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Aus­tralia has pro­duced some of the great­est per­for­mance-car bar­gains of all time. Lo­cal he­roes such as the Holden Com­modore SS and Fal­con XR8 packed horse­power and han­dling that would cost six fig­ures wear­ing a Ger­man badge.

Af­ter Holden’s fac­to­ries shut down in Oc­to­ber, we will never again see a big V8pow­ered sedan priced below $50,000. As buy­ers rush to put their name on one be­fore the axe falls, V8s now ac­count for 39 per cent of to­tal Com­modore sales.

Aus­tralians are keen on per­for­mance cars of all per­sua­sions. Mercedes-Benz’s AMG beasts ac­count for 21 per cent of the brand’s sales here, a higher ra­tio than in Ger­many. We’ve gone men­tal for the Ford Mus­tang GT — which, two years af­ter its launch, is our top-sell­ing per­for­mance car. The Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI, Subaru’s WRX and BMW’s M cars are other long-time favourites.

But you don’t have to shell out big bucks to land a fun-to-drive per­for­mance car.

There are plenty of cheap and, if you find the right car, very cheerful seats, start­ing at $20,000. Sure, per­for­mance costs money but not as much as you might think …


There’s no such thing as a new per­for­mance car for $20K but you can get into some pretty handy used ma­chin­ery.

In Fal­codore ter­ri­tory, you’re look­ing at a 2012 Com­modore VE Se­ries II SS sedan, with a 260kW 6.0-litre V8 matched to a six-speed auto that uses au­to­matic cylin­der shut­down on light throt­tle to turn the V8 into a V4 and save fuel.

The man­ual doesn’t have this tech, so it’s good for 270kW, plus 530Nm of torque com­pared with the auto’s 517Nm.

If you’re lucky you might find an SSV, with the Red­line op­tion made stan­dard in 2012 and in­clud­ing Brembo front brakes, forged 19-inch al­loys and up­graded sus­pen­sion.

The VE ute, in the same spec­i­fi­ca­tion, pulls big­ger dol­lars than the sedan, so you have to go to 2011 or 2010 to find a good one for less than $20,000. You have to go much fur­ther back to find an HSV Club­sport, to the 2007 E Se­ries R8, with the 307kW 6.0-litre V8.

Ford didn’t have an XR8 Fal­con dur­ing this pe­riod (mid 2010-15) but you’ll be able to get into a 2012 FG MkII XR6 Turbo with a 270kW tur­bocharged 4.0-litre straight six/six-speed auto. It’s a faster car than the Com­modore, able to hit 100km/h in just 5.4 sec­onds (Com­modore SS takes 6.0 sec­onds) and ar­guably of greater col­lectable value too, given that its mighty donk is 100 per cent Aus­tralian made. The Com­modore’s V8 comes from Mex­ico.

Sim­i­lar money will buy a 2007-08 FPV F6 Typhoon, based on the BF MkII Fal­con. It runs the same en­gine as the 2012 XR6 Turbo.

If big bangers don’t do it for you, how about a 2013 Ford Fo­cus ST hatch, en­gi­neered in Ger­many and still a cur­rent model (priced at $38,990) with a grunty 184kW 2.0-litre turbo/ six-speed man­ual? Nice.


A new per­for­mance car for $30,000? Sure, but you have to broaden the def­i­ni­tion of per­for­mance to en­com­pass great han­dling as well as a bit of stick un­der the bon­net. Say hello to the Ford Fi­esta ST, an­other beau­ti­fully sorted lit­tle car from Ford of Europe. Runs a 134kW 1.6-litre turbo/six-speed man­ual and costs $27,490.

VW’s Polo GTI is a sim­i­lar big fun in a small box pack­age, with a 141kW 1.8-litre turbo/sixspeed man­ual, priced at $27,690.

The Toy­ota 86/Subaru BRZ twins start at $30,790 for the 86 GT, with a lethar­gic 152kW 2.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated boxer en­gine. One of the great han­dlers, though.

Se­ri­ous hot-hatch horse­power can be had with the 2013 D95 Re­nault Me­gane RS265 Cup or Trophy, the pick of the breed at that time, with a 195kW 2.0-litre turbo/six-speed man­ual and 0-100km/h in 6.0 sec­onds.

Nissan’s 370Z, still avail­able new from $56,930, is a mean thing with a 245kW 3.7-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6 and sharp buy­ing at less than $30,000 for a 2012 model.

In Com­modores, look at a 2014 VF SS sedan with the same driv­e­train as the 2012 VEII; it’s a sim­i­lar story with the Fal­con XR6 Turbo.


In new cars the Subaru WRX is still im­pos­si­ble to go past if you’re af­ter max­i­mum per­for­mance for min­i­mum dol­lars, and 23 years af­ter the first model it’s still a joy to drive. The base 197kW 2.0-litre turbo/six-speed man­ual is $39,240.

A new VW Golf GTI starts at $41,430 for the 162kW 2.0-litre turbo/six-speed man­ual, but if you look around you’ll find one with only a few kilo­me­tres on it for less. A new model — and a new per­for­mance de­riv­a­tive — are due later this month.

The fi­nal Com­modore SS sedan, the VFII with the 304kW 6.2-litre LS3 V8, was launched in Septem­ber 2015 and you should be able to find one of these for about $40,000. Good, lowk­ilo­me­tre ones will only ap­pre­ci­ate in the fu­ture, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. You won’t get into a de­cent 2015 Fal­con XR8 for less than $40,000.

In HSV ter­ri­tory, a 2012 Se­ries 3 R8 with the LS3 tuned for 317kW, is doable.

You might just scrape into what many peo­ple re­gard as the best per­for­mance car Ford Aus­tralia ever pro­duced, the 2012 FPV F6, based on the Fal­con FG MkII with 310kW 4.0litre turbo six.

Forty thou­sand dol­lars can also take you on some in­ter­est­ing ad­ven­tures in Europe but there’s a catch. it is es­sen­tial to get any used car checked out by some­body who knows what to look for — be­cause own­ing a dud Euro­pean per­for­mance car is a truly aw­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

So, how about an early (2006-07) Porsche Cayman coupe, the best han­dling car in the world at the time (and ar­guably still) with a 180kW 2.7-litre flat six/six-speed man­ual?

The Boxster con­vert­ible, which shares driv­e­trains and run­ning gear, doesn’t hold its value quite as well so you can get into a 2008 model or, bet­ter still, a 2006 Boxster S, with a 206kW 3.2-litre en­gine and a 0-100km/h time of 5.5 sec­onds.

The last E46 se­ries BMW M3 from 2006 with the sub­lime 252kW 3.2-litre straight six would be a beau­ti­ful thing if you can find a good one; later mod­els with the berserk 4.0-litre V8 are out of reach for a few years yet.

Audi’s TT from 2011 is an un­der­rated car and a great buy, par­tic­u­larly the S coupe with a 200kW 2.0-litre turbo four/six-speed man­ual and all-wheel drive.

New sen­sa­tion: Toy­ota’s pop­u­lar 86 starts from just over $30K; above, Subaru WRX STI and Holden Com­modore SS. Main pic­ture: Thomas Wi­elecki

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