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Remember the rush of excitement as you slid into the driver’s seat for the first time? That feeling is what we aim to amplify as we explore the 12 best first cars for car guys. In a world where car culture starts early, influenced by media and virtual experiences, the quest for the ideal first car is about more than just affordability.

When selecting your inaugural vehicle, it’s about finding the perfect blend of affordability, fun, and utility. Forget the misconception that cheap compromises quality.

In this guide, we dismantle stereotypes, steering you away from the mundane and towards the extraordinary. Stay tuned as we delve into the thrilling world of the best first cars for car guys, balancing excitement, safety, and affordability.

12 Best First Cars for Car Guys

While we’ve featured the latest models with their prices, don’t forget that you can snag any of these gems for under $10K in used condition. Check out our reviews on some of the best used car websites for incredible deals.

VehicleEngineHP0-60 mphMSRP
Mazda MX-5 Miata2.0-liter four-cylinder181 hp5.7 seconds$28,050
Honda Civic Si 1.5-L Turbocharged200 hp6.6 seconds$29,100
Ford Mustang 5.0-liter V-8 486 hp3.7 seconds$30,920
Volkswagen Golf GTI2.0-liter four-cylinder241 hp5.1 seconds$31,765
Subaru WRX2.4-liter turbocharged271 hp5.5 seconds$30,605
Toyota GR862.4-liter 4-cylinder 228 hp6.1 seconds$28,400
Subaru BRZ2.4-liter Subaru Boxer 228 hp5.4 seconds$28,595
Chevrolet Camaro3.6-liter V-6455 hp4.3 seconds$30,900
Jeep Wrangler 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder 270 hp6.1 seconds$31,995
Mini Cooper Hardtop 1.5-liter three-cylinder134 hp5.9 seconds$25,800
Mazda 3 2.5-liter Turbo engine 250 hp5.6 seconds$24,170
Volkswagen Jetta GLI Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder228 hp6.4 seconds$27,995

1. Mazda MX-5 Miata

  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder / 181 hp
  • Torque: 151 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 26 / 34 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 5.7 seconds
  • Top Speed: 149 MPH
Photo From Mazda

The Mazda MX-5 Miata stands as the quintessential first car for car enthusiasts. This pocket-sized powerhouse packs a punch with its 181-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making every drive a thrilling experience.

The manual transmission, coupled with the eager-to-rev engine, adds a layer of excitement, and the new 8.8-inch infotainment display enhances the driving experience.

With its lightweight build, the Miata zips from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds for the soft-top model, showcasing its impressive performance. The handling is sharp and playful, with light, tactile steering that keeps drivers connected to the road.

The 8.8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto come standard. The Miata’s driver-assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, add a modern touch to this classic roadster.

2. Honda Civic Si

  • Engine: 1.5-L Turbocharged Engine / 200 hp
  • Torque: 192 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 27/37 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 6.6 seconds
  • Top Speed: 137 MPH
Honda Civic
Photo From Honda

The Honda Civic Si is a beacon for car enthusiasts seeking an affordable thrill ride. Boasting a 200-hp turbocharged engine and a slick six-speed manual transmission, it’s a front-wheel-drive dynamo that embraces sportiness.

With a 0–60 mph time of 6.6 seconds and fuel efficiency hitting 37 mpg on the highway, the Civic Si combines speed and practicality seamlessly.

Inside, sport seats, red stitching, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto add a touch of racing-inspired luxury. As a package, the Honda Civic Si is the gateway drug for budding car enthusiasts, earning its spot on the 10 best Cars list for 2024.

3. Ford Mustang

  • Engine: 5.0-liter V-8 / 486 hp
  • Torque: 418 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 15 / 24
  • 0-60 mph: 3.7 seconds
  • Top Speed: 163 MPH
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse
Picture by Ford

Boasting a revamped design, the seventh-gen Ford Mustang flexes with a 480-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 and a punchy 315-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. The visceral thrill of a six-speed manual transmission is reserved for the V-8, preserving the authentic muscle car experience.

The track-ready Dark Horse model, armed with a 500-hp Coyote V-8, adds a sinister touch to the lineup. Fuel efficiency doesn’t take a back seat, with the EcoBoost variant delivering an impressive 33 mpg on the highway.

