The 18 Best Cars For a First-Time Track Driver

Looking to get into the wonderful world of track days? Start here.


When you want to start driving on track, there's the temptation to get something with a ton of horsepower and grip. But that's not the right way to go. What you actually want is something that will teach you how to get the most out of every horsepower and every ounce of grip. Here are 18 cars that fit the bill, according to you.

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Chevrolet Cobalt SS

The Cobalt SS remains a fairly underrated choice in the world of cheap used performance cars. It provides plenty of fun on track, and parts can be had for cheap. If you want to drive something different, the Cobalt is the car for you.

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Subaru WRX

If you want a car that can truly do it all, it's hard to go wrong with the WRX. Aside from being a great all-weather daily-driver, it's economical, spacious, and capable enough to hold its own on track.

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The standard 944 might actually be the better car, but adding a turbocharger definitely made the 944 faster. In fact, the 944 Turbo is fast enough that it'll run all the way up to 157 mph. Finding deals on these can be harder than some of the other cars on the list, but a smart buyer can pick one up for around $10,000.
Porsche 944

The 944 may be getting a bit old, but it still deserves a spot on this list. Because they're cheap to buy, tons of grassroots race teams and HPDE veterans have taken the 944 under their wings. Parts aren't as cheap as, let's say, a Miata, but they're still relatively affordable compared to other Porsche models.

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2012 Fiat 500 Abarth
John Lamm
Fiat 500 Abarth

In case you haven't noticed, used Fiat 500 Abarths have gotten cheap. Really cheap. Cars with around 50,000 miles in good condition can easily be found for $10,000, and for that, you get an ultra-lightweight, great sounding hatch that's perfectly capable of giving you many smiles during an HPDE event.

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Lexus IS300

While it may just seem like any old luxury sedan, the IS300 is a sports car in disguise. Under the hood sits a naturally aspirated version of the legendary 2JZ straight-six engine, sending power to the rear wheels via an optional five-speed manual transmission. Upgrade the brakes, and you've got yourself a bulletproof four-door track rat.

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Nissan 240SX

There's a reason the Nissan S13 is a wildly popular drift car: It has an excellent rear-drive chassis and nearly-unlimited modding potential. Start with the 240SX's underpowered KA24 inline-four, and swap it for something more powerful when you acquire some skill.

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Porsche Boxster (986)

Generally, a mid-engine car isn't great for inexperienced drivers because of the tricky handling characteristics–like lift-off oversteer–associated with the layout. The Boxster, though, is totally docile and has just enough power to have fun without being overwhelming. First-generation cars are a bargain right now, so go find a good one.

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Porsche Cayman

Don't want a drop-top? The Boxster's hardtop Cayman sibling is an equally fantastic choice for hitting the track. It handles even better than the Boxster, and first-generation examples are starting to depreciate to reasonable prices.

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Mazda RX-8

No, a rotary engine isn't the most reliable thing in the world, but its high-revving nature makes it great for track driving. With balanced, forgiving handling, the RX-8 is perfect for track novices.

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Dodge Neon

It's easy to dismiss the Neon as a beater, but these things dominated SCCA racing in the 1990s. They're cheap, incredibly light, and have surprisingly sweet motors. The best ones to get are the ACR and the R/T (pictured above), which came track ready from the factory.

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Honda Civic Si

You can't go wrong with any generation of the Civic Si, but we went with the eighth-generation since it's new enough not to be collectible, but old enough to be affordable. A sweet engine and gearbox, combined with a nimble chassis and unwavering reliablity make this an excellent choice.

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DW Burnett/Puppyknuckles
Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ

If you want a new car you can daily drive and take to the track, you could do a lot worse than the Toyobaru twins. They're not the most powerful cars in the world, but they have enough power for joyous drifting. A robust aftermarket means you can turn it into whatever you want.

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BMW 3-Series (E36)

With the E30 becoming a bit of a collector's item, the E36 3-Series has become the track rat of choice. Cheap to buy, sweet handling, and quick enough if you get one with a straight-six, the 325i sedan seems to be the E36 of choice, but you really can't go wrong with any version of this car.

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Ford Fiesta ST

Ford's new Focus RS might be the hot hatch of the moment, but don't let it make you forget about the lovely Fiesta ST. It's a little firecracker of a car on track, but it's also an amazingly efficient daily driver. At its price, it's hard to want more out of a new car.

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Mazda Miata

Yes, the Miata is the most painfully obvious choice, but it might be the best car for the job. They're still cheap to buy, reliable, imminently tuneable, and an absolute blast to drive. Short of getting an automatic, you simply can't go wrong with a Miata.

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Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Volkswagen GTI is the perfect hatchback for someone who doesn't want to compromise. It's one of the most liveable cars on this list but handles as well as nearly anything else. The current-generation is excellent if you want a new car, but if you go used, the Mk 5 and Mk 6 are excellent choices.

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BMW 3-Series (E46)

While the E36 remains a solid choice for new track-day goers, the E46 deserves a mention as well. Base, rear-wheel drive models are cheap enough now where people are taking them racing, proving there's a lot of potential for the car on track.

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<p>There are any number of Honda and Acura products from the 1990s we could put on this list, but we chose the sporty <a href="" target="_blank">Integra</a> for its superlative handling. No, you won't be able to find a Type R on the cheap, but even a lowly base model is more than adequate to do the job. </p>
Acura Integra

You can't go wrong with an Acura Integra. No matter the trim, you get a lightweight, expertly dialed-in car that's tons of fun to drive at any speed. Plus, it's reliable and parts are cheap.

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