240 and civics are obviously going to be lower in power. 325 and 328 e36 cars are great. by no means are they powerful, but they have enough to get you around and have fun in. there are a few common problems to look out for, but usually nothing serious.
civics are reliable, but not too sure about their power or sexiness.
You can get an e36 for ~14-20k... sometimes more, sometimes less... all considering on who is selling it, and what condition it is in.
325s and 328s can be found from 6k-15k....
good luck on your search! keep checking autotrader, ect.... if you see something, show it to us and we can help you out.