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My goal is to one day purchase a second car for recreational use, something used, with sporty driving dynamics. As I daydream, I like fine-tuning my short-list of options. While I'd love a bright green Lamborghini Huracan, I try to be more practical with my list, as I want it to include cars I could realistically acquire.
I'm thinking of a budget around $20K, but that's not set in stone. My criteria include front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission, relatively lightweight, and a coupe body-style. Practicality is not of much concern.
Without further ado, here are the contenders: Mazda Miata, Subaru BRZ (or its twin), Honda S2000, and Corvette. I would like to give honorable mention to the Toyota Supra, as well as the mid-engine Acura NSX and Lotus Elise. I like these cars and believe each would be just as exhilarating to drive, if not more so, than the aforementioned list. The reason I excluded this trio from my "official" list is because of rarity and, hence, going price.
I'm not actually a big fan of convertibles, but the Miata grabbed my attention for its fun factor. It has a sense of purity and simplicity that I admire. I began respecting this car after having driven a race-prepped BMW Z4. It's a great car with which to learn the finer points of driving, especially if you want to get into amateur racing.
Miatas are ubiquitous. They're a dime a dozen, so you can snatch one at a decent price, especially if you go with an older model. Personally, I'm interested in the third-gen (NC), but would consider a second-gen (NB).
This car is available as a hardtop, but from the listings I've reviewed, it's harder to find one on sale. There was also a turbocharged Mazdaspeed version, but again, a bit harder to find. Not a big deal, though, as I'd probably go with a naturally-aspirated version. My goal with the Miata is maximum fun for minimum dollar.
I often read complaints about the BRZ/FR-S lacking power. The 2.0-liter boxer four has 200 horsepower, but only 151 lb-ft of torque. Sure, I would like to see a little more power from this car, but I don't think much more is necessary, especially if it ends up adding weight to the car. Considering that Mazda has managed a nice weight reduction with the latest-generation Miata, I'd like to see less weight with the next-gen BRZ/FR-S; any bump in power would be a bonus.
The BRZ was never designed for straight-line speed. This is one of those cars that can make you a better driver in terms of car control and making the most of what power you do have. And besides, it has more power than the Miata. I like this car for its engineering and styling. Once the next-gen comes out, hopefully a first-gen will be available at a reasonable cost. If I do get one, I would likely replace the factory tires with stickier summer tires, as I'm not really into the drift scene.
Sadly, production of this automotive gem only lasted about 10 years. With its slick-shifting six-speed and rev-happy engine, car reviews seem unanimous in singing its praise. Honda has proven it can build fun, sporty cars -- in fact, the 1.5L turbo in the new Civic is supposed to be rather good -- so let's hope they once again give us an affordable RWD option.
The initial S2000 (AP1) had a redline of 9000 RPM, which is insane. With the next version (AP2), torque was slightly increased, but redline fell to 8000 RPM (still nothing to sneeze at). Horsepower for the S2000 is higher than the Miata and BRZ. I'm not partial to either version, as I think both would be a blast to drive (especially once the VTEC kicks in), but I've heard the AP2 is a bit more tame. I would probably just go with the best value in terms of mileage and condition.
This is the odd one of the bunch, not just because it's American while the other three are Japanese, but because of the power difference. The previous options are designed to be nimble and to allow drivers to rev out the engines, while the Corvette has a beast of a powerplant.
I've liked Corvettes since my teenage years. I'd consider a C5, but I love the design of the C6, and I also love the idea of having 400+ horsepower in a car weighing no more than 3200 lbs. It would provide a rather different experience than the other cars on this list; while not as tossable, the extra power through the corners and straights should be grin-inducing.
My one concern about the Vette is reliability. I'm not saying this because it's a domestic, but my very first car was a hand-me-down 1990 Chevy Cavalier, which was not a very good vehicle. If I did go with a Corvette, I'd have to put extra effort into ensuring mechanical integrity, although the engine itself is supposed to be pretty solid.
I can't really say which of these I like the most; my mood changes now and then. If you had to choose between one of these four, which would it be? Or is there another car that falls within my criteria you'd opt for? Please share below.