Home / The Best Cars for Every Budget / The Best Cheap Cars to Modify


Cheap is a relative term. To some tuners, any car that can be tweaked to above 350 ponies is worth the cash…however much it is. To first-time tuners, cheap means a little more along the lines of a car they can buy for under five grand and modify for less than another thousand. Being more of the second line of thought, let’s look at a few of the less expensive cars that have a big aftermarket for easy tuning.

Volkswagen GTI

Whether you call it a Rabbit, Golf, or a GTI this Volkswagen offering has had a variety of powerplants that could be quickly and easily upgraded to scream in a straight line. If you want to keep the price down, you may want to go back to the Golf nameplate, but with some careful shopping, you may be able to come close to the $5,000 mark with a newer GTI featuring the 1.8L turbo.

Honda Civic

The Civic holds its value for everyone. It offers good fuel economy and a hard to kill vehicle to the frugal minded. It also offers a car that can handle a variety of engine upgrades while staying nimble enough to run mad on the strip. The aftermarket for a Civic is phenomenal as are the online forums. If you have deep enough pockets, you can drop in a hybrid CR-V/RSX engine that is bound to make you smile behind the wheel.

Acura Integra

Any Acura Integra…from the base model to the GSR…can be easily tuned to run amok. Simple things like a remap or an upgraded turbo can make quite a bit of a difference. Perhaps the best to work with is the DC2 Type R. The Type R features weight reductions, a strengthened chassis, high-compression pistons, upgraded intake/exhaust, and suspension upgrades. The B18c engine and five-speed manual transmission offer up 195 ponies from the factory. Recently MotorTrend tested a 12-year-old stock Type R. The car managed 0-60 in 6.2 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 14.8 seconds at 96.3 mph.

Subaru WRX

No discussion of inexpensive, easy to modify cars is complete until you have mentioned the Subaru Impreza WRX. The WRX is often named as the most commonly modified car in the world. The aftermarket is large enough that entire businesses are dedicated to it alone and anyone can find a forum to their liking. Why not? The WRX features a strong turbo and AWD for the track. Every aspect of the engine is easy to work with and weight reduction is a breeze. The biggest problem with the WRX is finding one that isn’t modified already. Where is the fun in buying an already tuned car?

Dodge Caliber SRT-4

One last car, just to set you to thinking. The Dodge Caliber SRT-4. This is a car that offers 300 hp from a standard turbocharged engine. The car is already light enough to help it run a straight line like mad, so weight reduction needs are minimal. This is not a car to take on a road course, nor is it cheap. At $23,000, this is a car for the deeper-pocket set.

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