Editorial

What's Going To Happen To The Budget Sports Car?

Younger buyers today prefer some utility - that means small crossovers.

There was a lot of hype a few years ago when Toyota and Subaru were about to launch the GT86/BRZ and US-spec Scion FR-S. Affordable sports car fans hoped the threesome would revive the segment amongst automakers. They missed the days of Triumphs and MGs. The beloved Mazda MX-5 had no competition because automakers couldn’t make the business case. But in the wake of the economic recession, there seemed to be a decent chance there could be a back-to-basics sports car revival. Is that still true today?

Well, the bad news is that sales of the Toyabaru triplets haven’t quite met expectations. Fortunately, second generation models are planned. What’s more, the recently revealed fourth-gen MX-5 looks promising with a back-to-basics approach of its own. Fiat just announced that it just inked a deal to use the MX-5’s platform for a new Spider. Alfa Romeo is also planning a new small roadster of its own. It all sounds great but here’s the problem: automakers are discovering that, overall, today’s car buyers are more interested in a combination of utility, sporty handling and fun acceleration. Translation: Jeep Wranglers and (at the higher end) Range Rover Evoques.

Why else do you think there are a growing number of compact crossovers hitting the market? Give them a decent powertrain setup and they’ll sell well. Heck, Subaru toyed around with this idea with its Cross Sport concept, which is really nothing more than a jacked-up BRZ. So is the affordable sports car dead? No. Will it ever be gone completely? Probably not. Will the number of brands producing them continue to go down? Very likely.

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