8 Cheap But Awesome Rear Wheel Drive Cars

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We love a front-wheel drive (FWD) runaround or hot hatch as well as the sure-footedness of all-wheel drive (AWD). However, you can't beat a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) car when it comes to finesse. Separating the drive wheels and the wheels steering the car makes for the kind of dynamics that are fun to drive at any skill level but hard to master. Also, nothing is more fun in a car than pushing the back wheels out and maintaining controls. The problem with RWD cars is the price. Good cheap rear-wheel-drive cars that an enthusiast can love aren't as common as fun front-wheel-drive cars. FWD is the least expensive way to build a drivetrain as the engine and wheels are in the same area and close to the transmission. RWD needs to connect the drive wheels and engine through the length of a chassis, which means long parts and extra engineering. If the engine is placed at the back or in the middle, that's a whole different expensive ballgame. For now, though, here are some of the best cheap RWD cars you can pick up, new or used.


New & Used: Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is always the answer to the question "What's the best inexpensive RWD car I can buy?" Seriously. If you're rolling your eyes right now, go drive one. This article will still be here when you get back, and you'll have perspective. Or you'll have just bought one. Sure, it's not fast, but if you need a powerful engine to go fast, you are the perfect candidate for learning how to really drive with an MX-5. The point is cornering and the sheer joy of driving. The chassis is perfectly balanced; the steering is precise; the manual transmission is damn near perfect, and, if you're good enough or get good enough, you make that car dance through a back road.

You can get into a new MX-5 for $27,650 or a used one for just about any price you want, depending on generation, mileage, and condition. If you want a real bargain, look at the third (NC) generation, which is a criminally underrated period for the MX-5. You can pick up higher mileage NCs in decent condition for $6,000 to $8,000. And you can find something with around 50,000 miles on the clock for around $10,000 to $13,000.

CarBuzz/Ian Wright CarBuzz/Ian Wright Mazda Mazda

Used: Mazda RX-8

This writer is seriously considering an RX-8 as a weekend toy. It's one of the most inexpensive RWD cars you can buy right now and the best when it comes to cheap fun RWD cars. You can pick one up for a couple of grand, but there are some caveats. You'll want to avoid 2003 to 2005 models unless you've done your research on the issue with the rotary engine. Even then, do not purchase one that has been maintained poorly unless you plan to have the engine rebuilt at some point and follow through. The rotary engine in the RX-8 was misunderstood and not maintained properly. They need a lot of oil top-ups (not due to fault), but people treat them like any other engine, and many have died early. The RX-8 is a bit weird, but it's mainly a beautifully balanced RWD car that's fun to drive with an engine that revs out to a 9,000 rpm redline.

Mazda Mazda Mazda Mazda

New: Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback

The idea that the only Ford Mustang a car enthusiast should buy is a V8-powered one is outdated and anyone spouting that point of view is not worth listening to on any subject. That might have been true when Mustangs struggled to go around corners without falling off the road, but the turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang starts at $27,470 and packs 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque out of the box. That's more than you'll get from most new cars without spending a lot more money, and ten hp short of a V8-powered 2001 Mustang GT. Except the modern Mustang is now a genuine world-class sports car and can go around corners exceptionally well. For a new car, the Mustang Ecoboost is up there with the MX-5 in the world of cheap RWD cars.

2018-2022 Ford Mustang Coupe Side Angle Driving Ford 2018-2022 Ford Mustang Coupe Side View Driving Ford Ford Ford
2018-2022 Ford Mustang Coupe Side Angle Driving
2018-2022 Ford Mustang Coupe Side View Driving

Used: Nissan 370Z

Due to tuning and drifting, used 350Zs are starting to dry up unless you can stomach high mileage and abused examples. Good ones are out there, so if you want to go even cheaper, have a look. However, for around $12,000, you can pick up newer 370Z models with around 100,000 miles. If you want a convertible, there are plenty of choices, but most enthusiasts want the extra rigidity of a hard roof. For a 370Z's 332-hp V6 engine, 100,000 miles is not a big deal if it has been kept oiled up and well watered. It's one of the best cheap reliable RWD cars you can buy. As we've pointed out before, though, it might be worth holding off six months for the new Nissan Z to see how it affects 370Z prices.

2013-2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe Front View Driving Nissan 2013-2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe Rear Angle View Nissan Dashboard CarBuzz 2013-2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe Engine Bay Nissan
2013-2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe Front View Driving
2013-2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe Rear Angle View
2013-2019 Nissan 370Z Coupe Engine Bay

New: Toyota GR86 / Subaru BRZ

If a Mazda MX-5 just isn't for you, then another option for pure driving pleasure is the Toyota GR86 or Subaru BRZ. On a list of affordable RWD cars, the Toyota GR86 comes in as close as damnit to the MX-5 at $27,900, while the Subaru is over a grand more expensive, with its Premium trim being the base model. For your money, you get a 228-hp four-cylinder engine, a manual transmission, and a free high-performance track experience. Unlike the MX-5, you get some extra storage space in the form of rear seats. It's perfect for laptops and gym bags but terrible for people back there. If you fold the seats down, though, you can fit a complete set of wheels and tires to use on track days.

CarBuzz CarBuzz 2022 Toyota GR86 Side View Driving Toyota Toyota
2022 Toyota GR86 Side View Driving

Used: Lexus IS 300

You can pick up a used first-generation RWD Lexus IS for peanuts with 200,000+ miles on the clock, but even for a Lexus engine, we would pass. Go back as far as 2002, though, and you can pick up a Lexus IS 300 for under $10,000 with less than 60,000 miles on it. You'll have to worry about rubber parts in the suspension, but the 3.0-liter V6 is from the JZ family and will outlast the car, and the next car it's swapped into if it's regularly oiled and watered. Plus, it will take a tune.

Take care when searching for an IS, as there are different engine types and drivetrain layouts. It's also worth looking at other Lexus models as cheap fast RWD cars. We found a 2014 V8-powered ES for $23,000 with just under 50,000 miles on it. Cars like that tend to have been garaged, cared for, and driven softly by older folks. Chances are you'll only find automatics, but the rest of this list is made up of cheap manual RWD cars.

Lexus Lexus Lexus Lexus

Used: Porsche Boxster

Like the Mazda RX-8, people are terrified of a cheap Porsche Boxster. That fear isn't unjustified, though, as a critical problem will be expensive as it wears a Porsche badge and has a mid-engined layout. As we've explained before, premium cars drop in value, but maintenance costs remain the same. However, one of our staff has put their money where this writer's mouth is and bought a 2001 Boxster 2.7 with only 48,000 miles and the IMS bearing (an expensive replacement and the common fear of failure point) replaced. For around $16,000, you can find a model a few years newer with 60,000 miles on the clock. If you've got new MX-5 or GR86 money to spend, then the first-generation Boxster is well worth contemplating. Just file away a chunk of the leftover money for emergency use. It's a prime example of the best RWD cars you can buy.

Porsche Porsche Porsche Porsche

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