Speed and acceleration don’t always come cheap, but there are more than enough options out there for car buyers with a budget below $40,000. In fact, Ford and Honda doubled down on their hot hatch games in recent years, giving Americans speed demons in multiple size classes.
Still, the basic parameters have not changed. Horse for horse and dollar for dollar, it’s tough to top American pony cars when looking for cheap power. Automakers abroad usually go for lighter models to get maximum acceleration from smaller engines, but the Detroit brands take the time-honored “shock and awe” approach. It ain’t broke, so they don’t seem intent on fixing it.
Here are 12 of the fastest cars available below $40,000. We considered both acceleration and speed for the quarter mile before awarding them the title of “fastest cars.” While most are well below our target price, some will climb above that mark when extras are added.