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Cheap thrills: Five bargain rides

These days, you don't have to spend a lot to have a good time behind the wheel.

February 17, 2006; Posted: 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT)

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - With some cars, a high price is part of the thrill. "Look at me! I'm driving a car that costs $250,000!" you get to say to yourself, if you're lucky enough to get behind the steering wheel of one of those lovely exotics.

But with some other cars, a really low price is a big part of the fun. "I could actually afford this!" you get to say yourself as you tear down the road in a fun little car that costs a little over $20,000.

And, from a reader's point of view, which car is better? The one you can read about in a glossy magazine spread or the one you can park in your driveway without having to cancel your subscription to afford it.

With all the competition out there and improving technology, a fun driving experience is within reach for most people.

Together with colleagues Alex Taylor III of FORTUNE Magazine and Sam Grobart of MONEY Magazine, we put together a list of just such cars.

These aren't just bargain-basement transporters, either. Our emphasis was on driving fun. They're cheap enough that they warrant consideration as second or third cars for a lot of Americans.

And none of them is perfect, but at these prices they don't have to be.

Gallery: Five picks for cheap fun

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