Category Archives: Cheap Fun Cars

Fun enthusiast-aimed cars that can be had for under $30 grand

Miata: The Snow Review

Miata Club Ace Snow 13

When it comes to sports cars there are so many fair weather fans, people who will question driving their car if there is even one cloud in the sky. I am definitely not one of them, and those people make me laugh. I once heard a man with a base Porsche Cayman brag about how his car had never seen rain, and I had to walk away so I wouldn’t crack up in his face.

The thing is, fair weather drivers are missing out on one of the most fun driving experiences there is. I’m talking about snow, yes, white, fluffy, salt-laden snow. It comes with some risks, but the rewards are truly special. At the end of the day, a sports car is all about having fun, so why not experience it to the absolute fullest?

Continue reading Miata: The Snow Review

Advertisements

$25K Used Car Shootout: Audi B8 S4 vs Lexus IS F

IMG_0354 IMG_0336

For $25K you have many great options for a high-performance daily driver. If you want a brand new car you can get a Honda Civic Si or a Volkswagen GTI, both great “hot hatches” with amazing handling and turbocharged power. Looking a couple years used, you can find a current-gen Subaru WRX, or variants of the Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro. But what if you want something even more serious with more emphasis on luxury and even higher performance? For $25K, the cars will be a few years older, 8-10 years old in this case, but you are getting $60K worth of car for less than half the price.

I’m starting to look around in this general price range for my next step, and I have various options depending on what I decide to do with my current stable of cars. I decided to go have a drive in some of the cars I’ve been looking at to see what they’re really like from behind the wheel.

I went to a local dealer to check out two Audi B8 S4s, and low and behold, they had a Lexus IS F on the lot as well – it hadn’t been listed online yet. IS Fs are pretty rare, and this one was in my range, so I added it to my list to drive.

The S4 and IS F are a somewhat strange comparison, the Audi is AWD with a supercharged V6, and the Lexus is RWD with a 5.0L V8. When it comes to driving in bad weather, they don’t really do the same things. That said, both are midsize sedans that offer high performance with a lot of polish. Overall, they serve the same basic function for the same basic price, so, despite their vast differences in many areas, that means they compete.

Continue reading $25K Used Car Shootout: Audi B8 S4 vs Lexus IS F

Hyundai Elantra Sport DCT Review: An Unknown Gem

Hyundai Elantra Sport 10

Many good things in life fly just under the radar. Like the other day when I went to lunch at work, and noticed a bright blue Hyundai Elantra parked out front. The color caught my eye, but I figured it was just another Elantra. Then I noticed the wheels, the slightly aggressive body styling, and the dual exhaust tips protruding from the diffuser-looking rear valance. I thought to myself, “Damn, Hyundai is really trying to make the Elantra look like a performance model.” I saw the word “Sport” displayed on the back, and the subtle “Turbo” badge on the front grill. That prompted me to get out my phone and Google the Elantra Sport over lunch. What I found out was very intriguing.

Continue reading Hyundai Elantra Sport DCT Review: An Unknown Gem

Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Review: My Next Daily Driver?

Honda Civic Hatchback Sport 1

I’m starting to consider options for replacing my Volkswagen CC as my practical daily driver, and I’ve had numerous people tell me to try out the new turbocharged Honda Civic.

Now before any of you scream “Civic Si” or “Civic Type R” at the screen, just know that I need an automatic here because my girlfriend, Gab, needs to be able to drive the car. I have my Miata and my STI when I want to shift my own gears. Also, the mighty Type R is vastly out of my budget for this move.

I’m not going too deep into financials, but I’m considering a lease that would be the same or less than what I currently pay on my CC. I also want a car that is realistically capable of touching 40 MPG when I’m cruising.

So, automatic, 40 MPG capable, and a relatively cheap monthly payment. Sounds like driving excitement may not really be a factor here, right? The options are certainly limited, but the new Civic Hatchback Sport quickly captured my interest when shopping around. I’d heard some great things about the new 1.5L turbocharged engine, and it seemed like Honda had made the Hatchback Sport model a junior Si, of sorts.

