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These are the 9 best sporty and fun cars you can buy for less than $35,000

Mazda Miata

Mazda Miata

Perhaps the most popular and easiest go-to answer for this bunch is the Mazda Miata, or MX-5. Now in its fourth generation, the Miata has always committed to being a lightweight, two-door, rear-wheel drive roadster. It's basically the gold standard of cheap automotive fun.

The Miata comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. It's great if you want to take a passenger out for a weekend of spirited driving. The Miata's relatively low power output — 181 horsepower — also means that you won't suddenly find yourself at law-breaking speeds.

Prices start at $26,580.

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Fiat 124 Spider

Fiat 124 Spider

If you like the idea of a Miata, but you want some Italian styling and a turbocharged motor, then the Fiat 124 Spider might be the car for you.

The 124 Spider borrows the fourth-gen Miata's platform, convertible-top mechanism, mechanicals, and parts of its interior. It's also built at the same Hiroshima, Japan, plant where the Miata is manufactured.

But that's about where the similarities end. The 124 Spider has a unique suspension system, is slightly longer, and offers a bit more trunk space than the Miata. Beneath the hood, it has a turbocharged four-cylinder MultiAir engine that puts out 160 horsepower. You can also get it with a six-speed manual.

Prices start at $25,390.

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Hyundai Veloster N

Hyundai Veloster N

The Hyundai Veloster N is lovingly known as a "hot hatch" — that is, a hatchback that's sporty and fun to drive, hence the hotness. The advantages of hatchbacks are that they are more practical than a comparable compact car and have a more unique shape, because not all automakers offer them.

The Veloster N is a three-door hatch with a buzzy, turbocharged four-cylinder motor that makes up to 275 horsepower. Until very recently, it was offered exclusively with a manual transmission, but an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic will soon be available.

The car is impressively light on its feet and feels surprisingly quick behind the wheel. It feels like it's aimed at a younger buyer, too, but if we're honest: You can never be too old to look for some fun in life.

Prices start at $27,600.

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Honda Civic Si

Honda Civic Si

The regular Honda Civic is already great to drive. Why not make things a little sportier with the Si trim?

Available in either a sedan or coupe body style, the Civic Si dresses up the normal Civic styling cues with a rear spoiler, 18-inch wheels, and Si badges. From a 1.5-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, the Civic Si makes 205 horsepower and comes with a six-speed manual.

The Civic has been around for decades and each generation has promised a fun and inexpensive car for the masses. If you get a Civic Si, you'll have back seats and a trunk for life's practical moments and a fun car for everything else. You really can't lose.

Prices start at $25,200.

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Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang

The styling of the current-generation Ford Mustang is some of the best ever. The lines are sleek and show design restraint, while at the same time capturing the instantly recognizable Mustang fastback silhouette and taillights.

You won't be able to nab the V8 Mustang for under $35,000, but that's not at all a problem. Ford offers four-cylinder options as well that actually feel more responsive to drive, owing to the fact that a four-cylinder engine puts much less weight over the front of the car than a V8 does.

The standard four-cylinder Mustang comes with an already nice 2.3-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. But for about $5,000 more, you can upgrade that for the 2.3-liter High Performance Package. That gives you the engine from a Ford Focus RS, 20 extra horsepower to make 330, and a bigger compressor and radiator.

The manual transmission comes standard, but for an extra $1,595 you can get a 10-speed automatic. This can still all be had for under $35,000, by the way.

Prices start at $26,670.

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Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro

The General Motors answer to the Ford Mustang is the Chevrolet Camaro. There has been some criticism regarding the current generation's front fascia design, but in terms of a rear-drive sports car, it's a pretty solid choice.

Just like the Mustang, your standard Camaro comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. But unlike the Mustang, the Camaro also comes with a V6 option, which will set you back $28,090 if you get it with the standard manual transmission.

The 6.2-liter V8 puts you right up at our arbitrary spending limit — $34,995 when equipped with the standard manual transmission as well. You have a few more options with the Camaro, but as cylinder count goes up, so does the price.

Prices start at $25,995.

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Subaru BRZ, Toyota 86

Subaru BRZ, Toyota 86

The Subaru BRZ and the Toyota 86 are basically the same car, so it's up to you whether you want a Subaru or a Toyota. Both come with a low center of gravity, rear-wheel drive and a sporty aesthetic.

Both also come with a boxer four-cylinder engine that's good for 205 horsepower. You can option the cars with either a manual six-speed transmission or a six-speed automatic.

The cars are extremely similar in looks and performance, and their interiors are delightfully minimalist — nothing excessive and absent of any unnecessary opulence. These cars are functional, and their function is to give you something spritely and fun to drive. Back seats might be a little tight for the average human being, though. (And by "a little," I mean a lot.)

Prices start at $28,845 (BRZ) and $27,060 (86).

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Volkswagen Golf GTI

Volkswagen Golf GTI

It's no coincidence that Volkswagen translates to "people's car" from German and has a contender on this list. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a stylish, sporty, and fun hatchback for those who need four doors, two rows of seats, and a usable trunk.

The Golf GTI has a 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that makes 228 horsepower. The interior is clean, sophisticated, and you can get it with a very tasteful plaid color scheme. How many cars offer plaid upholstery from the factory? Not many.

I'd typically advocate for the six-speed manual here, but the fact of the matter is that the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is also a joy. Both make the car fun to drive.

Prices start at $28,595.

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Nissan 370Z

Nissan 370Z

And concluding this list is the Nissan 370Z, a true dinosaur of a car that came out during the early years of the Obama Administration. You know, when Pontiac was still around.

But that doesn't take away from the Z's commitment to fun and driver engagement. It's the only one of this bunch of cars that has a naturally aspirated, 3.7-liter V6 engine. That puts out a very respectable 332 horsepower and can be had with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic.

The Z's interior might be from 2009, but for those tired of the overly digitized consoles of modern cars, this can be refreshing.

Prices start at $30,090.

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