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Best Sports/Performance Car under $50,000

2013 Ford Focus ST


Ford Focus ST
Base price:
As-tested: $32,599

I frankly didn't think the Focus would win this category; my money would have been on the second-place Scion FR-S or virtually identical Subaru BRZ sports cars. But this brilliant, affordable little sports sedan won my heart almost before I found my way out of the parking area and on to Niagara Region roads. By the time I'd thrashed it around the autocross-style handling circuit, the love affair was well and truly requited.

The just-arrived Focus ST comes from Ford's Global Performance Vehicle division, which has thoroughly tweaked this five-door hatch. Under the hood is a 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four making 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual box, and delivering up 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. And, under bodywork visually boosted with racy rocker panels and spoiler, are uprated springs, anti-roll bars and dampers, variable-ratio electric power steering with torque steer compensation and bigger brakes.

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Screaming Tangerine barely does justice to the paint colour, and sliding into the snug Recaro seat and aligning myself behind the leather-wrapped wheel was a great first-touch introduction. Followed by firing up that two-litre motor, which emits an exhaust growl that delivers an unmistakable invitation.

The Focus ST was pleasantly driveable and comfortable for day-to-day use, but point it at those orange cones and it attacked like a mongoose facing a six-pack of snakes.

As these 10 cars are in the sports/performance category, I'll rate them on a five-star basis as weekend autocrossers. The Focus ST gets five.


2013 Scion FR-S Toyota Toyota

Scion FR-S
Base price:
As-tested: $25,990

Jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, ths rear-drive FR-S has a 2.0-litre, 200-hp/150-lb-ft "boxer" four, a six-speed manual and gets from 0-100 km in 7.3 seconds. Sports seats, leather wheel, alloy pedals and generous equipment inside make it pleasantly usable and its handling and power make it a five-star weekend racer.

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Hyundai Genesis Coupe Hyundai Hyundai

Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Base price:
As-tested: $28,799

The Genesis coupe – which included a $2,300 R-Spec kit adding 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes and "track" suspension – outgunned all but the Accord coupe with its 2.0-litre turbo four putting out 274 hp and 275 lb-ft, six-speed box and a 0-100 km/h time of 6.9 seconds. But it feels more at home on the street than tracking through the cones, rating 3.5 stars.


2013 Subaru BRZ Subaru Subaru

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Subaru BRZ
Base price:
As-tested: $27,295

The BRZ should have pipped the Scion FR-S. That it didn't may have come down to weighting factors that lowered its score. These cars are near-identical twins, but the BRZ has an edge in front-end styling and, with a price of $27,295, was better equipped. It has a crisper feel, for which it gets a five-plus star rating.


2013 Volkswagen Golf R Volkswagen Volkswagen

Volkswagen Golf R
Base price:
As-tested: $39,675

Volkswagen has taken one of the most iconic hot hatches of all time to a new level of sophistication, performance and price – and a class-topping price of $39,675. That buys you a lot of leather and features and a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four generating 256 hp and 243 lb-ft with a six-speed manual and a 4Motion AWD. It was quickest at 6.6 seconds from 0-100 km and stormed through the handling course, earning a five-star ranking.


2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe Honda Honda

Honda Accord Coupe
Base price:
As-tested: $35,390

The Accord Coupe has a great-sounding and revvy 3.5-litre V-6 making 278 hp and 252 lb-ft, a crisp-shifting six-speed manual, and was second-quickest to 100km/h at 6.7 seconds. Plus attractive styling and an interior with comfortable seats, dual-zone climate control, fine audio, etc., which make it an excellent tourer. But it's a less-than-keen cone-carver with a 3.0 rating.


Hyundai Veloster Hyundai Hyundai

Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Base price:
As-tested: $25,999

The Veloster Turbo takes already wild-child-styling up a notch with a "ground effects" kit, while inside there's leather, a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, rear-view camera, touch-screen navi and Dimension audio. Its turbocharged 1.6-litre four pumps out 201 hp and 195 lb-ft and propels it to 100 km/h in 8.1 seconds. On-road handling is fine, but it's not as happy dodging cones, so a rating of 3.5 stars.


Mini Roadster BMW BMW

Mini Roadster
Base price:
As-tested: $36,610

The Mini Roadster is yet another answer to the question, what the heck else can they do with this platform? This "mini" two-seater is mega-cute and quick enough, with a turbo 1.6-litre engine putting out 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque and a six-speed box that gets it to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds. It's competent in handling and braking terms, and funky/cool inside. And it gets a four-star autocross rating.


Chevrolet Sonic RS 5-Door
Base price:
As-tested: $23,650

The Sonic RS hatch is, if not a giant killer, at least a giant annoyer, as I discovered chasing a 380-hp Camaro on the handling course. It was shy on power though, with 138 hp and 148 lb-ft from its 1.4-litre turbo engine, and could use more suspension and tires. But it is fun, looks the part with sporty aero add-ons, is well-equipped, a decent value at $23,500 and scored a 3.5 star auto-cross rating.


Fiat Abarth Chrysler Chrysler

Fiat Abarth
Base price:
As-tested: $27,400

Legendary Fiat tuner Carlo Abarth would give two thumbs-up to this hot-rod that carries his name and lets owners deliver a ruder Italian gesture to more potent machinery. With 160 hp and 170 lb-ft produced by its turbocharged 1.4-litre four, bigger brakes and a tautly tuned suspension, the Abarth is a little terrier, quick (0-100 km/h in 8.0 seconds) and agile when let off the leash, and always fun to play with, garnering it four stars.

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