I figured if I was going to try out the new Civic, I might as well try the one most likely to catch my interest. The 1.5L Turbo is available on all the Civic models, but the Sport would have the tighter handling and the sport exhaust, which would make it more my kind of car.

So, after work, I went to go check it out, and see if the Civic Hatchback Sport was the “8/10ths Civic Si” I was hoping it would be.

Continue reading Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Review: My Next Daily Driver?

The Lincoln Mark VII Chronicles, Part III: One Battle Ends, and Another Begins

Lincoln Mark VII Front 2

By the beginning of September, my life was finally coming back together, ever-so-slowly. With a job offer in hand and numerous leads calling me nonstop, I was finally hitting my stride for the first time since April of 2016. However, while I was improving, the Mark VII was starting to falter. Continue reading The Lincoln Mark VII Chronicles, Part III: One Battle Ends, and Another Begins

Polaris Slingshot Review: You’ll Be the Talk of the Town

IMG_6306

Glued to the window. I mean this kid’s face must have literally become fused with the glass. There is something about the raw enthusiasm of a child that’s quite effective for judging certain things about a car. Let’s put it this way, we were stuck in traffic, surrounded by hundreds of other cars, but this kid’s attention was transfixed solely on mine, and for good reason. Just look at this thing, it’s the Polaris Slingshot, and it’s friggin’ awesome!

The kid would’ve never even bothered to notice if I were in any sort of normal car, whether it be a Toyota Camry, a BMW M5, or probably even a Porsche 911. There was something vastly entrancing to his young mind about my Polaris Slingshot, to the point where he was trying to push himself through the window to get a better look at it. You’d honestly need to be in a Lamborghini, or something that exotic, to draw the same kind of attention this outrageous reverse trike does.

I think, by all definitions, the Polaris Slingshot can be considered a genuine exotic car. It commands crazy amounts of attention, it’s exciting to drive, and it’s totally idiotic in most practical ways. What I found in my time driving the Slingshot, though, was just how exotic it really is in the most classic sense. You see, the exotic car experience consists of a grand mix of excitement and frustration. The great aspects are incredible, but they are balanced out by serious flaws, which are often infuriating, excruciating, or both at the same time.

The question is, are the Polaris Slingshot’s good aspects worth putting up with its bad aspects? Or, for that matter, is it even worth your time in a world full of other wonderful cars and bikes?

I’ve wanted to drive a Slingshot ever since I first saw one fly past me on the road, so I decided to rent one and find out during a recent vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Continue reading Polaris Slingshot Review: You’ll Be the Talk of the Town

So I made another purchase this weekend…

Mazda NC Miata Club Edition 1

Wait, didn’t he just buy an old red Miata? Why the hell would he buy a new red Miata now?

That is the question everyone around me has been asking all weekend. Yes, I went and bought this beautiful 2014 Mazda MX5 Miata Club Edition this weekend, and no I’m not crazy, although it may seem that way to many people around me right now.

Here’s why I went and bought this car, as best as I can explain it right now.

Continue reading So I made another purchase this weekend…

2015 Ford Focus ST Review, Al’s Take (Grade: A)

Ford Focus ST Front 1

The Ford Focus has been on my radar for longer than we’ve been running this website.  Back in 2011, the first car I drove to review for the website was a 2011 Focus SE sedan and I thought it was a massive step in the right direction for Ford’s compact entry.  A few short years later, the ST launched–and we all rejoiced that Ford had thrown its hat into the hot-hatch ring, creating yet another choice for less than 30 grand. It’s taken some time for me to get around to it, but a few weeks ago, I took this 2015 model for a spin around Old Bridge–and learned a lot about what Ford’s doing to stay relevant in this super-competitive market. Continue reading 2015 Ford Focus ST Review, Al’s Take (Grade: A)

2016 Mazda ND Miata Club Review: Joy On Four Wheels

Mazda ND Miata Club 1

The original Mazda Miata brought driving enjoyment to the masses. Like the great British and Italian roadsters before it, the Miata offered the full wind-in-your-hair experience, but it did so without all of the reliability problems suffered by the european cars. It was a simple, affordable, enjoyable machine. They basically materialized fun, and gave it four wheels.

