List: The 15 Most Involving Cars Per Dollar

By Brandon Turkus

June 27, 2011


15: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: Mitsu’s miniature SUV is rough and ready, and some fun when equipped with a manual trans, but we’d expect a lot more handling verve from the creators of the mighty Evo, frankly. $289 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 64 Price: $18,495


14: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS: Small (but not too small) and chuckable, we wouldn’t mind a dab more sportiness from the suspension. The driver-friendly paddle shifters almost make up for the presence of the CVT. $287 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 72 Price: $20,695


13: Toyota Yaris: Boring four-speed automatic coupled to a wheezy 1.5-liter four-cylinder make the Yaris one of the simplest forms of transport money can buy. Very inexpensive though. $285 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 61 Price: $17,400


12: Mazda3i Touring: For not much money, this Mazda makes for a mildly entertaining, practical daily driver. Hatchback versions with the bigger (2.5-liter) four are better enthusiast machines. $284 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 63 Price: $17,875


11: Mazda5 Sport: More entertaining than a minivan should be. Steering feel is low, but the manual transmission is a joy. $282 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 68 Price: $19,195


10: Nissan Juke SV: Feels fast with its sprightly turbo motor. Shifting and accelerating are rewarding. Tall without feeling tippy. Lacking on grip, though. $281 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 72 Price: $20,260


9: Volkswagen Jetta 2.5: The new Jetta is a tidy handling sedan with an engine that’s hard to get excited about. Upcoming GLI and TDI versions will offer higher involvement, but for a bit more money, too. $280 per Involvement point. Involvement Score: 65 Price: $18,195


8: Chevrolet Cruze Eco: Armed with the six-speed manual, the Cruze gains a bit more driving personality. Very smooth, still, and comfortable. $275 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 67 Price: $18,425


7: Mini Cooper: Turn-in and rotation are its best characteristics. Good steering and shifting feel add to involvement and entertainment. Cooper is under-motored for such great underpinnings. $269 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 72 Price: $19,400


6: Ford Fiesta: When equipped with the manual transmission, the new Fiesta can be fun to toss around town. Suspension and communication could be better. $269 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 65 Price: $17,500


5: Scion tC: A vast improvement over the outgoing tC, but still too heavy, with too little grip from the front tires to be driven seriously hard. Spend the coin you save on some aftermarket goodies, and watch the Involvement score go up. $269 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 68 Price: $18,275


4: Ford Focus: Hugely refined new generation emphasizes comfort and efficiency for an everyman price. Willingness to switch direction with stability is biggest plus for involvement. Base SE model represents the best Involvement value. $268 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 68 Price: $18,200


3: Honda Fit Sport: Among the most involving small cars today. Fantastic manual gearbox and excellent visibility encourage a driver to push hard. Some weird movements through the suspension when driving very aggressively. $241 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 70 Price: $16,860


2: Fiat 500 Sport: A truly exciting new entry in the premium small car segment. Outstanding handling meets fun interior and exterior styling with a price that takes the fight to Mini. Sounds authentically Italian, too. $236 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 74 Price: $17,500


1: Mazda2: Crisp handling and impeccable brakes are both byproducts of the 2’s super light curb weight. A dream car for the enthusiast on a budget, and clearly the winner of this list at more than twenty bucks less per point than the next closest car. $214 per Involvement point Involvement Score: 72 Price: $15,435

15: 14: 13: 12: 11: 10: 9: 8: 7: 6: 5: 4: 3: 2: 1:
We came across an interesting statistic while working on the Quick Drive of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X SE last week. By cross referencing the Evo’s score on the Involvement Index, we discovered that each point of involvement would cost about $411. Compare that to our Index-topping Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sports, which with a $2.58-million price tag will cost approximately $26,000 per point, and you see the bargain that the Evo represents.
Following this thinking, we’ve constructed a list of the top 15 cars from our index that deliver the most involvement for the least coin.
Make sure to mark you calendars for next month’s issue of Winding Road digital magazine, when we unleash our first ever Involvement Index Awards.
+ List: Top 15 American Cars From Winding Road's Involvement Index 2.0