Affordable, fast and good: pick any two. That’s the popular phrase in the service industry, but we’re going shopping for cool sports cars and we want all three – no exceptions.
Now, cheap is always a relative term when you’re talking about fast cars. But in the modern climate, there is a car that will put a smile on your face in almost every price bracket. That’s what we’re going for here: bang for your buck. Well, that and cool-factor; an elusive and almost utterly unmeasurable and entirely subjective term.
Here are our favorite cool sports cars in every price bracket right now! You very well may be surprised by a few of them!
1. Ford Mustang GT Fastback
The Ford Mustang is an American icon that has been with us since the Swinging Sixties. This classic pony car has always offered sports car performance in a fastback package and was sexy enough to star in the likes of Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds. The new model is a stunner.
You can opt for the 2.3-liter Ford Mustang Ecoboost and get that badge and exactly the same look for slightly more than $25,000. If you can scrape the coin together, though, then you should really get the 5-liter V8-powered Ford Mustang GT Fastback.
It’s an old-school pony car with a simply monstrous 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to melt those rear tires on demand and the Mustang is a playful car that is pure fun for this money. Forget the 10-speed automatic, though – get the six-speed manual gearbox that turns this into a much more involving car.
The interior is basic, but you do get a great dashboard and four seats if you count the rear buckets. It will hit 60 mph in 3.9 seconds which is a serious lick of speed for a pony car. And, it won’t run out of steam until it hits 155 mph.
The Mustang is more than just raw numbers, though; it’s about laying black lines and hanging the tail out on those country backroads. It’s also about the legend, the myth, and the pure sex appeal of arguably America’s greatest car ever.
2. Fiat 124 Spider Classica
Italian marque Fiat returned to the USA after almost three decades away with the cute and retro Fiat 500, which is a weapon in disguise in the Abarth trim. Now, it has brought the Fiat 124 which is an altogether more serious sports car.
Under the skin, the Fiat shares the legendary Mazda MX-5’s platform with a Fiat drivetrain, suspension, and bodywork. The end result is a 2,359 lb, rear-wheel-drive sports car that makes the most of its 160 bhp, 1.4-liter turbocharged engine.
The Fiat packs in 184 lb-ft of torque, but this isn’t a big power car. It’s designed for tight, winding roads where the razor-sharp handling comes into its own. Narrow tires mean it will lose grip at sensible speeds and this two-seater is a laugh riot at legal speeds. You don’t have to risk your license, then, to have fun.
Now the Fiat isn’t the most practical car here. There isn’t much room in the trunk, you only get two seats and this is only a second car unless you’re fully committed to the sports car experience. It is a visceral, stunning experience on the open road, though, and with the rag-top down there is almost nothing to touch this fantastic little car. At this price, that’s about the highest praise you can get.
3. Ford Focus RS
The Ford Focus RS was a European legend that the American audience could only admire from afar. The Blue Oval finally fixed that and brought this compact hatchback sports car to these shores in 2016.
The Focus is officially dead in America as of now, but if you can snap up a current model then you have a legend on your hands and you could well have a future classic.
It’s a four-wheel-drive 350 bhp monster that grew from Europe’s obsession with the front-wheel-drive Focus and the company’s World Rally Championship effort. It’s the modern-day Subaru Impreza rally special and it’s one of those cars that wins quiet respect from ‘car guys’ everywhere.
The Focus RS is an absolute performance bargain. The 0-60 mph time of 4.6s and a top speed of 165 mph don’t sound like much, but it’s the cornering speed and attitude of this 2.3-liter turbocharged beast that we’ll remember long after this car is consigned to the history books.
With ‘Drift Mode’ engaged, you can lay black lines everywhere and, even with four-wheel-drive, the Focus RS will slide sideways without crashing helplessly off the road. Most the time… Finished in Nitrous Blue, this car finds itself right at home amongst the other cool sports cars on this list.
4. Nissan GT-R
We know, $10 short of $100,000 is not for everyone. The thing is, though, that even at that price, the Nissan GT-R offers value for money like you’ve never seen. It’s a hypercar with four seats and cornering speeds that verge on witchcraft.
Nobody quite knows how Nissan does it, first with the Skyline and now with the GT-R. It’s a big, heavy coupe that weighs in at 3,836 lbs and yet sticks to the road like glue thanks to Gran Turismo-style electronics that have become the GT-R’s USP.
It’s a 565 bhp machine with 467 lb-ft of torque, which aren’t quite supercar numbers these days. It still hits 60 mph in 2.9s, though, and tops out at 195 mph, so it’s a potent beast in a straight line. On the track, the GT-R comes alive and for a while, this was considered the fastest point-to-point car in the world.
It’s an engineering masterpiece that has won legions of fans around the world and turned into a halo car like no other for Nissan. So, it will too expensive for many, but it is a bargain.
5. Dodge Challenger R/T
The Dodge Challenger is another great American icon that sits alongside the Ford Mustang in folklore. It’s a true muscle car, arguably the only true muscle car in a herd of ponies, and you can get the big V8 for less than 35K.
You can have the entry-level Challenger SXT for $27,295, with a smaller engine, but that’s like buying plain vanilla at the ice-cream store. Spend a little more and get the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 Road and Track package that has become a legend in its own right. Do that and you’ve got 375 bhp and, more importantly, 410 lb-ft of torque to play with.
You can spend more and get the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which is still a bargain considering the power, but the Road and Track package is a great compromise.
