Honestly, not a lot of us have the means to buy the likes of Porsches, Lamborghinis, McLarens, or other exotic sports cars to satisfy a car enthusiast’s dream to have one in our garages. Those cars are reserved for the wealthy people with expendable income.
So what does that mean for us “normal” people? Fortunately, the good thing with cars is that there are so many to choose from, and we can find one that’s fit for our budget that could provide, or even give a better driving experience than more expensive cars. Most of all, because they are cheap, they could be pushed to the limits without ever worrying about an expensive repair bill. With that being said, these are some of the cheapest JDM cars today that we love to drive.
Suzuki’s funky little hatchback is often called the Japanese Mini Cooper, due to it sharing a lot of similarities to the iconic British legend when it comes to being a nimble handling front-wheel-drive econocar.
Unfortunately for American car buyers, the Swift is not available in the USA. However, for some other regions, a sport version called the Swift Sport can be bought for just under $10,000, one that is less than a tenth of a second slower than a Mini Cooper around the Cadwell Park circuit in the UK.
Toyota’s third-generation MR-S, or the MR2 Spyder, was much more compact and became less powerful than its predecessor, the turbocharged SW20 version. Nevertheless, the Japanese mid-engined sport compact provides sports car-like handling due to its agile chassis.
Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about everyday usability and tuning capabilities, as the MR2 Spyder is powered by the same engine as the Toyota Corolla, Celica, and the Lotus Elise. And just take a look at it, the MR-S can even be mistaken as a small Porsche Boxster.
For sure, when we talk about Hondas, the Prelude is not in the same conversation as the Civic and Integra models of the 90s, as it was rather overshadowed by its more compact siblings. However, a lot of people don’t know that it’s an underrated classic.
For starters, it’s technologically advanced for its time, as it was equipped with an Active Torque Transfer System, a concept that’s similar to front-wheel-drive torque vectoring, making the car handle better through the corners. Also, it’s not lacking when it comes to creature comforts compared to its smaller siblings with a more premium interior, making up for a fun and leisurely drive.
It’s really hard not to mention the first-generation Mazda MX-5 when it comes to having a fun sports car on a budget. There’s not much to say about the car except that it is very simple. Very pure. That there’s nothing left to do with the car except to just drive it.
It is where the MX-5 shines through, giving its driver a lot of confidence in the way it communicates. It only has 133 hp, so you really have to go higher up the revs to make the car come alive, just like how a sports car should be driven.
The Nissan 350Z is an oft-forgotten sports car great from the Japanese manufacturer, as it only had a short model run compared to the 370Z, which went on sale for over 12 years.
For sure, it looks a bit bulkier and heavier than its newer Z brother, but it’s just as good with the way the car handles together with the old-school 3.5-liter V6 that gives off a Japanese muscle car vibe.
Don’t let the unassuming looks deceive you, the Mazdaspeed 6 might be a normal family sedan outside, but it’s actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At around $4,000 to $7,000, you could have your very own budget sleeper car.
No one would really assume that this car has a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine packing 270 hp, and all-wheel-drive. Plus, it has a 6-speed manual transmission and Mazda’s Active Torque Split that lets the car go from 100/0 to 50/50 front/rear torque distribution, which works similarly to the ATTESA E-TS four-wheel-drive system used in the Nissan GT-R.
Now we’re going back to subcompacts. Quite simply, the Honda Fit is such a versatile car to have. First of all, it’s cheap. Second, it’s reliable. Third, it has a cargo space of a crossover, thanks to the genius ULTR layout. And lastly, it’s a fun car to drive.
The 1.5-liter EarthDreams engine that the Fit has, provides enough forward thrust to have fun within speed limits, and the sharp chassis when combined with the lightness of the electric power steering makes driving through an autocross or slalom course a breeze. The taut suspension keeps the car stable as you carve through winding roads with ease, adding up to a fun driving experience that is well within budget limits.
Labeled as the “indestructible” pick-up truck, the Toyota Hilux could literally take on any kind of use and abuse in all sorts of conditions. Whether in the city, on the trail, and even in war zones, Toyota’s legendary pick-up truck would simply not break down.
But apparently, the Toyota Hilux could also provide fun thrills, especially off-road. The stiff leaf springs can be quite jarring on smooth roads, but when you go through the rough stuff, the pick-up truck basically transforms into a budget Baja trophy truck, soaking up bumps and rough roads very well. Not to mention, the good ground clearance and relatively light curb weight clears you from trail obstacles easily.
Similar to the Hilux, the Suzuki Samurai is a much cheaper alternative to having a budget 4×4. There’s no need to worry about suspension bushes and ball joints getting damaged when on the trail, as it has front and rear live axles connected to leaf springs.
Furthermore, the tiny dimensions mean it’s a great city car to have as well. You can easily weave in and out of traffic, plus it has no problem fitting in to narrow parking spaces around town.
Subaru Impreza WRX
Last but not the least, the Subaru Impreza WRX provides all the driving thrills of a proper rally-bred sedan, but without the sticker price of one. Basically, the WRX is just a lesser powerful version of the all-out STi.
Unlike the STi that has a 2.5-liter boxer engine, the WRX has a smaller 2.0-liter unit, which produces 268 hp, and has a broader torque curve than the old EJ25. It has a lighter electric steering rack, the same 6-speed manual gearbox and an optional CVT version, and it costs $10,000 less. Nevertheless, it could take on gravel roads and snowy conditions just as good as the STi at a significantly cheaper price.
JDM (or Japanese Domestic Market) can mean many things when it comes to cars, from models to parts. Here’s what you might not know!
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