Combine "sports car" with "user-friendly" and, in most forums, you have yourself an oxymoron. Sports cars are – by definition – sporty, but rarely do they qualify as easy to use. One that did and, regrettably, has faded from the scene is Mazda's RX-8. Initially launched in 2003, and out of production within roughly a decade, the RX-8 was perhaps the rotary-powered answer to a question few – at the time – were asking. Happily, Mazda produced it anyway.
With its front mid-engined platform, freestyle doors and +2 seating, the RX-8 came as close to offering day-in, day-out utility as anything this side of an extended-cab pickup. And its nod to practicality did little, if anything, to diminish the essential goodness of the menu. Mazda's design team provided a high-revving rotary, nimble handling and almost telepathic steering, combining them into a frenzy-filled dollop of locomotion. The result was no more than mildly fast and furious, but in properly motivated hands the RX-8 delivered a high level of entertainment for a relatively modest outlay.
This for-sale example, a 2004 RX-8 with automatic transmission, requires just $6,000 and – not incidentally – the ability to buy into its premise. The automatic will be perceived by many to be a negative, but might also suggest a more gentle ownership history. And without benefit of a clutch and shifter, the new owner can concentrate on the driving, with the Mazda's absurdly direct steering and slot-car cornering. The asking price is on the high side (book average is about $5K), but know that similar cars might bring upwards of $8,000. And at 91,000 miles it's been used, but perhaps not used up.