Boulder, Colorado, is a college town situated on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. It's a place dominated by the mountain peaks that tower above the pink stone buildings of the university at their base. And winding through those mountains are some of the best driving roads I've ever been on. Ribbons of tarmac snake through canyons and valleys, climbing up and down the steep inclines, the perfect playground for a brave driver in a capable car. Unfortunately, as cars go, mine isn't what I'd call capable, and I spend a lot of time dreaming about the perfect machine for a bit of canyon carving. My list of criteria for a dream college car isn't terribly strict, but one or two things are a constant; it must have a manual transmission, and it must have more than 200 horsepower (to deal with the steep hills.)
1. Subaru WRX STI (2011-2012)
Subaru's are well known for their reliability and practicality, but also for their rally-bred sportiness. As far as I'm concerned, there is simply no better car for Colorado than a WRX: it's four wheel drive drivetrain and heaps of power make it a monster on tarmac, dirt or snow, and the 2011-2012 hatchback variants have the added bonus of heaps of space inside. However, it's incredibly rare to find one of these for below $20 k, so a fairly unattainable dream it remains.
2. Subaru BRZ
Although the BRZ can't claim the practicality brought to the table by it's four wheel drive, four door brothers, it IS a genuine sports car, and that's more than enough. I mean, who wouldn't want a sleek, chuckable coupe? It's a triumph of fun over all else, which has a certain allure. If only it were a bit cheaper...
3. 2013 Ford Focus ST
By all accounts a capable sports car, the Focus ST also has the appeal of hatchback practicality. Add to that it's good looks and front wheel drive charm, and you've got an excellent contender. Plus, it's significantly cheaper than the other two.
4. Audi TT Coupe (2011-2013)
Although the RS spec is a bit out of reach, the lower trims of the early 2010's Audi TT's are still excellent sports cars. Similar in power and interior space to the BRZ, the TT does have the advantage of All wheel drive, and a lower average price.