The term "performance vehicle" usually conjures thoughts of expensive exotic and muscle cars, the likes of which most of us regular car shoppers can only have in our dreams and video games.
The reality, however, is many automakers offer a wide variety of performance-oriented vehicles and trim levels that can easily get the adrenaline pumping for a very reasonable -- we're talking less than $25,000 -- price. And not only do these cars offer a great driving experience, but many come with great fuel economy, versatility and reliability.
Click through to see some cars that boast big performance for a small price. It's time you fed your inner sports car nut -- without having to break the bank.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 34 mpg Highway
The cute little Fiat 500 developed some serious attitude after getting the Abarth (Fiat's performance line) treatment. With a throaty, deep exhaust sound, mean-looking paint jobs and a more powerful engine, this small hatchback projects performance to all of the senses.
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Ford Fiesta ST
Fuel Economy: NA
The Ford Fiesta ST is a sporty take on the automaker's successful subcompact. A turbocharged 1.6L I-4 engine produces 200 hp, which, for this lightweight little hatchback, is more than enough to get you moving very quickly. Starting at $21,400, it's a lot of fun for a pretty small price.
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Ford Focus ST
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 32 mpg Highway
The great thing about the Ford Focus ST is that it offers performance comparable to hot import juggernauts like the Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution for a much better price. Just $24,115 gets you a great turbocharged 2.0L engine, excellent handling performance and 32 mpg on the freeway. That's a heck of a package.
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Honda Civic Si
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
The Honda Civic is one of the best small cars on the planet. The Si trim adds a bigger engine with a great six-speed manual transmission. The fact that you can get everything that comes with the Civic -- reliability, resale value, etc. -- combined with some performance makes this a stellar option as a sporty car.
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Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway
The Hyundai Veloster Turbo is an interesting vehicle, namely because of its strange look and name and the fact that it comes with three doors -- 1 on the driver's side and 2 on the passenger. This is a great car to drive and it comes with tons of standard features starting at just $22,100.
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Mazda MX-5 Miata
MSRP: $23,720 - $29,250
Invoice: $22,424 - $27,648
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Small, lightweight, balanced and incredibly agile, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is undoubtedly one of the best-driving cars on the road. A summertime drive along a windy road with the top down in this car is sure to cure any trace of the blues.
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Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
With a turbocharged 2.3L I-4 engine making 263 horsepower, this hot hatch is fast, furious and way, way fun. The downside to the Mazdaspeed3 is that there is so much power being sent to the front wheels, it's hard to keep it going in a straight line when accelerating.
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MSRP: $24,200 - $30,995
Invoice: $23,232 - $29,755
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
The VW GTI has been a favorite among driving enthusiasts for a long time now. Although a new one was unveiled this spring, the current generation is still a fantastic vehicle. Its 2.0L turbo engine makes 200 hp and its handling is superb.
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