As winter fires its final chilly salvos, and we look forward to warmer temperatures and sunny skies, one’s heart thinks of sports cars. And while the number of sports cars has dwindled over the decade, there are still some very tempting choices.
With the exception of the Volkswagen, all are rear-wheel drive, which ensures you’ll be having fun. Even in base form, these cars provide far more driving thrills than some staid sedan with styling gewgaws to make you think it’s sporty, or some clumsy crossover that looks more like a garden shed than an automobile.
These vehicles are the real deal. All come with manual transmissions as standard equipment, and the base prices listed do not include destination charge, options or sales tax. And given that the average new vehicle costs more than $47,000, these rides are a bargain. Saddle up; it’s time to drive.
5. 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI: $29,545
The progenitor of hot hatches, the Volkswagen GTI receives a full redesign for 2022, making it the eighth generation for the iconic hot hatch. With 111.8 cubic feet of interior space, including a substantial 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space, the EPA considers it as a midsize car despite its compact car length.
For this price, you get the base S trim with a 6-speed manual transmission; the 7-speed dual clutch automatic will set you back another $800. The GTI is powered by VW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder E888 engine rated at 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque that provides quick acceleration and sharp handling. It mercilessly tackles corner with effortless German efficiency, and is mercifully free of torque steer. It’s a classic box of fun.
4. 2022 Toyota GR86: $27,700/2022 Subaru BRZ: $27,995
These rear-wheel drive identical cousins share much in common. These sweet little go-karts are a result of Subaru engineering and Toyota exterior and interior design. Its 2+2 configuration has a backseat that lacks any usable legroom, and is best thought of as a padded storage shelf to augment the cozy trunk, 2.4-liter horizontally opposed engine that produces 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.
A 6-speed manual is standard; a 6-speed automatic transmission is optional. With consummate steering and braking feel, and a predictable nature in corners, this car remains a mess of tossable fun with athletic responsiveness in a blessedly lightweight, petite package. Steering is quick, body lean non-existent, and the ride firm, not punishing.
3. 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata: $27,300
For 2022, the MX-5 Miata gets a new feature slightly slows the inner rear wheel during high-g cornering. Other changes are minimal — and that’s a good thing. The Miata retains its lively Skyactiv 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that sends 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission.
A 6-speed automatic transmission is available on the far pricier Grand Touring model. As before, the Miata employs a front double wishbone suspension with aluminum arms, a rear multi-link suspension, monotube dampers, front and rear stabilizer bars. Its great looks, light weight and crisp handling and a demeanor unlike any other sports car you can buy renders it a modern-day classic.
2. 2022 Ford Mustang: $27,205
The world’s best-selling sports car, and the most iconic on this list, the Mustang remains a performance car bargain, even in base trim. The EcoBoost in this model is a double-overhead-cam 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and twin independent variable camshaft timing mated to a Getrag 6-speed manual and producing 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.
To The Fast and Furious crowd, this may not sound like a lot, but that’s just five less than a 2010 Mustang GT. That’s enough to reach 60 mph in a skitch over 5.1 seconds. And the Fastback’s double bubble roof design lends a bit of European savoir faire to this incredible sassy pony.
2022 Chevrolet Camaro: $25,000
Look at this price again. $25,000; It’s less than a Toyota Camry and a whole lot more fun. The look at the car. Its styling is a clear evolution of the previous car, which took its nod from first Camaro. It’s styling hinders the driver’s view out, but side mirrors and driver assistance systems help compensate.
The cabin is impressively well assembled, with high-quality materials. A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder produces 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque through a 6-speed manual transmission or optional 8-speed automatic. Handling is superb, with a beautiful feel. Its solid grip hangs tough in corners as it communicates exactly what’s going on. It delivers what enthusiasts really want: driving pleasure. And it’s a great car when considered on those terms.
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