’s not to say the feral behaviour of the little Mazda 3 MPS won’t put a smile on your face. The car packs the aforementioned 2.3-litre turbo four as found in the 6 MPS albeit in a much lighter chassis and with power sent to the front wheels. It;s tame enough around town even though the exhaust maybe loud but once you open it up you better be ready to wrestle that steering wheel as 190kW and 280Nm is on tap for some front-wheel tyre burning.
#7 Toyota MR2 Spyder
The poor man’s Lotus returns in the later model MR2 Spyder, a compact mid-ship with a high-revving 1.8-litre engine crammed behind the driver’s head and the rear axle. Its quirky looks may deter some but the MR2 Spyder had no issues amping up the fun factor with the top down on the bends. Being a Toyota, it was also civil enough to trawl quietly through traffic even if it just had one passenger seat.
#8 Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart Edition
This forgotten bastard child remains as one of today’s more fun cars to drive on the cheap. The Ralliart Colt was a frankenstein hatch which borrowed engineering cues from its older brother, the Lancer Evolution and merged it with the grocery-getter Colt. A 1.5-litre turbo four with 113kW and 201Nm was sent to the front wheels, which might not sound like a lot until you remember that the car weighs just a bit over a tonne. You also get an equally cute and menacing bodykit with gaping vents to let those around you know that you mean business…of picking up the kids. Fast.