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Every list of cheap turbo cars should include the Subaru WRX STI.

Top 15 Cheap Turbo Cars

Just Because They’re Cheap Doesn’t Mean They Have To Be Rust Buckets

Updated April 25, 2018

cheap turbo cars

As automakers comply with federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy(CAFE) standards they have reduced the weight of their vehicles and increasingly turned to turbocharged engines. On one hand, the CAFE standards have led to smaller vehicles; on the other, they have made it easier to find cheap turbo cars.

With a plethora of turbocharged cars on the market, we are going to have to put some limitations on our list. First up is to define what we mean by the ”cheap” for our list. To that end, we will cap our price point at $25,000. On the other end of the spectrum we could list turbocharged cars all the way down to $500 and you would lose interest while reading. So, we are going to only list cars that are seven model years old or newer. When appropriate, we will mention the specific trim level you need to look for to find a turbocharged engine, as some base models only offer naturally aspirated motors. Well, that seems like enough of a build-up, so let’s get to our list.

1. Saab 9-5 Aero

Saab 9-5

Saab is not a manufacturer many people think about anymore, but hear us out. First off, the 9-5 is an executive car, so there is plenty of comfort inside. Second off, it’s cheap for a turbo car.

The Aero is the top trim level of the Saab 9-5. The latest models of the Saab 9-5 Aero are powered by a 2.8L turbo V6 capable of 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Aero trim brings all of the features of the lower trim levels to the table plus 18 inch wheels, a sport-tuned adjustable suspension, an electronic limited-slip rear diff, adjustable drive settings, paddle shifters, sport seats, and alloy pedals. Not bad for a cheap turbo car that is also a premium sedan.

2. Chevrolet Cruze Premier

Chevrolet Cruze

The Chevrolet Cruze is one of the cheapest turbo cars on our list that you can buy a very late model for less than our $25,000 cap. All trim levels have a 1.4L turbo under the hood, but we picked the Premier trim for the added creature and tech comforts.

The turbo 1.4L under the cowl offers up 153 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers sound a tad low, but this is a very lightweight sedan. A Chevy Cruze is capable of 30 mph in the city and 40 mpg on the highway for a combined fuel economy of 34 mpg. (all fuel economy numbers quoted here are courtesy of FuelEconomy.gov). The reason we stepped up to the Premier trim package is that all of the equipment available in the three lower trim levels is included, plus 17 inch wheels, an upgraded rear suspension, ambient interior lighting, and the RS Appearance package is available. This package adds foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport body kit and 18 inch wheels. The Sun and Sound package is also available. This pack gives you a sunroof, a color driver information center,a larger center touchscreen, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, and a navigation system. Then there is the Driver Confidence II package that consists of rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beam headlight control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning with intervention technology.

3. Audi TT Quattro Prestige

Audi TT Quattro.

The Audi TT is a very affordable turbo sports car and with no more than seven model years you might ask how it made our list? Well, we did place a $25,000 cap from the onset and we chose a low trim level. Also, we are talking about the coupe, not a convertible.

The Audi TT Quattro Prestige is powered by a 2.0L turbo I4 that produces 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That is plenty of power when paired to the Quattro AWD system. Despite this essentially being a base model, a TT Quattro Prestige is equipped with 18 inch wheels, xenon headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power sport front seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, and satellite radio. Many of these features are options on other cheap stock turbo cars.

4. Subaru Impreza WRX STI

 Subaru WRX STI.

The Subaru Impreza WRX STI is rarely thought of as a ride that would make a list but if you are looking for cheap turbo awd cars and are considering bang for your buck, then you found a winner. If anything, the WRX STI is known for being fast from the factory and commensurately pricey. If you are careful to look for a car that is five model years or older, you can come in under our price point.

A Subaru Impreza WRX STI is powered by a tough-as-nails 2.5L turbo inline I4 that generates 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. A WRX STI has a top speed of 160 mph. Those are awesome numbers for a car that only weights 2,900 lbs. When you consider that the Impreza WRX has one of the largest aftermarkets in the world, you know you can tune your WRX STI and get more than 400 hp in a heartbeat.

