There are only a handful of consumer-level auto manufacturers who take sports cars seriously. Often, it’s a sign of the engineering pedigree within the company. If they can hire brilliant engineers to work on a single car, they must have already gotten the regular cars right. Furthermore, those specialist engineers can lend their expertise to common cars so they have an edge over the competition.
When it comes to sporty mid-range cars, it’s always a wise choice to trust Japanese manufacturers. You know that their history of putting efficiency at the forefront of development won’t falter, meaning you will get an automobile that can, at least, be your regular commuter. This is not a dismissal of European and American companies, though; many of them have coupes and sedans that perform exceptionally well. The consumer-level sporty variants in the old continent are usually limited to hatchbacks, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, you get the feeling that at times, they are cramming too much on a car that’s supposed to be relaxing to drive.
As for American companies, they would rather put power and performance in big trucks. When they don’t, they put it in muscle cars, not the most family-friendly cars, and premium sports cars that are too expensive for the regular Joes. So, if you want sporty car that you can afford and has the history of endurance, go for Japanese cars.
But, what company?
A few companies spring to mind when it comes to consumer-level sports cars: Toyota (Scion in the US), Mitsubishi, Mazda, Subaru and Nissan. Toyota, in terms of sporty vehicles, isn’t brimming with options. You have the 86 and the Supra, the latter an old model and that’s it. Mitsubishi has the Lancer Evolution, and if you’re willing to scour the pre-owned market, you can probably get the much-loved Eclipse and the former rally king Evo.
Mazda’s only sporty entrant is the Miata and as their president recently said, it’s not going to be more powerful or even more performance-based. This is good news, actually, because the Miata has always been best for relaxed drives. Subaru is probably the automaker with the most consumer-level sporty cars today. Everything they offer has a tinge of their rally credential in it, even the family cars. You’ll end up choosing the BRZ (the same Scion FR-S), Impreza or WRX. All of these represent good value, but it will end up disappointing your expectations. Why? Subarus come to full fruition on dirt roads, and as a city dweller, you want a car that will make city driving much better for you.
Nissan could be your last choice, but why is that? It probably has something to do about the company’s reputation as a reliable manufacturer of sedans, trucks and crossovers. They became a staple of American roads because of these cars, not tire-munching purebreds.
You’d be wrong to discount them, though. Nissan has two consumer-level sports cars that boast of its outstanding heritage of excellence. The 370Z and the GT-R are common players in the performance enthusiast arena. Both are excellently modifiable, and even if you’re not planning to change anything, they are more than good enough.
The 370Z, the newer version of the 350Z of the early 2000s, is habitable enough to be an everyday car. Forget the fact that it performs superbly, it will drive smoothly and has the power to get from one place to another quickly. Reliable reviews of the car never go under four stars, with common mentions of price reduction, overall reliability and its athletic quality. In short, if you’re looking for a sporty coupe you can drive every day and not towards the repair shop, the 370Z is ideal.
If you’ve been saving for the perfect car, then the GT-R may be the car that will give you the best performance for your money. You can search the market for used Ferraris or BMWs, but for the same value, the GT-R monsters both old and new models of performance cars. But first, it’s good to address its price. The GT-R has become more popular these past few years, thanks to rave reviews from magazines and TV auto enthusiasts alike. As a result, Nissan has to leverage its fame to sell more and make more from it.
It’s not the best-looking car compared to other sports cars, especially since its boxy look won’t win any aesthetic awards. In terms of performance, however, it blows most other cars out of the water. Whether on a straight track or F1-level turns, the GT-R will take on everyone. The Nissan engineers that work on this car pay excruciating detail to every part of this car, and the result is an unassuming car of the most mind-blowing performance. To add to that, the regular models have four seats; its most amazing feature, probably.
Nissan may not release new consumer-level sports cars every year, but they work on what they have. The 370Z and the GT-R are so close to perfection that it’s easy to see why it’s been a favorite for so long. So, if you can afford to buy either of these cars, there’s no reason to not do it.