Comfort meets performance with supportive seats, and the Remote Rev function lets you unleash the Mustang’s roar with a click. Embrace the road with confidence, thanks to Ford Co-Pilot360’s safety features.

The 2024 Ford Mustang isn’t just a car; it’s a symphony of power, style, and innovation, making it the quintessential entry into the world of car enthusiasts.

4. Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder / 241 hp
  • Torque: 273 lbs-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 24 / 34 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
  • Top Speed: 155 mph
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Photo From Ford

The 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI, the eighth in the lineup, showcases a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that roars with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, making it a pocket rocket on the road.

Whether you opt for the engaging six-speed manual or the efficient seven-speed automatic, the GTI guarantees a thrilling experience.

The infotainment system, ranging from an 8-inch to a generous 10-inch screen, comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ensuring a tech-savvy ride. The GTI’s sporty yet comfortable demeanor welcomes both seasoned enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

The dynamic performance, responsive handling, and spirited driving experience make the Volkswagen Golf GTI the best first car for car enthusiasts, ushering in a new era of driving passion.

5. Subaru WRX

  • Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged / 271 hp
  • Torque: 273 lbs-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 19 / 26 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
  • Top Speed: 159 mph
Subaru WRX
Photo by

Meet the 2024 Subaru WRX, a beast in its own right and the perfect initiation into the world of performance cars. This rally-inspired powerhouse packs a punch with a turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four engine delivering 271 horsepower to all four wheels.

The thrill-seekers get a choice between a responsive six-speed manual and a surprisingly quick continuously variable automatic (CVT), clocking 0-60 mph in 5.5 and 5.4 seconds, respectively.

Inside, the WRX balances sportiness with comfort, featuring carbon-fiber-like accents and Recaro seats on the GT trim. The touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ensures connectivity on the road.

6. Toyota GR86

  • Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder / 228 hp
  • Torque: 184 lbs-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 20 / 27 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
  • Top Speed: 140 mph
Toyota GR86
Picture by Toyota

The Toyota GR86 emerges as a beacon for car enthusiasts seeking an exhilarating yet affordable ride. This rear-wheel-drive coupe, sporting a 228-horsepower flat-four engine, stands out in a crossover-dominated landscape.

Opt for the standard six-speed manual transmission for the purest driving experience; after all, this car is not just about transportation—it’s about pure, unadulterated fun.

Choosing the GR86 Premium is a no-brainer, offering heated seats, stylish 18-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, and an enhanced audio system. Powered by a Subaru-sourced 2.4-liter engine, it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in a swift 5.4 seconds.

Inside, the GR86 caters to both thrill-seekers and daily drivers with a well-balanced interior, seating for four, and tech features like an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

7. Subaru BRZ

  • Engine: 2.4-liter Subaru Boxer / 228 hp
  • Torque: 184 lbs-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 30 / 21 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
  • Top Speed: 140 mph
Subaru BRZ
Photo by

The Subaru BRZ, a beacon of affordable sports car dreams, invites car enthusiasts into a realm of lightweight agility and driving engagement.

Boasting a 228-horsepower flat-four engine, this two-door dynamo delivers a spirited performance, especially when paired with the standard six-speed manual transmission.

The BRZ’s rear-wheel-drive charm, responsive handling, and 2+2 seating configuration make it a weekend warrior’s dream. Practicality meets excitement with ample storage, rear jump seats, and a surprisingly spacious trunk.

Opting for the Limited trim with 18-inch wheels and blind-spot monitoring enhances the BRZ experience. Powered by a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine, the BRZ sprints from 0 to 60 mph in a brisk 5.4 seconds.

Inside, the driver-centric design, digital gauge cluster, and 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto create a modern, enjoyable environment. While not a luxury standout, the BRZ’s focus on delivering driving pleasure makes up for any interior simplicity.

8. Chevrolet Camaro

  • Engine: 3.6-liter V-6 / 455 hp
  • Torque: 455 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 19 / 28 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
  • Top Speed: 180 mph
2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 2dr
Picture by Nissan

The Chevrolet Camaro, a roaring testament to American muscle, beckons aspiring car enthusiasts with its powerful V-6 and heart-pounding 455-hp V-8 engines. The Camaro boasts sleek coupe and soft-top convertible options, both rear-wheel drive, ensuring an exhilarating driving experience.

