Top 5 Best Cheap Sports Cars on the Market

March 18, 2013

Information on CarsDirect's current picks for cheap sports cars, most of which are between $20,000 and $30,000.

We drive cars for a multitude of reasons. Most of those reasons fall into the category of commuting, as we're forced to get to and from work, school, the babysitter's, etc. But many people want to actually enjoy their commute. And one bonafide way to do so is to own a sports car. But if you're like the vast majority, you only have the space and finances for one primary vehicle. With competition between manufacturers heating up like never before, shopping for a cheap sports car just got a whole lot easier. We've searched and shortlisted a complete set of the best cheap sports cars that anyone would be able to afford. The majority of these vehicles fall under the magical $35k threshold.

2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata

If there was ever a case for the time-tested adage of "big things come in small packages", the Miata carries the gold-laced lineal championship belt. Since the Honda S2000's demise in 2009, it's the flat-out best economy roadster currently on the market today, and enthusiasts and laymen alike love it. And for good reason: it's smart, fast and cheap. The car retails for about $24,265 - 32,020 depending on the state that you reside in, but incentives are often applied on the Miata, especially during the fall and winter seasons. The overall design of the Miata has not changed since 2009, and its silhouette is iconic both in and out of the auto industry. Although the Nissan 370Z (below) might provide a bit more value in terms of power and pure grunt, the Miata offers a more refined and surgical approach to inspired driving. It's the only car in this group that offers a retractable hardtop, and does so at a reasonable price.

2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

The Genesis Coupe offers lots of standard features, exceptional performance, a low base price and a fully functional rear seat. It's MSRP price ranges from $23,125 - 33,875 depending on options. Many shoppers cross-shop the Genesis Coupe to the more expensive Infiniti G37 Coupe. Overall the Genesis Coupe stands alone in terms of value, offering more for your money than any other budget-friendly sports car.

2012 Nissan 370Z

Power. Torque. Grip. The Nissan 370z rewards its driver with all of this. For its MSRP price of $33,060 - 40,732, the car offers excellent handling and the best acceleration in this group with a driving dynamic that feels more like a Porsche than a Nissan. Options do get pricey, so if you're considering this, be aware that the price could balloon into BMW-territory.

2012 Scion FR-S

This inexpensive sports car is in its first model year, and aims to take the Genesis Coupe's crown for most affordable and best value in the sports car class. If you're looking for something soon, you might have to wait. Initial projections for the Scion FR-S are 20,000 units per year, which doesn't inspire confidence in us since so many car shoppers have been on the fence waiting for the perfect car (and the FR-S may be it). The FR-S offers smooth, secure and controlled handling performance, even when pushed to the limit. Steering feel is precise and confidence-inspiring with relatively no understeer. The MSRP price is $24,930, and with Scion's famous no-haggle pricing, the price you see is the price you pay. The verdict is not completely out just yet, so we are unsure as to whether or not the FR-S has indeed de-throned the venerable Hyundai Genesis Coupe, but it's safe to say that it just might be the hot ticket.

2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse

The MSRP price range of the Mitsubishi Eclipse is $20,294 - 29,884. The car is dated, but the canary in the coal mine is that since the so many new vehicles have launched since the Eclipse first surfaced, you can find one much cheaper than the MSRP price indicates. That should be incentive enough, since the intersection of price and performance is value. The overall shape is attractive and the vehicle is relatively reliable. One thing to consider is the fact that the Eclipse is front wheel drive, which is not the optimum way of distributing power to the ground, especially if you're looking for pure performance.

Related Questions and Answers

What can You Expect from a Sports Car's MPG?

You can expect a high performance from a sport's car MPG. Given the developments in automotive technology over the last 20 years, sports cars can achieve excellent mileage when driven by trained and experienced hands. Or they can flash through corners and slide through turns with rubber dust flying from all the wheels in the hands of the performance enthusiast. In the case of $3-plus per gallon of gasoline, it's likely that performance may be taking a back seat right now to mpg as sports cars. Usually light and with great power-to-weight ratios, it can turn in some impressive mileage figures to help any automaker meet its corporate average-fuel economy responsibility.

Is there an Italian Sports Car Under $50,000? No. However, with the return of Fiat to the American car market as a major partner of Chrysler Corporation, one had to figure that an Italian sports car would soon rcome back to the American market. It has in a big way. The Alfa Romeo MiTo has its sights aimed squarely at the ridiculously popular MINI.

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