5. Volkswagen Golf TDI

2016 Volkswagen Golg TDI.

No list would be is complete without a turbo diesel car being added and the Golf TDI is our reverent nod to that group.

Powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder turbodiesel, the Golf TDI packs a lot of power into a small hatchback. The engine has great output at 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The standard gearbox is a solid six-speed manual that makes for some fun driving. In confident hands a Golf TDI has a top speed in excess of 130 mph with a bonus 42 mpg on the highway…so long as you do not test the top speed too often.

6. Volkswagen Golf R

2016 Volkswagen Golf R

You might have expected to see the Volkswagen Golf TDI on a list of affordable turbo cars, but perhaps not the Golf R. The Golf TDI is definitely a fun car to drive, but the Golf R gives you a helluva lot more power.

A Volkswagen Golf R is powered by a 2.0L turbo gasoline four-cylinder that produces 256 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. The Golf R is always equipped with AWD and a six-speed manual gearbox for added driving thrills. In competent hands, a Golf R can jump from 0-60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. All of that performance is complimented with 18 inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, heated mirrors, LED running lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, and satellite radio.

7. Ford Focus ST

Ford Focus ST.

No, we did not make a mistake. We meant to type Focus ST instead of the Focus RS. The Focus ST fits more easily into our price guideline for the best cheap turbo cars than the Focus RS. With the Focus ST, the blue oval provided a fun little car that can easily fit into most budgets.

The Focus ST is powered by a gritty 2.0L turbo four that is paired to a six-speed manual transmission. The engine is capable of 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. In experienced hands, the Focus ST is able to make it from 0-60 mph in a nearly flat 6 seconds. Add in the standard alloy 18 inchers, performance brakes, an electronic limited-slip front differential, keyless ignition and entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, and the six-speaker sound system with a CD player and you can see how this is a pretty cool car.

8. BMW 335i xDrive

BMW 335i.

Let’s step away from the hothatches for a second and dabble into the premium sedan segment for a second. The BMW 3335i xDrive is a splendid entry level executive car and, when it is just four or five model years old, fits into our price definition for this list.

In 2013, BMW redesigned the 3-series. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a turbocharged inline four. Here at Gearheads, we enjoy the 335i’s turbocharged inline-6 much more. Some professional reviewers have called it ”one of the most powerful and invigorating engines in the luxury segment,” and we have to agree. Producing 300 hp with a matching 300 lb-ft of torque, the 3.0L six thrills nearly every driver that tests its limits. In addition to plenty of power, you get a sedan equipped with 18 inch alloy wheels, adaptive and auto-leveling xenon headlights, automatic high beams and a sunroof on top of sumptuous leather and a great driver-centric command center.

9. Dodge Dart Turbo

Dodge Dart.

Dodge introduced the Dart for the 2014 model year to replace the Caliber in the compact segment. The Dart is equipped with a turbo four in two trim levels, but the engine in the Turbo trim is a more better option.

The Dodge Dart Turbo is powered by a 1.4L MltAR turbo four. Output from the engine is 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. In the Turbo trim the only gearbox option is a fun six-speed manual. The pairing with the manual is why we think the Turbo is a better trim option than the Aero. The Aero also has the turbo engine, but a quirky automatic transmission. The Turbo trim gets you power windows, adjustable front seats, a folding rear seat, a CD player, and the Convenience package that includes underbody aerodynamics, active grille shutters, power mirrors and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

10. Fiat 500 Turbo

Fiat 500.

The Fiat 500 is a small car designed for urban settings. It brings a small parking footprint, easy handling, and Fiat history to our list of cheap cars with turbo. Depending on whether you look for a hatchback or a convertible, a turbo engine is available in either the Abarth trim or the Turbo trim. We went with the Turbo because it carries the lower price of the two.

A Fiat 500 Turbo is powered by a 1.4L multi-air turbocharged four popper. The engine produces 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers sound low until you consider the Fiat 500’s curb weight of just 2,160 lbs. Standard equipment includes: heated mirrors, air-conditioning, power accessories, cruise control,a 50/50-split folding rear seat, and a 5 inch touchscreen with Uconnect. The Turbo trim adds bigger brakes, gloss black exterior lighting trim, and upgraded upholstery.

11. Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

 Fiat 124 Spider.

The Fiat 124 Spider is powered by a turbocharged engine across its entire lineup. Since this car was just introduced in 2017, we went with the Lusso trim so we could fit it into the price cap for our list.

A Fiat 124 Spider Lusso is powered by a 1.4L multi-air turbo four that is capable of 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The Lusso trim mates the engine to a six-speed automatic gearbox. The Lusso trim gives you 17 inch wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, foglights, automatic climate control, heated seats, leather upholstery, and the Technology package. The tech package brings keyless push-button entry, a rearview camera, HD radio, and a seven inch touchscreen to the table.

12. Hyundai Genesis 2.0T R-Spec Coupe

Hyundai Genesis 2.0T R-Spec coupe.

To some, the Hyundai Genesis is a sedate sedan that they can easily see their parents driving. No disrespect to parents in general, but who wants to drive their dad’s car? To those people we say, check out the 2.0T R-Spec coupe.

This addition to our list of cars is powered by a, you guessed it, 2.0L turbo four. Did the name give it away? In the R-Spec this small powerplant becomes a dynamo. Producing 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the engine in the R-Spec is something to be proud of. The dynamo is always mated to an awesome six-speed manual gearbox. Who’s your daddy’s car, now?

13. Audi A4 Prestige

Audi A4.

The Audi A4 is not as exciting as the TT Quattro we mentioned near the top of our list of cheap turbocharged cars, but it is still a very fun car to own. Additionally, you only have to go back a handful of model years in order to afford the top Prestige trim level.

An Audi A4 Prestige is powered by a 2.0L turbo engine that produces 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. These numbers exactly match the output in the TT Quattro, but the A4 Prestige adds quite a bit of comfort. Features include the MMI Navigation package that includes front and rear parking sensors, Audi’s MMI infotainment interface, a navigation system, a rearview camera, HD radio and Audi Connect. Other features of the Prestige package are adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot warning system, and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

14. Volvo S60 T6 Premier Plus

Volvo S60 T6.

For decades Volvo suffered from a mixed reputation. On one hand, the company was known for building ultra-safe cars. On the other, it was known for having some of the most drab styling in the industry. Not too long ago, the company redesigned all of its vehicles and eliminated drab styling from its repertoire. The entire Volvo S60 line is turbocharged. Each trim level brings a fair amount of luxury to the table. We added the Volvo S60 T6 Premier Plus to our list of best turbo cars because it offers class-leading power and suburb luxury for quite a bit less than our price cap.

The Volvo S60 T6 Premier Plus is powered by a 3.0L turbo six that blasts 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque through an exceptional six-speed Geartronic transmission. As an added bonus, this is an AWD sedan. As to the luxury, an S60 T6 with the Premier Plus package offers drivers automatic headlights with washers, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power front seats with lumbar adjustment, driver memory settings, power-folding rear headrests, a 7 inch display screen, Bluetooth, a CD player, satellite radio, keyless entry and ignition, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a configurable instrument display, and a rearview camera.

15. Honda Civic EX-L Coupe

Honda Civic EX-L.

The Honda Civic has been a hot selling car across North America for decades. The Civic has been a reliable fuel sipper throughout its life time. The turbo 1.5L in the EX-L is no exception to that rule. The greatest aspect of a Honda Civic is that it is part of a select group that will hold their value for many years.

The 1.5L turbo four in the Honda Civic EX-L produces 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. It is capable of combined 35 mpg; making it a great option for any type of driving. The EX-L trim level is one level short of the top, so you get plenty of equipment for your money. At the EX-L level you get heated side mirrors, a multi-function trip computer, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, an eight-speaker audio system, Honda’s LaneWatch lane-change assist system, a rearview camera, a touchscreen interface with HondaLink smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SMS voice-to-text functionality, 17 inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear deck lid spoiler, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, leather upholstery, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Well, there you have our list of cheap turbo cars. Each car is quite affordable and should fit into most budgets. Hopefully, our list helps you narrow you shopping focus and good luck with your new car.

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