2016 Subaru WRX
2016 Subaru WRX (Subaru of America, Inc.)

Affordable small cars are easy on your budget, fuel efficient and maneuverable in cramped city streets or parking lots. Potent engines and engaging handling, meanwhile, are much harder to find in the class. If you’re a driving enthusiast looking for a small car, consider one of these compact or subcompact cars. They have all the practical advantages of a small car as well as a fun-to-drive personality on the road.

Test drivers say the 2016 Mazda Mazda3 has precise steering and agile handling, making it very sporty for a compact car. They’re also pleased with the power provided by the Mazda3’s available 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

The 2016 Subaru WRX comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a class-leading 268 horsepower. The WRX also comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is a rarity in the class. On winding roads, test drivers say the WRX has excellent cornering ability and sharp steering.

2015 Ford Focus
2015 Ford Focus (Ford Motor Company)

The 2015 Ford Focus earns similar praise, as critics are impressed with its agile handling and communicative steering. The available Focus ST has a 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and test drivers say the ST’s acceleration is especially quick from a stop.

Automotive journalists are also happy with the 2016 Ford Fiesta ST’s zippy 197-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Regardless of engine choice, auto writers say the Fiesta has a comfortable ride and its athletic handling and responsive steering make it very fun to drive.

2016 Mini Cooper
2016 Mini Cooper (BMW of North America, LLC)

The 2016 Mini Cooper is one of the sharpest-handling subcompact cars, test drivers report, as they’re especially pleased with its crisp steering and strong brakes. The Mini Cooper’s available turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines (189 and 228 horsepower, respectively) deliver more than enough muscle, reviewers say.

If you think you’ll need more space than a small car offers but don’t want to sacrifice a sporty ride, critics report affordable midsize cars, like the Mazda Mazda6, Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima are more fun to drive than the typical midsize sedan. If having fun behind the wheel is your main priority, however, you should consider an affordable sports car. The Mazda MX-5 Miata, Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, Volkswagen GTI and Ford Mustang all have the potent engines and nimble handling befitting a sports car, test drivers say.

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