There is perhaps no greater rush than the initial surge of acceleration of a truly fast vehicle squeezing you into your seat, giving you those g-force butterflies as you launch away from the line. The fastest cars are, of course, usually also the most expensive, but we’ve combed the Canadian market to find a few that won’t break the bank, all of them under the psychological barrier of $50,000.

Now, there are many metrics by which one can lay claim to the crown of “fast” – maybe a lap around the Nürburgring or a race between all the possible candidates – but to put every candidate on equal footing, we are looking at the industry standard 0–100 km/h (in some cases, only a converted 0–60 mph time was available) for cars that stay under $50,000 even with the destination charges included.

While these are the fastest accelerating cars for that price, there are many options that are just a tad slower off the line, but just as much fun or more when it comes time to find a winding road, and others that might be quicker around your favourite track. What’s great about this list is the variety, from your classic pony cars to luxury pocket rockets, and of course, everyone’s favourite rally racer turned road-course champ.

Subaru WRX STI

Price: $39,495 (+ $1,650 freight & PDI)

0–100 km/h: 4.9 seconds

Don’t confuse the garden-variety STI with the race-prepped Type RA that set a Nürburgring record for four-door sedans with a 6m57.5s lap time last year, but the potential is there even in this aging generation of Subaru WRX STI. The WRX STI makes its speed from a turbocharged 2.5L boxer engine, routing power only through a six-speed manual transmission and manually adjustable all-wheel drive.

The 305 hp peaks at 6,000 rpm, and 290 lb-ft of torque are available at 4,000 rpm, and if you get the shifts right you’ll be seeing 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. The others on this list are all faster, but the Subaru is the most affordable at this speed, ranging in price from $39,495 in base spec, but even the fully loaded Sport-tech is well under 50K at $46,595 (all models subject to $1,650 freight & PDI charges). And they all have the same basic mechanical setup and all can hit that time, so save your money for performance upgrades!

Audi S3

Price: $46,900 (+ $2,095 freight & PDI)

0–100 km/h: 4.8 seconds

The Audi S3 would be the refined choice for reaching silly speeds in the time it takes you to sneeze, and it makes for an awesome city car as well. While it has the least power at 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque from, you guessed it, a 2.0-litre turbo, the dual-clutch S tronic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive make quick work of it and officially manage the feat in 4.8 seconds. With standard Sport suspension, 18-inch wheels, and that Quattro all-wheel drive, it also has tenacious grip in the corners and only gets more fun when it starts to snow.

At $46,900 (plus $2,095 freight & PDI), it’s right up at our price cap, and even though it’s small, Audi interiors are some of the best in the business, delivering well-integrated tech in a modern cabin, and the S3 has grown-up looks to go along with its juvenile delinquent speed.

BMW M240i 6-Speed Manual

Price: $47,300 (+ $2,480 freight & PDI)

0–100 km/h: 4.6 seconds

While we originally thought that BMW was going badge-happy throwing the M badge on all sorts of cars, the not-quite-M2 M240i is a performance bargain at $47,300 (+ $2,480 freight & PDI). The M240i can be optioned with an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, but those options push it over our 50K barrier, and we (okay, I) would choose the BMW in rear-wheel drive with the manual transmission 10 times out of 10 anyway.

The M240i delivers 335 hp and 369 lb-ft from its 3.0L turbo straight-six (that’s actually more torque than the full-bore M2) at an early 1,520 rpm. The manual transmission delivers that power to the rear wheels effectively for 4.6-second sprints to 100, just a few tenths off the $64,400 M2. While it gives up some peace of mind in winter driving, the combo of rear-wheel drive with a manual transmission is a purist’s delight, with the chassis balance and responsiveness that made BMW the standard to meet for so many years.

Chevrolet Camaro SS RWD 6-Speed Manual Coupe

Price: $43,745 (+ $1,750 freight & PDI)

0–100 km/h: 4.1–4.2 seconds (4.0 to 97 km/h)

Of all the cars on this list, the Camaro might just be the biggest giant-killer of them all. Its ZL1 1LE just recently set a new Nürburgring best for Camaros of 7m6.04s, good enough to be faster than some automotive royalty like the Porsche 911 Turbo S (991.2), Ferrari 488 GTB, Enzo Ferrari, and Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 (not the Performante that briefly held the overall track record). However, that configuration runs over $80,000 without even adding any options; to keep it real and under our $50K cut-off, you need to limit yourself to the 455 hp 6.2L V8. This powerhouse engine will get you to 100 km/h in about four seconds (GM cites a 0–60 mph/0–97 km/h time of 4.0s), which is more than fast enough for any sane person.

If you’re looking for more track-oriented performance on the SS, the full 1LE package will run you an extra $8,495, but is loaded with performance options that make the Camaro a track special that performs well above its price class. But if you want to stay under $50K, you can opt for just the 1LE suspension with Magnetic Ride Control for $4,505 on top of the $43,745 base price and $1,750 destination charges. In fact, that magically lands at exactly $50,000!

Ford Mustang GT 10-Speed Auto + GT Performance Package

Price: $45,288 (+ $1,750 freight & PDI)

0–100 km/h: Under 4 seconds

While Ford has long been coy about actual acceleration times, they did just recently break their silence in announcing that the new 2018 Mustang GT would hit 100 km/h in under four seconds thanks to a new 10-speed automatic (which was co-developed with GM, so it will soon be spreading across the Camaro lineup as well). Like the Camaro, the Mustang GT makes its power the old-fashioned way, from a big, burly V8.

In the Mustang, the signature 5.0L V8 gets bumped up to 460 hp and 420 lb-ft for 2018, and with a “Drag Strip” mode that is part of its Performance Package settings, it’s the fastest Mustang GT ever. With that much power on tap, it has no trouble either pulling a smoky burnout thanks to its line-lock feature for blasting away from a standstill. Even the manual can be paired with the performance pack to save another $1,500.