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7 Best 2017 Cheap Sports Cars Under $30K

4. Ford Mustang EcoBoost coupe

Price as tested: $28,540
0-60 mph: 5.5 sec; EPA rating: 24 mpg city-highway combined
Hottest color: Competition Orange

Counterpunch the Camaro on our list with this pony car turned agile quarter horse. Like our Chevy pick, it shuns the available big V-8 that makes it a muscle car. Here, we go with Ford’s punchy turbocharged four-cylinder – backed by some serious handling hardware. The result: sports-car-quality road manners in a 2+2 with enough room, comfort, and cargo space to qualify as your daily driver.

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Start with the shapely 2017 Mustang coupe in base trim. Stick with the standard six-speed manual transmission. Scrape together an even $1,000 and move up from the entry-level 3.7-liter V-6 (300 horsepower, 280 pound-feet of torque) to the turbo 2.3-liter four. It’s part of the automaker’s EcoBoost engine family and generates 310 horsepower while summoning 320 pound-feet of torque from just 2500 rpm. Granted, it’s subject to a bit of turbo lag off the line and isn’t as smooth or sweet-sounding as it ought to be. But midrange throttle response is strong. Work the gears and you can storm out of corners on the wings of some pretty impressive thrust.

Base-trim EcoBoost Mustangs come standard with P235/50R18 all-season tires on alloy wheels, near-GT-grade brakes, a limited-slip differential, xenon headlamps, LED running lights and taillamps, power front seats, and keyless entry with pushbutton start. Premium-trim models add niceties like heated and cooled leather front seats, but start at $30,545. Given our thirty-grand threshold, stay with the base car and spend your dough on the EcoBoost Performance Package.

This thoughtfully assembled $1,995 option increases braking ability via larger vented discs, with 13.9-inch rotors and four-piston aluminum calipers in front. Tires grow to 255/40R19 summer treads on 19×9 black-painted alloys. The chassis gets handling-enhancing tuning and heavy-duty front springs. The final-drive ratio tightens to 3.55:1, from 3.31:1, and there’s a larger radiator. Inside, Ford adds an engine-turned aluminum instrument panel with oil-pressure and turbo-boost gauges.

This is your best-balanced Mustang, fortified with added measures of grip and composure that make it a twisty-road threat with minimal compromise to ride quality or utility. Speaking of grip, Ford offers genuine Recaro front bucket seats; they lack power adjustments but their solid embrace is worth every penny of the $1,595 upcharge. Sure, that pushes our car’s sticker to $30,135. But there’s always room for haggling.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]