Renaissance of the Sports Car
In the 1980s and 1990s, nearly every manufacturer killed off the traditional rear-wheel drive sportscar. While Mazda introduced and succeeded with the MX5/Miata, everyone else turned to SUVs and front wheel drive. The great Japanese sportscar trio of Toyota Supra, Mazda Rx7, and Nissan 300zx crept close to $40,000, and then ceased. The Camaro faded into obscurity. The Mustang became irrelevant. Truly rewarding and fun to drive cars seemed reserved for those with hordes of expendable income.
All this is changing.
The unexpected upside of the climbing MPG standards is seeing carmakers find ways to get more power from smaller engines and place them in cars which weigh less. More power and less weight are the first two ingredients of every fun car. Meanwhile, after cranking out trucks of every size and bland front-wheel drive cars with economy instead of style (<a href="http://everydaydriver.com/episodes/the-green-giants/">Prius</a>, I’m looking at you) companies are realizing that we might “need” a mini-van, but people want a car to make them feel like a ten-year-old.
So here’s a list of the great new cars available for under $30,000. Each one is rear-wheel drive and packing enough genuine performance to rekindle a love for driving:
<strong>MX5 Miata</strong> – The MX5 has been around and loved for so long because it remains one of the best cars for affordable driving fun. <a href="http://everydaydriver.com/reviews/mazda-mx-5/">The NC body style</a> (2006-now) is due for a refresh with rumors it too will be smaller and lighter. But the current version is agile and involving with the top up or down. 168hp. 2,500lbs. $23,000+
<strong>SubaruBRZ/Scion FRS</strong> – Twin cars from Subaru and Scion. Subaru did the mechanicals, so the reliability and driver sensations will be bombproof. Toyota did the styling, which could be good or bad depending on your opinion. But there’s no question that the low-mounted boxer engine and rear-wheel-drive in this light weight package will be a blast to drive and one of the best balanced cars on the road. Now if they’ll only make a turbo… 200hp. 2,700lbs. est. $22,000+.
<strong>Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T</strong> – The <a href="http://everydaydriver.com/episodes/rx-8-vs-g37s-vs-genesis/">Genesis Coupe</a> has continued Hyundai’s dominance of well made and affordable alternatives to the competition. The Coupe is getting a much needed refresh with better styling and upgraded engines. The affordable 2.0Turbo model will now have 276hp, nearly as much as the outgoing V6. Add to this the revised and improved interior materials and this is tough to beat. 274hp. 3,300lbs. $22,000+.
<strong>Mustang V6</strong> – A V6 Mustang used to wear a rental car stigma like a badge of shame. But when the V6 now offers 300hp and costs less than $30,000 it’s hard to not feel inspired. Add this great engine to the most sporty and responsive chassis Mustang has ever had and the result is a surprising sportscar bargain. 305Hp. 3,500lbs. $22,000+.
<strong><em>Honorable mention goes to</em></strong>:
Camaro V6 – Also has a V6 with over 300hp, but suffers from a weight problem.
Challenger V6 – More style than sports car, with the same issues at the V6 Camaro
BMW 1 series – Technically starts under $30,000, but the good engine and any options push it well past 30k.
<a href="http://everydaydriver.com/episodes/370z-350z-300zx/">Nissan 370z</a> – Most of the fun of a <a href="http://everydaydriver.com/reviews/porsche-cayman-s/">Porsche Cayman</a> for half the price, but that still means that most properly optioned versions cost around $35,000.