Go for the six-speed manual gearbox and save a few bucks, rather than the automatic, and you’ll get a playful car that will poke the rear out on demand. It’s a big machine, but that long wheelbase means it’s a stable drift car that is endless fun.
The Challenger also looks incredible. It’s retro, curvaceous, classic and yet still a thoroughly modern machine. It’s unique and, at this price, it’s a steal.
6. Honda Civic Type-R
The Honda Civic Type-R is a legend in Europe where compact, front-wheel-drive hatchbacks are absolutely standard fare. America had to watch in wonder, though, until last year. Finally, the greatest front-wheel-drive sports car in the world is here, and it looks insane.
The latest incarnation of the Civic Type-R has left the clean-cut simplicity of previous models in its wake. The new one looks like a spaceship and is covered in dramatic wings, so it had to have some serious performance to back up the looks. And that it does.
Honda’s Type-R has racked up front-wheel-drive lap records at the biggest tracks in Europe, including the infamous Nordschleife. The 2-liter turbocharged engine pumps out 306 bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque, which should technically be too much for a front-wheel-drive machine. It hits 60 mph in 4.9s and tops out at 169 mph, but this is one of those cool sports cars that’s more about the emotion and the feel at the wheel than raw power.
It’s a new kind of sports car, but it’s a great one – no doubt. It’s a killer deal, too!
7. Subaru BRZ
Price: $24, 495
Remember the classic British sports cars that were lightweight, low-powered, economical and fun? Subaru wanted to recapture that magic and the Subaru BRZ is the end result. It’s a joint venture with Toyota, but the Subaru version gets the nod here.
It’s an elegant looking two-seater that weighs in at 2789 lbs, which is svelte by today’s standards. You get 205 bhp and 156 lb-ft of torque from the two-liter Boxer engine and that is not a lot in today’s world of cool sports cars. It hits 60 mph in 7.6s, officially, although the car is actually quicker in the real world. The top speed is 135 mph, so this is not a fast car in the conventional sense.
The BRZ is stripped to the core, but then you get neat touches like a Limited Slip Differential and quick ratio steering that reveal its true purpose. The automatic gearbox and paddle-shifters are sharp as a tack, but the six-speed manual ‘box turns this into a great driving experience. Ignore the stopwatch, this is a car you feel through your fingertips and the seat of your pants.
8. Corvette ZR1
The Corvette ZR1 is going to be out of budget for most, but then this is a car that can go toe-to-toe with the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of this world for way less money. It is one of the most undeniably cool sports cars on the market, so price aside, we’re going to allow it.
The ZR1 hits 212 mph in a straight line and blasts past 60 mph in an incredulous 2.85s. There is a 7-speed manual option, but the car is so fast that you should opt for the eight-speed automatics and paddle shifters, or you will actually slow the car down.
Under the skin is the legendary 6.2-liter supercharged V8 LT5 that pumps out 755 bhp and 715 lb-ft of torque. It’s an epic amount of power and the ZR1 can immolate those massive rear tires on command.
It’s a savage looking car that can mix it with the best of the world in the fashion stakes and the Corvette has carved out real credibility in recent years as a seriously fast sports car.
The ZR1 offers stunning value for money and ridiculous amounts of power for each and every dollar.
9. VW Golf R
Price: $39, 785
The VW Golf is arguably the greatest car of all time and the GTi is absolutely one of the classic cool sports cars of the genre, but the game has since moved on and now Volkswagen has unleashed the Golf R upon the world.
You get 292 bhp and 280 lb-ft of torque pushing through all four wheels and the end result is a supremely fast hatchback that holds the road like a leech. It hits 60 mph in just 4.8s and the top speed of 150 mph is more than respectable, too. However, the Golf R isn’t the most entertaining car on the road.
It doesn’t hang the back end out or light up the tires. This is a car designed for economical inputs at the wheel and there is no manual option, so you’re stuck with the DSG gearbox with paddle-shifters. The Golf R is a prestige car, too, and the interior leaves a lot of other sports cars in the shade when it comes to the fit and finish.
If you want a fast car for the road, rather than a track weapon, then this is a great compromise.
10. Porsche 911 Carrera 2
It’s another expensive sports car that we consider a great bang for your buck, but then the Porsche 911 Carrera 2 is the everyday supercar that isn’t just for the weekend.
The 911 has been with us since the 1960s and this 2+2 has slowly evolved into an all-conquering sports car that many purists think is one of the best cool sports cars in the world. It has also evolved into a model line-up in its own right, ranging from the track-honed GT3 and unhinged GT2 right through to the ballistically fast limousine that is the 911 Turbo S.
The Carrera 2 is the entry-level model, but there is really nothing basic about this car. It’s trimmed to perfection and it’s a stunning looking car that, even in this form, is insanely fast.
Porsche recently downsized and turbocharged the line-up and now you get 370 bhp and 331 lb-ft of torque from the 3-liter twin turbo. It hits 60 mph in 4.4s officially, but it’s faster than that in the real world and will keep going to 183 mph.
There’s a seven-speed manual gearbox or the optional, and expensive, PDK semi-automatic that makes this a much faster car. It’s easy to tip the 911 deep into six figures if you hit the options list, though, so be careful. The 911 Carrera 2 is the purest option and it’s arguably the most entertaining sports car in the line-up outside of the GT3, so that’s the one you really want.