Best affordable sports cars

The term sports car is a blanket term for a wide range of makes and models that range from affordable to prohibitively expensive. If Roadshow's editors were spending their money, here's what they'd buy.

CNET Cars staff
5 min read
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring GT-S
Enlarge Image
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring GT-S
Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Sports car encompasses a wide range of makes and models across a wide range of prices. While the term may evoke images of fast, exotic, and often pricey models from the likes of McLaren or Ferrari, there are fun cars that won't break the bank. Check out our editors' nine favorite sports cars.

Chevy Corvette Grand Sport

The C7 Corvette already has exotic lines that make it look far pricier than it is, but the Grand Sport adds enough handling bits to make it easily able to embarrass far more expensive, and more exotic, machines. Plus, you get 460 horsepower delivered to the rear wheels through a proper manual transmission, for a starting price of $65,495.

The Grand Sport seats two beneath a removable roof, which sounds like a recipe for an amazing drive. Sure, it adds $4,000 to the bottom line, but there's nothing like cruising in a 'Vette with the wind in your hair. --Tim Stevens

2019 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport loves to hustle

See all photos

Nissan 370Z

It's a bit long in the tooth, but the Nissan 370Z's beefy 332-horsepower V6 engine still feels very potent and puts its power to the rear wheels via a manual gearbox, just like God intended. The SynchroRev Match transmission makes every shift a perfectly timed one, but the feature is easily disabled if you prefer to blip your own throttle when shifting. And hey, it starts under $30,000.

This generation Z-car has been around forever, so its architecture is fairly simple and the aftermarket for modification is very mature. Want a supercharger? Twin-turbos? Race-ready suspension and brakes? The sky is the limit. --Antuan Goodwin

2019 Nissan 370Z: A distilled sports car

See all photos

Ford Mustang EcoBoost

Ford's Mustang is one of the most affordable ways to get over 300 horsepower from a sports car. A 2019 EcoBoost Fastback starts at a mere $26,395, while a convertible starts at $31,895.

The EcoBoost comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. An available performance pack includes a limited-slip rear differential, a larger radiator and rear sway bar, as well as beefier front springs. 

The Mustang coupe is still very usable as a daily driver -- certainly more so than a or even a Chevy Camaro. Plus, lots of new tech including available Sync 3 infotainment makes it appealing to a wider range of shoppers. --Jake Holmes

2018 Ford Mustang ditches the V6, replaces it with more tech

See all photos

Porsche 911 Carrera T

OK, no one ever specified a cost ceiling, so I'm going with the 911. It's not really affordable, per se, but it is the most iconic and beloved sports car ever, and really, can you put a price on that? The Carrera T starts at $102,100, although a base 911 will set you back $91,100, and you'll be happier with this car than supercars costing more than twice as much. See, affordable.

Why the T? It has all the stuff you want in a driver-focused 911 and nothing you don't. With just a couple options, it becomes perfect. With the standard seven-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel steering and a modicum of talent, you'd be hard-pressed to find something more fun on a winding road. --Kyle Hyatt

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T: There's beauty in the simplicity

See all photos

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Starting at under $30,000, if there's more fun available per dollar in a new car, we haven't found it. The MX-5 Miata offers modest power combined with a willing chassis and shifter, which means you can have huge fun at sane speeds, even while commuting. 

For 2019, the Miata got a number of improvements, including a little more power and a longer list of standard equipment. The Mazda Connect system comes with a 7-inch touchscreen and controls a nine-speaker Bose audio setup, navigation, satellite radio and Bluetooth.

And don't forget, while the Miata is available in iconic roadster guise, you can also have it as the equally awesome, folding-hardtop RF. --Chris Paukert

2016-2019 Mazda Miata: A return to form

See all photos

Dodge Charger Hellcat

Sure, the Charger Hellcat costs north of $67,000, but when we do the math, each of the 707 available horsepower only costs $96.17. Compare that to the $275.94 per horsepower for the Porsche 911 Carrera T and the Hellcat is an indisputable bargain.

The current-generation Charger has been around for a while, but that doesn't matter. It's as goofy and lovable as ever, and offers tremendous muscle-sedan thrills. 

You could buy a Challenger, but the four-door Charger Hellcat means it's easy to load up passengers for high-spirited runs to the soccer field. And it flies a little more under the radar -- sort of. --Emme Hall

The 707-horsepower 2019 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat gets a fresh grille

See all photos

Honda Civic Type R

Honda's Civic Type R has the power and poise to hang with much more expensive sports cars, yet it starts at under $35,000. We never get tired of chasing down 911s on canyon roads in this hot hatch.

With the Civic Type R, you get a full smattering of tech and comfort features standard, for a lower MSRP than many of its key competitors. Plus, the Honda-quality interior and functional hatchback shape means this is a car you can drive daily with ease. It's useful and comfortable. You'll learn to love the wing. --Steven Ewing

The 2018 Honda Civic Type R is a very capable daily driver

See all photos

Subaru BRZ

Like the Mazda MX-5, the Subaru BRZ offers one of the purest and most fun driving experiences available in a new car today, all for a starting price of $25,795. The 205-horsepower boxer four-cylinder, slick manual gearbox and eager chassis even makes regular drives around town quite entertaining without having to reach speeds that will draw unwanted attention. 

It's been around for a bit now, but the BRZ is still a sharp-looking coupe with clean, flowing lines and subtle rear shoulders. 

If you want tighter handling dynamics, the BRZ is available with Performance Package that adds upgraded Sachs dampers and Brembo brakes. --Jon Wong

Subaru BRZ STI Sport is the best kind of momentum car

See all photos

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

485 horsepower for $40,000. 'Nuff said.

If you like tech, the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack isn't light on that either, thanks to a standard 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a whole lot o' capability.

If you want to spend more, even though you don't have to, you can kit the car out with a wild Shaker hood scoop that acts like a paint mixer gone awry. Plus, 2019 model year Scat Packs can be had in awesome widebody guise. --Andrew Krok

The 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack is a wild modern muscle car

See all photos

Read more: 

Originally published earlier and updated periodically.