Since I started these CARFAX Finds, I’ve kept it fairly practical. Which is all good for helpful consumer advice, but what if you’re looking for something impractical? This is a perfect time to find some clean sports cars for good prices. I haven’t totally lost the point of these posts, mind you.
The three cars below aren’t muscle cars or quarter-mile superstars, but they promote driving enjoyment and, in some cases, the ability to lose the roof in a matter of seconds. Above all, they’re about having fun in a relatively effortless way.
You can’t start talking about painless sports cars without talking about the Mazda MX-5 Miata. It redefined the affordable roadster category a quarter of a century ago, thanks to its back-to-basics philosophy teamed with modern reliability and ease of use. Yet the Miata has hardly grown rotund and complacent with age. A new model is coming for 2016 that promises to be just as pure as the original. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid picking up one of the older, third-generation cars. And you can, for less than $20,000.
The great thing about a Miata is that they’re simple. And that means buying one will be one of the most effortless experiences you can have with owning a sports car. Sure, the trunk is tiny and fuel economy isn’t the best for something this small. But all of that goes away when you think about how good it is to drive and that you didn’t spend much more than you would have on a similarly aged compact sedan.
Another purists’ kind of sports car has come onto the market in the last few years, thanks to the Scion FR-S and its twin, the Subaru BRZ. Like the Miata, the FR-S and BRZ take the view that a sports car should be about handling and precision rather than outright performance. And also, having fun shouldn’t cost the earth. Despite a starting price of about $25,000, you can find a two-year-old FR-S for well below the $20,000 mark.
Epic is a strong word for the FR-S, since it really is more about subtle driving fun. Maybe that’s why Scion is struggling to move them right now, and why you can get one for cheap. It’s a shame that people expect more power out of the FR-S, because it’s good for what it is. And the ease of use continues inside, with perfectly usable space for two – forget about the “Plus 2” seats in the back, they’re not for humans. Or humans you like very much.
And avoid ones that have been overly tuned or bodykitted up. That said, the FR-S lends itself to personalization, something Scion loves to promote.
What both of these cars lack, however, is much in the way of glitz and glamour. And for just a bit more money, it can be had in the form of the Audi TT.
The “TT” in the name is rumored to take inspiration from the Isle of Man TT motorcycle course, which explains this ad. Despite its front-wheel drive origins, the TT is an exciting car in its own, good-looking way. It has that ability to make you look good and feel good about yourself, even if it isn’t the last word in performance. But it will put some kind of smile on your face.
And that’s what’s great about these cars. For sensible money, you can have cars that aren’t quite sensible, but a lot more fun.