How to have fun on a smaller budget.
Following the reveal of the newly-named 2022 Toyota GR 86, we've now seen both halves of the highly-anticipated Toyota-Subaru follow-up partnership. These two great Japanese automakers previously worked together on two sports cars that would later be nicknamed the "Toyobaru twins." Along with the 2022 Subaru BRZ, the GR 86 enters its second generation with new styling, an improved interior, and most importantly, more power under the hood.
Both models utilize a new 2.4-liter boxer four-cylinder engine producing 231 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in the Toyota and 228 hp with the same torque in the Subaru. These are notable improvements over the outgoing models, but still less than many available used sports cars. Toyota hasn't announced GR 86 pricing yet but the BRZ keeps the same pricing as last year's model, $28,845. That's affordable by new car standards, but we've come up with seven cheaper alternatives from the used market.
The used version of a car will almost always be less expensive, and the Toyobaru twins are no exception. First arriving in the 2013 model year, the Subaru BRZ and Scion FRS packed a 2.0-liter flat-four producing 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. Power later increased to 205 hp and the FRS was renamed the Toyota 86 when the Scion brand was discontinued in 2016. Many enthusiasts complain that these first-generation cars don't have enough power, but they are now affordable enough that it shouldn't matter.
A few high-mileage FRS examples existing under $10,000, but most of the nicer examples cost around $12,000; ditto for the BRZ. Since the 86 didn't arrive until the 2017 model year, those cars are a bit pricier at around $16,000. Prices go significantly higher from there, reaching over $30,000 for special models like the 86 Hakone Edition and BRZ tS.
Miata is always the answer. If you are in the market for an affordable sports car, the Mazda MX-5 Miata should always be on your shopping list. The Miata spans four generations starting in 1989, from NA to the current ND. Each one features a relatively lower power four-cylinder engine (with a turbocharged Mazdaspeed model in the NB generation) but with very little weight to haul around.
Though the convertible body style makes the Miata somewhat compromised for track purposes, that can be fixed with the addition of a roll cage, and other performance upgrades are easy to find. Since Mazda has been building the Miata for so long, there are many to choose from, starting at around $6,000 to $7,000 and going up from there. There has never been a "bad" Miata, but we suggest opting for the original NA model before prices rise. We found nice NA examples ranging from $12,000 to $20,000.
We could have picked any of the three American muscle cars for this list, but the Chevrolet Camaro fits the bill because it feels the most like a European sports car with its excellent Alpha chassis. Despite having more power on tap, a brand-new Camaro costs less than a Subaru BRZ, so used examples are an even better value. We found all manner of the current sixth-generation Camaro starting around $15,000. These cars are available with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 275 hp, a 3.6-liter V6 with 335 hp, or a 6.2-liter V8 with 455 hp.
It's been out of production for over a decade, but the Honda S2000 legacy only grows stronger. This two-seat convertible sports car is extremely coveted, and prices reflect that. It's still possible to find an S2000 for less than $20K but the days of those prices are numbered. We suggest buying one immediately, so you can enjoy this car's impressive VTEC performance before prices exit the atmosphere. The early AP1 generation 240 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a hilarious 9,000-rpm redline. Honda facelifted the S2000 in 2004 with the AP2 model, boring out the displacement to 2.2-liters while improving low-end torque.
The 2 Series Coupe is the closest BMW model to the Subaru BRZ or Toyota GR 86, but it's much more expensive, starting at $35,900. Luckily, the outgoing BMW 1 Series Coupe is now much more attainable. Used prices range between $12,000 to $20,000 for the 128i, 135i, and 135is models. The 1 Series M is still way outside the new BRZ price range. In base 128i form, the 1 Series packed a 3.0-liter inline-six with 230 hp. Stepping up to the 135i added two turbocharges, boosting the output to 300 hp. In 2010, the twin-turbo N54 engine was replaced by a single-turbo N55 unit, which later spawned a rarified 135is version with 320 hp.
It's hard to believe, but you can actually buy a used Porsche Cayman for less than the price of a new Subaru BRZ or Toyota GR 86. The 987 generation cars are considered amongst the purest driver's cars, and prices have now dipped below the $20,000 mark. In base form, the Cayman produces 245 hp from a 2.7-liter flat-six engine. Stepping up to the Cayman S increases the displacement to 3.4-liters and the output to 295 hp. We highly recommend the more potent Cayman S, which is available starting at around $20,000 on the used market.
The Nissan 370Z is possibly the ultimate value on this list. It comes with a 3.7-liter V6 producing 332 hp, or 350 hp in the sporty Nismo model. Though it lacks the BRZ and GR 86's tiny rear seats, the 370Z makes up for it with a sizable trunk and more power. Prices start at around $12,000 on the used market, reaching new BRZ and GR 86 prices for newer examples. Since the 370Z remained virtually unchanged during its life cycle, we recommend saving money by buying an older one.