With the country still trying to crawl out of a recession, most drivers don’t have extra cash laying around for extravagant sports car purchases. Luckily, there’s still hope for those that want a real driver’s car, but don’t want to pay a premium for it.
One benefit of a slumping economy is that it has fueled the demand for cheap speed. Not only are sporty hatchbacks trendy these days, but there’s also been a resurgence in American muscle cars. Even German and Korean automakers are starting to offer vehicles that are fun and fast, but above all relatively inexpensive.
For the 2010 model year, we’ve compiled a small list of some of these realistically attainable new sports cars.
Mazdaspeed3 – Base Price $23,945
For anyone that desires speed, without the high price tag, one car that will have to be on your list is the Mazdaspeed3. Updated for the 2010 model year, this sporty hatchback is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine producing 263 horsepower. With a 0-60 mph time of about six seconds, the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 delivers the power without any compromises. And, with its flexible five door configuration, this hatchback is as useful as it is quick. Let’s face it, it’s no Porsche Panamera, but it is our top pick for speed on a budget.
Volkswagen GTI – Base Price $23,664
Volkswagen’s ability to produce small and sporty hatchbacks is legendary. While many other hatchbacks offer lackluster styling and unenthusiastic powertrains, VW has always managed to engineer plenty of exciting compacts without substantial price tags. For 2010, the Volkswagen GTI has been updated and it continues to provide a level of sportiness and quality that is otherwise difficult to find in its price range. Powering the GTI is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower. While that may seem unimpressive, especially next to the horsepower figures of the Mazdaspeed3, the GTI easily utilizes all that horsepower with its broad torque range, relatively light weight, taut suspension, and the available dual-clutch DSG sequential manual transmission with paddle shifters harnesses that power effectively.
Honda Civic Si – Base Price $22,055
Thanks to its ultra low base price, the Honda Civic has always been the vehicle of choice for those looking to have a custom hot rod on a budget. Unfortunately, these inexpensive cars have not always been the most exciting vehicles from the factory. The 2010 Honda Civic Si is Honda’s attempt to quell those notions. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that produces 197 horsepower. Although the Si is no drag racer capable of an impressive launch off the line, the engine, like all Honda engines, is capable of delivering loads of power at higher rpm, and that’s where the Si’s performance really shines. Its suspension, tuned much tighter than the standard Civic, is also helpful in providing a fun-to-drive experience without the steep price tag. Those looking for certified cars Fredericksburg for example are always drawn to Hondas such as the Civic and CR-X since they provide value and potentially cheap speed. The latest Civic Si is expected to have the same ability to hold value.
Subaru WRX – Base Price $24,995
Subaru has long participated in rally racing, and much of this motorsports activity is evident in their lineup. With all-wheel drive and boxer engines, Subarus have a character that is all their own. The Subaru Impreza WRX in particular exudes this rally-bred character. Although the previous generation WRX was much loved by Subaru purists, the latest version certainly offers a mainstream appeal with its more demure interior and exterior styling. But despite arguably going soft, the WRX still is a great value. Powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that produces 265 horsepower, the WRX delivers ample power as well as tremendous grip thanks to its all-wheel drive system. For those itching for a little more power, the pricier STI offers 305 horsepower.
Nissan 370Z – Base Price $29,930
When the Nissan Z was first introduced, it was unlike any other sports car available. Sure it delivered plenty of power and sportiness, but the Z stood out because it performed well while costing thousands less than other sports cars with similar performance. This unique quality is what helped the Z become one of the highest selling sports cars of all time, but what’s also notable is that the latest generation still holds true to the original formula. Powered by a 332 horsepower 3.7-liter V6, the 2010 Nissan 370Z can sprint to 60 mph in a mere 5.5 seconds. Offering Porsche-like speed and responsiveness, the 370Z can be had at a very un-Porsche-like price of under $30K. When outfitted with other performance enhancing options such as the SynchroRev Match manual transmission or a limited-slip differential, the Nissan Z performs like a car that should cost nearly twice as much. Compared to the 350Z, Auburn MA Nissan dealers note that the 370z is smaller, slight, and quicker, and enthusiasts seem to like those changes.
Dodge Challenger – Base Price $23,460
For those wanting a domestic sports car reminiscent of the bygone muscle car days, you’re in luck! The resurrected Dodge Challenger is a competitive option with a base 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 250 horsepower. Although the 0-60 mph time of the Challenger is only about eight seconds when equipped with this engine, the R/T model adds a 372 horsepower Hemi V8 that helps the Challenger reach sub-six second 0-60 times. The retro styling of the Challenger is also appealing to those wanting a classic muscle car with all the modern amenities.
Hyundai Genesis Coupe – Base Price $22,000
Most Americans probably don’t immediately think of Hyundai when they think of sports cars. But the Hyundai Genesis Coupe is a serious contender that not only offers performance, but offers a level of quality and luxury that few cars in its price range are capable of offering. Powering the Genesis Coupe is either a 210 horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine, or a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 306 horsepower. The Infiniti G37 was said to be the car’s inspiration, and it shows both outside and inside. The interior offers boasts qualities materials and a clean design, and of course the Genesis Coupe costs a mere fraction of the G37.
Ford Mustang – Base Price $21,395
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Ford Mustang is also a great choice for cheap speed. As the only American muscle car that never disappeared, the 2010 Mustang is simply better than ever. With a new design and better interior quality, the Mustang remains one of the most popular sports cars on the road. The base 210 horsepower 4.0-liter V6 may not be the most exciting engine, especially next to the base Camaro’s V6, but the GT with its 315 horsepower 4.5-liter V6 surely won’t disappoint, thanks to its five second 0-60 mph time. If you’re considering a new Mustang, the 2011 model year will also bring all-new engines that will deliver much more power and even more miles per gallon.
Chevrolet Camaro – Base Price $22,680
Recently released to battle the Ford Mustang yet again, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro completely abandons the styling of its predecessor and looks much like the original model from the late 1960s. Although there’s no high performance Z28 version yet, there are still two excellent engine choices, including a 306 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 as well as a 6.2-liter 426 horsepower unit available with the SS model. Both engines not only produce staggering amounts of power, but both are actually relatively fuel efficient as well. For the most horsepower under the $30K mark, the latest generation Camaro is hands down the best choice.
As I wrap up this list, I’m wondering where is Toyota… One of my good friends at a Boston Toyota dealer said Toyota is not necessarily a “sports car” company. I guess I’ll buy that for now.
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