For drivers who routinely go 10 miles out of their way while running everyday errands just to hit that one perfect stretch of road, now is a great time to be a car buyer. There's been a bit of a renaissance of late in the world of inexpensive sport coupes; vehicles that offer enough practicality to be used as a daily driver, but still bring big thrills just a downshift and a stab of the accelerator away.
What goes into making the best sport coupes on the market? Sleek styling, high-revving engines, available true three-pedal manual transmissions, rear-wheel drive, taught suspension setups and reassuring brakes come to mind. These are cars for those who see driving as an art and a vital part of life, yet can't necessarily afford a Porsche 911. Among all moderately priced driver's cars on the market this year, we present our top 5 picks.
In 2014, no discussion of inexpensive sport coupes would be complete without mention of the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S twins, built through the partnership between Toyota and Subaru. Toyota and Subaru sought to bring simplicity and driving fun back to a market seemingly now focused on whiz-bang features and complex drivetrain systems. Like the FR-S, the BRZ features a 2.0-liter “Boxer” flat-four-cylinder engine making an even 200 horsepower. As true sports cars, some have called the twins underpowered, but potential buyers need to remember that weight is the biggest enemy of performance, and around 2,750 lbs. the BRZ and FR-S are nearly 800 lbs. lighter than a V6 Ford Mustang. The BRZ offers a few more luxury features and arguably a better-designed interior to go along with small changes in styling, though it's priced a little higher.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 22 city/30 highway.
After nearly 50 years of continuous production and many millions sold, the Ford Mustang still stands for the same basic virtues it did in 1964: big power, beautiful styling, a back seat that's actually usable, and pricing about like that of a basic family sedan. For this year’s model, that means your choice of a 305-horsepower V6 or a 420-horsepower V8, the latter offering the most straight-line grunt you'll find at this price point. Although the Mustang still features a “live” rear axle rather than a fully independent suspension setup like the rest of the cars on this list (the 2015 Mustang will have IRS), Ford engineers have created a car that feels nimble and responsive.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 17 city/28 highway.
Scion’s FR-S is hands down, the best bang for the buck in this (or any) class. The fact that Toyota teamed up with Subaru to come up with an aspiring and afscionable front engine rear wheel drive coupe speaks volumes to their marketing savvy. They didn’t just hear consumers. They listened. The FR-S is flat-out fun to drive, and compared with the BRZ – the difference is slight enough that you'd need to drive them back to back to tell – suspension tuning is geared more towards those who prefer a lighter and more nimble steering feel at the sacrifice of high-speed stability. The FR-S is among the most balanced and fun sport coupes money can buy, and a steal at right around $26,000 to start.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 22 city/30 highway.
The Genesis Coupe is the genesis-coupe and BRZ's most direct competitor, a powerful yet spritely beast of a driver's car that received a big power bump for the 2014 model year. The 2.0T model, priced around the same as the genesis-coupe and V6 Mustang, now sees 274 horsepower, while the 3.6-liter Genesis Coupe V6 gains direct injection for 348 thundering horses. A bit more composed over rough roads and in the bends than the Mustang and thus easier to drive fast, the Genesis Coupe comes with a luxurious interior a cut above what's generally offered at Hyundai, a company best known for economy cars and bread-and-butter family sedans. But don't let that badge fool you: this is a dyed-in-the-wool sport coupe, and definitely warrants a test drive.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to - city/- highway.
Though the 370Z lacks the rear seat of the other cars featured here, it still caters to the same type of customer: drivers who care much more for the feel of the road than a luxury name badge on the hood. In its earliest days, Nissan's Z car was known as the “Poor Man's Porsche” for bringing big smiles, only without the big groan when it's time to make that car payment. Starting at well over $30k, today's 370Z is no bargain-basement ride by any means, but there just aren't many (if any) other pure sports cars worth their salt that don't cost at least an additional 20 large. Its 3.7-liter V6 engine producing 332 horsepower (350 horses in NISMO trim), the 370Z is fast, lithe, and absolutely punishing over rough roads. Jarring ride quality aside, this is a reliable, relatively affordable sports car that's easy enough to live with on a daily basis that it can double as a commuter car. Because once you own one, you'll want to leave that sedan in the garage.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 18 city/26 highway.