During the Great Recession and global economic turmoil that transpired after it, the idea of an affordable sports car began to fade. Discretionary spending was delegated to necessities, and four-wheeled toys went by the wayside. The economy is still depressingly dismal, but there is hope. With the resurgence of affordable sports cars dotting the automotive landscape, maybe the best way out of the economic downturn is sideways in a billow of tire smoke.
Ford Fiesta ST
A new hot-hatch in an already crowded segment, the Fiesta ST has left nothing on the table for the competition. Starting at a measly $21,400, the Fiesta packs a 197-horsepower turbocharged engine. That power is routed through a standard, and appropriate, 6-speed manual transmission—the only transmission available. Touted as well balanced, fun, and affordable, the Fiesta offers four doors, a hatch, and the ability to find its way into even the most frugal of driveways.
While it’s main competitor is the more costly Fiat 500 Abarth, it’s greatest threat comes from its larger brother, the Focus ST. While significantly more than the Fiesta, the Focus offers more horsepower and larger interior space that comes at the cost of drivability. The Focus feels larger and looses the slot car like characteristics of the Fiesta that make it such a hoot to drive.
Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ
Built in partnership with Subaru, the Scion FR-S is Toyota’s foray back into the sports car arena. Apparently tired of designing new Prii, Toyota ventured to make an honest rear-wheel-drive sports car. Powered by a Subaru sourced 2.0-liter flat-6 engine, the FR-S follows a true sports car formula; make it rear-wheel-drive and add lightness. Priced at $25,255, the FR-S slips right in the middle of affordability.
While it may be down on power for the price—the V-6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro start at a lower price while offering over 300 horsepower—the FR-S isn’t aiming to take gold at the drag strip. It’s goal is to compete where the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been so dominant for so long, a unique niche in the automotive landscape. It’s hard to tell if it has been successful for either Toyota or Subaru, but one can only hope that both will see the benefits of offering an affordable sports car that does a little more than get groceries efficiently.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
Fresh off a design update, the Camaro SS may not necessarily be affordable to many, but still packs performance and design that is hard to match today. Coming in at a not cheap $34,050, the Camaro SS shoehorns a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that powers the rear wheels—a real must in a sports car. With 426-horsepower coursing through the rear tires, year-round usability is limited in states that experience weather.
With a design made famous by Michael Bay’s Transformers films, this is the last hurrah for this generation of Camaro. A smaller, more efficient, less muscle car like Camaro is expected for the next generation. If a burly V-8 engine dressed in aggressive sheet metal is a necessity at the local malt shop, the Camaro SS can do you no wrong.
This may just represent a slice of the sports car segment today; there are dozens of choices available for car buyers. Buying a used car is still a great way to get into a sports car at an affordable price. Ultimately, whatever your budget is, you can always find a car a little over the top that always puts a smile on your face.