Whether opting for the V-6’s searing soundtrack or the V-8’s chest-compressing acceleration, the Camaro offers a visceral connection between car and driver.

Despite its sporty prowess, the Camaro maintains practicality issues with a cramped back seat and limited cargo space. However, its interior boasts modern features like customizable ambient lighting and an intuitive touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

As the sixth-gen Camaro exits the stage, it leaves behind thunderous echoes of its pushrod V-8 and a legacy that promises electrifying possibilities for the next chapter.

9. Jeep Wrangler

  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder / 270 hp
  • Torque: 295 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 17 / 25 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
  • Top Speed: 112 mph
Jeep Wrangler
Photo by

The 2024 Jeep Wrangler, a versatile off-roader with legendary heritage, beckons car enthusiasts seeking adventure. A visual and tech update introduces a 12.3-inch infotainment display, featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Jeep enhances the Wrangler’s appeal with a robust active noise-cancellation feature, catering to those important phone calls on the go. Opting for the two-door Wrangler Willys trim strikes a balance between simplicity and equipped functionality.

The 270-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, paired with an eight-speed automatic, ensures a stress-free trail drive. While not the most spacious, the Wrangler’s vintage-modern blend, removable top, and tech-savvy Uconnect 5 infotainment make it an icon on and off the road.

10. Mini Cooper Hardtop

  • Engine: 1.5-liter three-cylinder / 134 hp
  • Torque: 162 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 26 / 33 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 7.6 seconds
  • Top Speed: 130 mph

Photo From Mazda

Mini Cooper Hardtop
Photo by

The Mini Cooper Hardtop is a pocket rocket perfect for car enthusiasts diving into the world of fun-to-drive cars. Its compact design and iconic retro-modern styling make it a joy on twisty roads, begging for a spirited drive.

Equipped with a 134-hp turbo three-cylinder engine, the Cooper offers peppy performance, but upgrading to the 189-hp turbo four-cylinder in the Cooper S Hardtop enhances the fun factor.

The recent addition of a manual transmission across the lineup amplifies driver engagement, adding an extra layer of thrill. While not the most spacious, the Mini Cooper’s charm lies in its quirky interior and customizable options.

The Cooper combines style with substance, delivering an exciting ride with a dash of personalization. Welcome to the world of Mini Excitement at an affordable price.

11. Mazda 3

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo engine / 250 hp
  • Torque: 320 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 27 / 37 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds
  • Top Speed: 130 mph

Mazda 3

The 2024 Mazda 3 is a sports sedan for those who crave a touch of luxury in their daily drive. Like adding hot fudge to ice cream, the Mazda 3 elevates the compact class with premium materials, a refined driving experience, and an upscale cabin.

The Turbo models, with a potent 250-hp engine, provide an exhilarating 5.6-second sprint to 60 mph, blending fun and sophistication.

The sedan, favored for its visibility, offers features like heated seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. The Mazda 3, with its exceptional fuel efficiency of up to 37 mpg, is not just a car—it’s an indulgent experience in a compact package.

12. Volkswagen Jetta GLI

  • Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder / 228 hp
  • Torque: 258 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 26 / 37 MPG
  • 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
  • Top Speed: 126 mph
Volkswagen Jetta GLI
Photo by

The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a front-wheel-drive sensation, injecting life into the compact sedan market. With a spirited 228-hp turbocharged engine and a standard six-speed manual transmission, the GLI is a beacon for driving enthusiasts.

In 2024, the GLI embraces modernity with a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, wireless charging, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Autobahn trim elevates luxury with adaptive dampers, leather upholstery, and ventilated front seats. With its blend of performance and comfort, the Jetta GLI is a thrilling choice for car enthusiasts making their first mark on the road.


  • Naveed Ahmed

    Hello there, I'm Naveed Ahmed, an experienced auto industry blogger with over 5 years of experience. My passion for cars and trucks started at a young age, and I've been writing about them ever since. I strive to provide readers with accurate, up-to-date information that can help them make informed decisions when it comes to buying, selling, or transporting their vehicles. As an expert in the auto industry, I'm always keeping an eye on the latest trends, innovations, and changes in the market. When I'm not writing about cars, you can find me tinkering with my own vehicle or exploring new scenic drives. I'm also a big fan of classic cars and enjoy attending car shows and auctions.

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