Even an affordable sports car can have cheaper alternatives.
The Toyota 86 (and its Subaru BRZ twin) are heralded as "affordable" sports cars. With starting prices of $26,455 and $25,595 respectively, the Toyobaru twins are reasonably priced, but even this budget may be too high for first-time car buyers. Opt for the sportier Toyota 86 TRD Edition or Subaru BRZ tS, and the price easily approaches $35,000. Everyone deserves a sports car, no matter their budget. That is why we have come up with seven cheaper 86/BRZ alternatives on the used market.
For less than $20,000, most people don't expect their sports car to offer heart-stopping straight-line performance. The 86 and BRZ only produce 205 horsepower from a 2.0-liter flat-four, but a used C6 generation Corvette produces nearly double this figure. We found plenty of C6 generation models for less than $20,000, all powered by a 6.0-liter LS2 V8 pumping out 400 hp. Who said affordable sports cars had to be slow?
We are eagerly awaiting Nissan's replacement for the 370Z, but the current car is still remarkably fun to drive. The 370Z is the second most powerful car on this list, courtesy of its 3.7-liter 332-hp V6. Because it has been on the market since 2009, prices are now extremely affordable and can be found for as little as $13,000. It may lack the rear seats of the 86 and BRZ, but it makes up for it with an extra 127 hp.
Though it may seem hard to believe, you can actually buy a used Porsche for less than the price of a new Toyota. The Porsche Cayman may have two fewer seats than the Toyota or Subaru, but it does have an extra trunk up front. We found first-generation Cayman and Cayman S models for less than $20,000, both of which are more powerful than the 86 twins. The base Cayman is powered by a 2.7-liter 245-hp flat-six, while the S has a larger 3.4-liter engine with 295 hp. Aside from the power, the Cayman is considered one of the best driver's cars for any money with its mid-engine layout and razor-sharp Porsche handling and chassis balance.
The BMW 3 Series has grown beyond its roots as a nimble sports coupe as it spawned the 4 Series, but the 1 Series picked up the fun, small-car mantle. The lesser 128i was no slouch with a 230-hp 3.0-liter inline-six, but we'd opt for the 135i with the 300-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six. It may cost a lot more to maintain than a new Toyota, but the extra power and tunability may be worth it for some people. Cheaper 135i models are powered by a twin-turbo N54 inline-six, but we suggest spending a bit more and opting for the twin-scroll N55 engine found on 2011 and newer models. Do some digging, and you can even find the 320-hp 135 is for less than $25,000.
Unlike the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, the Honda S2000 wasn't build to be an "affordable" sports car. When it was new, the S2000 was priced around $35,000, but used prices have sunk well below $20,000. Even though it came out way back in 2000, the S2000, with its 2.0-liter 240 hp inline-four, is still more powerful than the 86 twins. The S2000 wasn't just more potent, it revved to 9,000 rpm in the AP1 generation and a still-impressive 8,200 rpm in the AP2 generation.
The word 'Miata' stands for "Miata is always the answer." Just kidding, it actually means "reward" in Old High German. Rewarding is exactly the word we would use to describe driving a Mazda Miata. A used current-generation ND Miata can be found for as little as $17,000, but the previous NC generation from 2006 to 2015 is the best bargain at the moment. The NC was powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with around 160 hp. Early examples with high mileage can be found for as little as around $6,000, but $10,000 is enough to buy a really nice one.
When the 86 twins first arrived in the US, they were sold as the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S. When Toyota discontinued the Scion brand, it took the FR-S and rebadged it as the 86. If you can't afford a new 86 or BRZ, just get a used FR-S. Prices have sunk to around $10,000 on the low end, which is less than half the price of a new 86. You may be losing an extra 5 hp, but it is worth it to pay half the price.