They may not be Ferraris, but our cheapest option starts at under $1,000.
When you think about buying a mid-engined car, you may instantly think of the cost. Cars that utilize a mid-engine layout typically wear a Lamborghini or Ferrari badge, and even the "affordable" mid-engined cars from Lotus and Porsche still cost well over $50,000. But what if you really wanted to experience the sensation of a mid-engined car for a fraction of the cost? Could you possibly buy one for less than $20,000...or for even less than $5,000? We have found five mid-engined cars that are affordable for the "everyman."
The Toyota MR2 was a mid-engined, two-seat sports car from the company that you would least expect to build something so cool. The MR2 lasted for three generations, from 1984 to 2007. Unfortunately, Toyota no longer makes the MR2. We think that's a shame. Although the third generation model wasn't our favorite, it was basically a cheaper, more reliable, and less powerful Porsche Boxster. The cheapest MR2 that we could find was a very high-mileage 1993 second-generation model with an automatic, but it did have a price of only $3,250. If you do look for a second-gen MR2 we suggest paying more for a turbo model with the 200 horsepower 2.0L 3S-GTE engine.
The Pontiac Fiero was often referred to as "the poor man's Ferrari." This was just because of its mid-engined layout. Honestly, that insult may have been a bit too generous. If we wanted to be mean, we could call the Fiero a poor man's Toyota MR2. The Fiero had a very short lifespan, sharing our world from 1984 to 1988. The word Fiero means "proud" in Italian, or "wild/ fierce" in Spanish, but people mainly remember the car for having cooling issues and catching fire. The Fiero was not a success, but many people modify them by sticking in a V8 or building a kit car to resemble something more expensive. We found a 1987 Fiero for just $5,500, making it the perfect candidate for this list and a cool project car.
What would you say if we told you that Toyota was building a mid-engined supercharged car? What if we told you that it already built it back in the 1990s, and that said car was a minivan? The Toyota Previa was actually a mid-engined, RWD minivan that came with an optional 2.4-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine making 158 horsepower. As a bonus you could also get AWD and a five-speed manual transmission. We found a 1995 Previa LE All-Trac for less than $1,000. It does have 316,000 miles, but you can easily find lower-mileage examples that are still dirt cheap. We understand that you probably won't want to buy a Previa, even if it is mid-engined and RWD, but it is cool to know that Toyota built it.
The first Porsche Boxster went on sale as a 1997 model. Since then, the Boxster has been a staple of Porsche's lineup despite the criticism that it is only for people who can't afford a 911. The Boxster is an excellent car in its own right and prices are extremely low. High-mileage Boxsters can easily be found for less than $10,000, but you should probably spend more to avoid buying a problem car. We found a nice 2002 model with 56,000 miles and a manual transmission for $12,950. The base Boxster came with a 2.7-liter flat-six with 217 horsepower. It is not the most powerful car, but it does have that all-important Porsche badge and the perfect 50-50 weight distribution of a mid-engined car.
The Lotus Esprit had an extremely long life from 1976 to 2004. In that time frame, 10,675 examples were built. The fourth generation began in 1987 and came with a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 215 horsepower. We found a 1988 SE model for just under $20,000. The car only has 22,000 miles on it. If you want an affordable mid-engined car that actually looks like an expensive supercar, the Lotus Esprit is an extremely cool option.