The 7 Most Rewarding Cars To Drive Under $20,000

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Stepping up to the ‘twenty-kay’ club allows for a bit more freedom when it comes to finding the perfect driver’s car that will put a smile on that pretty mug. Caution is still necessary though as some of these cars are well over twenty years old with serious mileage on the clock alongside expected wear and tear.

This story was originally published on D’Marge.

Do your homework first and you’ll be rewarded with a memorable drive rather than a lemon. These are the seven best affordable sports cars under AU$20,000 that will get the job done.

1. Toyota MR2 AW11

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Enthusiasts have long labelled this little Toyota the ‘poor man’s Lotus’, and for very good reason too. The AW11 was the first generation MR2, a name given to Toyota’s first foray into midship territory from 1984 which saw a high-revving 1.6-litre engine slotted behind the driver. 128hp was sent to the rear wheels whilst the setup allowed for supreme handling in the dry with rapid acceleration out of corners helped along by the car’s 1,131kg weight.

2. Renault Megane R.S. 250

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The newest car on the list proves that it doesn’t have to break the bank when chasing performance points. Thanks to the French, the Megane R.S. 250 is one of the most versatile modern hot hatches made for spirited driving as well as everyday traffic duties. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine which develops a spritely 240hp and 340Nm of torque going to the front wheels. For peace of mind Renault have thrown in Brembo stoppers and a limited slip differential to ensure power is distributed effectively. The 6.1s 0-100km/h time and aggressive styling is a bonus.

3. Porsche Boxster

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Credited as the car that saved Porsche from acquisition during the early nineties, the Porsche Boxster is today one of the Stuttgart company’s most iconic names alongside the famed 911 moniker. The Boxster is unique in that it boasts a mid-engined layout like the aforementioned Toyota which provided a lower centre of gravity, near-perfect weight distribution and sharp handling. It was this very design that made the car a pleasure to drive along with its 3.6-litre flat six engine which afforded 250hp to the rear wheels. Easily the most fun a man can have with his top off.

4. Nissan R32 GTR

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The 1989 Nissan R32 GTR is widely regarded as the giant slaying coupe which put Japan’s performance car scene on the global map. Revived as the third generation Skyline after the last model released way back in 1973, the R32 Skyline GTR variant was an entirely different beast which utilised advanced AWD technology of its time and paired it with a bulletproof 2.6-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder engine. With a weight of just under 1.5 tonnes, the car with mountains of tuning potential and intelligent AWD traction decimated most of its exotic competition. In Australian folklore, it forced racing driver Jim Richards to call unhappy Holden and Ford fans a pack of “arseholes” after he took out the Bathurst 1000 in a R32 GTR back in 1992.

5. 1991 Mercedes-Benz 500SL

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Having a rewarding drive doesn’t necessarily mean going fast. The Mercedes-Benz 500SL is no slug but it certainly takes the bacon as an awesome looking Miami Vice-style cruiser that oozes 80s cool. Besides looking the part, the 500SL also makes for one pleasurable drive with a 5.0-litre V8 doing the grunt work and modern luxuries such as power windows, power memory seats, air-conditioning, electric soft top and a removable hardtop coming in as standard features.

6. 1998 Land Rover Defender XS

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Taking the same route that slower is often better (how else would you enjoy the scenery), the older Defender XS from Land Rover is easily one of the most unrefined cars on this list that forces a driver to work for the smiles. It bears the same iconic Defender look born from the 60s complete with panel gaps, exposed door hinges, rivets, high roofline and a short wheelbase – basically all the imperfections of a hand-built body. And it’s these very points that make it extremely cool. The true 4×4 off-roader is powered by a 5-cylinder 2.5-litre turbo-diesel developing 122hp.

7. Honda S2000

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Developed for the driving purist and hairdressers according to some, the Honda S2000 first landed in 1999 to world-wide acclaim for its immense handling capabilities brought upon by its engineering prowess. The car borrowed from the Japanese automaker’s rich experience in Formula One with a high revving 2.0-litre engine that was paired with the roadster body that weighed just 1,274kg. More importantly, Honda pushed the engine as far back into the firewall as possible to achieve a perfect 50:50 weight distribution leading to one of the most sublime handling cars the company has ever created. The final S2000 rolled off the production line in 2009 and the older models are now more affordable than ever.

This story was originally published on D’Marge.

D'Marge is one of Australia's most popular men's style and fashion blogs. Follow D'Marge on Facebook and Instagram.


    Can we get a @Campbell Simpson version of this article?

      One hundred per cent yes. Give me a price tag and I'll give you my own the best choices possible.

    I am quite surprised you can get a Megane RS, R32 GTR or S2000 for under $20k. Not good ones at least.

      They might be a bit ragged out, yeah. R32 GTR you'd probably get off a boat from Japan, in decent nick inside but likely with the odo wound back a few hundred thousand Ks.

      well since the USA can now import the R32 GTR due to it being old enough the prices have rocketed.. The yanks are buying them all up fast. :(

        The cheapest Japan 1'200,000 yen . $15000 aud

      It is possible to pick up some earlier S2000's (generally stock) in excellent condition for under 20k.

      They are an awesome car to drive, however, not very practical. :P

    Remote control car era MR2s are terrible. The W20s were far better looking cars that didn't snapsteer you into a gumtree.

      The robot AW11s look so much cooler though. I will admit that when I drove one down the Galston Gorge in Sydney I was deathly worried of ending up flipped over upside down on fire in a ditch.

        Sweet lord, the famous Galston Gorge.. made in a time when OHS had nothing to do with road design. I use it regularly to re-calibrate my sanity on my bike..

    You forgot the Subaru WRX STI 2004-2005 (the best ones IMO).

      It's an American article and they barely know Subaru exists over there.

    100% agree on the MR2, very nimble and quick cars to drive that really loves corners but cant say I was a fan of the S2000. I havnt driven a stock one before so i've only got the modified experience on it.
    Im currently a fan of 90's AWD turbo cars. picked up an Evo6 and love how it handle and up and down hills and just all around as a daily driver compared to its FWD counterpart which was kinda meh...

    Toyota Soarer GT-T with manual transmission. The autos are nice, but the manual just makes it a gorgeous car for those who love to drive.

      This!! I have an auto but with a shift kit. I will never get rid of this car. I have driven a lot of cars, some have been supercars. The Soarer is just incredible to drive.

      They didn't make these in manual from my knowledge.
      Any that are have had a transplant from a supra.

        Not quite. Only about 1-2% of the production run was in manual, so it's very common for people to convert the auto to a manual transmission.

    what about something like a XR5 Turbo or a later model Polo GTi? theyre pretty fun to drive from what i have read. im to povo to actually own and drive one.

      The 6R Polo GTI is a pretty nice drive, but it's DSG only for the model years that are under $20K. Otherwise you're in a 9N one, and they're kinda agricultural -- I own one, and it's fun, but it's also a pain to work on and pretty low-tech for its age.

        yeah there is a 2015 Manual on carsales for 22500, id make the extra jump if my budget was 20k.

    Surely someone involved in this discussion has driven an mx5. I am certain that a late model version can be had for less than $20k. I own one. Can't be beaten for joy of driving. (Except maybe for the XR6 turbo... which compared to the mx5 is like a brick with a jet engine attached. But still soon much fun.)

    2007 Ve clubsport r8 " e46 m3 " 2011 ssv " b6 s4

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