Some have criticized the Miata for being soft as a sports car, though, even saying that it isn’t really a sports car at all. For the original NA Miata in stock form, I have to I agree. It’s a lot of fun, and is surely a great roadster, but a stock NA Miata lacks the handling composure that really defines a true sports car.

As the Miata has grown and evolved over the years, Mazda has worked to make it more of a sports car, while keeping it a great roadster as well. When I took the new ND Miata out for a spin, it became clear that Mazda has finally found the right balance for the total Miata experience.

In some regards Mazda has taken the Miata back to its roots. In other ways it has benefitted from many modern technological improvements. All in all, I am confident in saying that it is the best Miata they’ve ever made. Here’s why…

Continue reading 2016 Mazda ND Miata Club Review: Joy On Four Wheels

2015 Subaru WRX CVT Automatic Reviewed (9.5/10)

2015 Subaru WRX Review by Mind Over Motor

This is the new Subaru WRX, and it is the one without a clutch pedal. As if that doesn’t seem bad enough, it doesn’t have a dual clutch gearbox or even a traditional automatic, no, this WRX has a continuously variable transmission (CVT), like the one you might find in a Toyota Prius or a Nissan Versa. And, you know what, it’s pretty damn good.

You might think I’ve lost my mind here, but let me set things straight with a little context. I am not going to say that the CVT WRX is better than the manual WRX, because it surely isn’t for hardcore driving enthusiasts. So let’s get that out of the way right from the start. Subaru still makes a manual WRX for their existing customers, and now it finally comes as a 6-speed (Hooray!). That, however is a fairly boring story to write — the manual WRX is a lot of fun, and the Pope is still Catholic.

I wanted to drive the CVT automatic because the 2015 WRX is the first WRX to be offered without a clutch pedal since 2008, and most of us know the 2008 WRX was a total embarassment. In fact, throughout the entire history of the Subaru WRX, there hasn’t been a decent automatic version… ever. So I had a fundamental question that needed to be answered: Is the new CVT automatic WRX any good at all?

Continue reading 2015 Subaru WRX CVT Automatic Reviewed (9.5/10)

2014 FIAT 500L Trekking Review (Grade: C+)

Fiat 500L Front Left

Fiat has been doing a pretty good job of marketing whatever new product they have.  They have come a long way from the cringe-inducing “Jenny From the Block” ads that were running a few years ago, to running ads with P.Diddy and a little kid to advertise their newest creation.  The 500 was a hit for them worldwide and in America, they’re certainly selling pretty well.  In fact, there’s been a new kid on the block for them in the past year or so now, the 500L, a four-door model designed with the small family in mind.  Fiat needs all the sales it can get right about now, as the 500L is in a tough marketplace and has not been getting a good amount of positive press.  I decided to take myself to the local Fiat showroom a few miles away and see what the fuss was all about. Continue reading 2014 FIAT 500L Trekking Review (Grade: C+)

2014 Ford Fiesta ST Reviewed (9.5/10)

Molten Orange Ford Fiesta ST Front View

There is a reason why cereal companies put toys in their cereal boxes. They know that kids don’t care what they eat, but they also know that little Jimmy won’t be leaving Wegman’s quietly until he gets his Iron Man action figure, and if his mom knows what’s good for her, she will pony up the cash for the cereal while her basic human dignity is still intact.

Of course, the kid will rip open the cereal box and dig out the action figure right away, but in the days after, he or she will be exposed to the cereal itself, the real product, and that will leave an impression that lasts long after Iron Man gets chewed up by the dog, and left in scattered bits around the yard. 

The same fundamental factor is of paramount importance in the world of hot hatchbacks. Let’s call it “tangible excitement,” something you can point to and say, “Wow that’s really cool! I want one of those!” 

Look at this Ford Fiesta ST and you will see what I mean. The basic Fiesta is a very good, but very boring economy car. Ford couldn’t just put a better engine and suspension in it and expect the ST version to sell. No, they knew it was important to put on a show. Give it an aggressive body kit, bright-colored paint with sweet Recaro racing seats, and put it out in front of the dealership for all to see. People will be pulling U-turns to come find out what it is, and if they can afford one.

Continue reading 2014 Ford Fiesta ST Reviewed (9.5/10)