7 sports cars you can drive every day
Sports cars are undeniably cool but often so cramped and unsuited for city driving that they're literally a pain in the rump. No wonder most shoppers dismiss them as pricey weekend playthings — or worse, midlife crisis clichés. But what if you could get most of the head-turning style and performance in a ride that won't break your back or your bank account? Now would you consider taking one to work? We think we've found seven 2013 sports models you can drive every day. Let's be clear. Our picks are either true two-seaters or have a back seat that's so small and cramped no one in their right mind would want to climb back there. That's part of what makes a sports car a sports car. Since we know you'll be driving in traffic, we've priced them with automatic transmissions. Yet five still cost less than $30,000 (including delivery charge) and get more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway. One's actually a hybrid — yeah, a hybrid sports car, what will they think of next? — that's rated at 36 mpg in the city. Let's start with a true classic ...
Mileage: 21 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined
Launched in the late '80s, the MX-5 Miata enjoyed instant success. We fell hard for this roadster because it's a modern, safer, more reliable two-seater than the British roadsters, such as Triumph TRs, Austin Healeys and MGBs, that it successfully imitates. Mazda managed to give Miata the fun-to-drive qualities of those iconic British sports cars without all of their quality and reliability issues. Over the years, it hasn't strayed from that formula, and we think that's a good thing. We love that it's rear-wheel drive and can be thrown into corners. Its 167-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine and driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission make the Miata an absolute blast to tool around in. And although it's one of our smaller picks, the Miata is still roomy enough for six-footers to be comfortable — even with the top up.
Mileage: 25 mpg city/34 highway/28 combined
We can't get enough of the all-new BRZ, which is also sold as the Scion FR-S. Nimble and athletic, it was born and bred for curvy mountain roads. It's much more about handling than straight-line acceleration. The only Subaru without all-wheel drive, its 200-horsepower, 2-liter flat-four engine turns the rear wheels via a driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic scrubs a bit from the acceleration, but you won't care as you power through the turns. The flat engine helps keep the center of gravity low for better stability when attacking the curves. Its light weight and spot-on steering conspire to make it remarkably responsive. Despite its slick exterior lines, the front-seat area is remarkably roomy and the seats quite comfortable. There's a small back seat that works better for groceries than friends.
Mileage: 27 mpg city/35 highway/30 combined
The least refined of our picks, we still like this Mini enough to include it. Minis by nature are sports, and a big part of that is the spot-on handling that requires a tuned suspension. In the Roadster, though, ride comfort doesn't suffer too much in the name of performance. The convertible top is a bit of a throwback to the days before liners in convertibles were commonplace. This makes the Mini a bit noisier with the top up than others on our list. But we love the way this little car corners; it defines athletic. We also enjoy the retro look and feel of the cabin. The 121-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission is the least powerful powertrain you'll find here, but that helps the Mini to get the second-best gas mileage.
Mileage: 19 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined
Sharing lots of bits and pieces with the Infiniti G37, the 370Z has a decidedly upscale feel. Although it gives up nothing in the way of performance and handling, it has a sophisticated ride, getting high marks from us for its road manners. We think the styling makes it look as though it's covered with a liquid sheet of molten metal. The 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 is the second-most powerful engine you'll find in our picks. which is one of the reasons the Z gets the worst gas mileage of the bunch. But this two-seater will rocket from a standstill to 60 mph in less than six seconds. We've priced it out here with the optional driver-shiftable seven-speed automatic transmission that hustles engine output to the rear wheels. Ponying up another eight grand or so will get you the convertible.
Mileage:36 mpg city/39 highway/37 combined
We included the CR-Z because of its drivability and two-seat cabin. We chose it as a nod to the high mileage crowd. An urban warrior, really, it's for the enthusiast who spends most of his wheel time slogging through overcrowded city streets. We love its exterior lines and futuristic instrument layout. The cabin is comfortable if not fancy. In the twisties of the open road, however, we'd prefer just about any other car on our list. This is a hybrid, which means it's laden with a heavy battery pack that makes the CR-Z harder to get around curves. It's also front-wheel drive, which isn't as good as rear-wheel drive when it comes to handling. But its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine teams with an electric motor and continuously variable transmission to generate 130 horsepower and get the best gas mileage of our picks.
Mileage: 22 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined
The most expensive of our picks is also the only luxury car — and it shows. The TT is impressive inside and out, but we particularly like TT's cabin with its highly refined design, materials and craftsmanship. From the curb, you'd never imagine the hardtop has a back seat. But amazingly, there's one in there. (The back seat is so insignificant that when you pony up the extra $3,000 for the convertible, it disappears.) Audi employs turbocharging to wring 211 horsepower from a 2-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive that propel the TT from 0-to-60 in just 5.3 seconds. If fuel economy and price don't matter, another $20,000 or so will allow you to drive home in the TT RS, which has 150 more horsepower and a combined city/highway mileage of 20 mpg.
Mileage: 20 mpg city/31 highway/24 combined
We get all wobbly in the knees over the Genesis Coupe's value story. We can't think of a better deal for 26 grand. But Genesis isn't just about price and content. It's also about performance and the 274 horsepower generated by this two-door's 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and driver-shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission. If you have another $2,500 to spend, you can upgrade to a 348-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6, but we're quite happy with the four banger. The suspension is a near-perfect balance of ride quality and nimble handling. Of our rear-seat-equipped picks, Genesis has the most second-row legroom, but it's still about three inches less than Hyundai's smaller Elantra sedan. Sporty yet comfortable, the interior has an expensive feel. Oh, and then there's Hyundai's great warranty — the best in the industry.