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Best Affordable Sports Cars | CarMax

Sports cars are the stunning, high-performance vehicles we have all dreamed of owning. You can stop dreaming and start driving with this list of budget-friendly sports cars. And there are so many styles of sports cars to choose from. All are striking, powerful, and ready to put the biggest smile on your face.

Explore our list of the 10 best affordable sports cars for 2020 shoppers (with average prices less than $30,000), based on CarMax vehicle sales data from May 1, 2019 through October 31, 2019.1 Be aware that certain model years and upper trim configurations may bring the prices of some of these vehicles over the average price.

  1. Nissan 350Z
  2. BMW Z4
  3. Subaru BRZ
  4. Mazda MX-5 Miata
  5. Nissan 370Z
  6. Mini Cooper Countryman
  7. Volkswagen GTI
  8. Subaru WRX
  9. Chevrolet Camaro
  10. Ford Mustang

10

Nissan 350Z

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Nissan 350Z | CarMax

The Nissan 350Z is a small, two-seat vehicle that’s aggressive looking and built for serious fun. While it was discontinued in 2008, it still has a reputation as one impressive sports car. The 2008 model comes standard with a powerful 3.5L six-cylinder engine that makes more than 300 hp. In a car that weighs less than 3,400 pounds, this engine gives the car plenty of get-up-and-go. The 2008 350Z Touring boasts the following features:

  • Heated front seats
  • Leather interior
  • Bluetooth® capability
  • BOSE® sound system

09

BMW Z4

Best Affordable Sports Cars: BMW Z4 | CarMax

The BMW Z4 returned to the US market in 2019 as part of its third generation, and it is safe to say that BMW's flagship convertible is back in a big way. The 2019 model keeps things very simple, with a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine outputting 255 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque through a rear-wheel-drive chassis and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Additionally, as a BMW, it doesn't skimp on features or everyday practicality. The standard 2019 sDrive30i includes as standard:

  • 18-inch wheels
  • Run-flat tires
  • Automatic climate control
  • BMW iDrive infotainment system
  • Cruise control
  • 9.9 cubic feet of luggage volume

08

Subaru BRZ

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Subaru BRZ | CarMax

The Subaru BRZ proves you don't need the biggest engine or horsepower figures to give you a thrilling driving experience. First introduced in 2013, the 2019 model comes standard with rear-wheel drive and a 2.0L four-cylinder boxer engine that delivers 205 horsepower and 156 lb.-ft. of torque allied to a six-speed manual transmission.

Three trims are available on the 2017-2019 models, and standard features even on the base Premium models include:

  • Cruise control
  • 6.2-inch touchscreen
  • 17-inch wheels with summer performance tires
  • Eight-speaker sound system with two USB ports, auxiliary audio jack, and a media player interface.

07

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Mazda MX-5 Miata | CarMax

Since debuting in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has stuck to a very simple formula: small convertible car, big driving thrills. The MX-5 Miata sports two seats, rear-wheel drive, a stylish convertible body style, and a pure driving experience that few other cars can match—that has been the MX-5's design philosophy since the beginning and the current generation, first introduced in 2016, stays true to that philosophy, more aggressive styling.

The 2019 model packs a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with an improved power output of 181 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque, up 26 horsepower and 3 lb.-ft. of torque from 2018 models. The 2019 MX-5 is easy on fuel too, achieving an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined when equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission and an estimated 29 mpg combined with the six-speed standard manual transmission.2

And though the MX-5 focuses on no-frills driving, you still get a strong feature list as standard including:

  • Rearview camera (2019 model only)
  • Seven-inch touchscreen and infotainment interface (2019 model only)
  • Cruise control (2017-2019 models)
  • Bluetooth® (2017-2019 models)
  • Six-speaker sound system (2017-2019 models)

06

Nissan 370Z

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Nissan 370z | CarMax

Nissan's line of Z-Cars has been one of the most well-known series of two-door-coupe sports cars. On 2012-to-2019 models, a 3.7L V6 engine delivers 332 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque right out the box, while the NISMO model beefs up the same engine to output 350 horsepower and 276 lb.-ft. of torque. Add that to a rear-wheel-drive chassis and either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission, and you get a pure expression of classic sports car motoring—front-engine, rear-wheel drive, no frills, all thrills.

You also get plenty as standard on the 370Z, including:

  • 18-inch wheels (2017-2019 models)
  • Rearview camera (2019 model only)
  • Cruise control (2017-2019 models)
  • Automatic climate control (2017-2019 models)
  • Six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity (2019 model only - 2017 models offer a four-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity as standard)

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05

Mini Cooper Countryman

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Mini Cooper Countryman | CarMax

The Mini Cooper Countryman packs sports-car performance and fun driving experiences into a non-traditional sports car package. In this case, a compact SUV blended with the original hatchback style of the Mini Cooper creating a stylish crossover with some serious performance credentials underneath.

The 2019 model year includes four separate models each with three distinct trim levels, and for this list, we'll focus on the John Cooper Works model thanks to its 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged engine packing 228 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. This is allied to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, alongside standard all-wheel drive.

Additionally, the second-generation (2017 to present) Cooper Countryman offers:

  • A chilled glovebox
  • Automatic headlights and wipers
  • Cruise control
  • Dynamic traction control (S and JCW models only)

04

Volkswagen GTI

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Volkswagen Golf GTI | CarMax

First introduced in 2015 and now in its seventh generation, the GTI remains a popular choice when it comes to hot hatches. The 2017-2019 models come standard with a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, capable of:

  • 228 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque (210 hp on 2017 models)
  • Mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission (six-speed dual-clutch automatic on 2017 models)
  • An EPA-estimated 27 mpg combined with the 2.0L engine and either transmission (2017-2019 models).2

The small hatchback body and front-wheel-drive chassis give a responsive driving experience. Combine that with a generous 93 cubic feet of passenger volume and 16 cubic feet of luggage volume, and you've got a practical yet fun daily driver.


03

Subaru WRX

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Subaru WRX | CarMax

The Subaru WRX offers the performance underpinnings to rival any full-blown sports car. The third generation introduced in 2015 continues the tradition in style. All-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission come standard, and for max power, you'll want the 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine on the STI models. In the 2017 model it's capable of producing 305 hp, and in the 2019 model it's up slightly to 310 hp. Other standard features on the STI include:

  • 18-inch wheels (2017 models only: 2019 models have 19-inch wheels as standard)
  • Brembo® brakes (2017-19 models)
  • Sports suspension (2017-19 models)
  • Limited-slip front and rear differentials (2017-19 models)

And being a four-door sedan, you've got space to seat several passengers comfortably, too—97 cubic feet of passenger volume to be exact.


02

Chevrolet Camaro

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Chevrolet Camaro | CarMax

The Chevrolet Camaro has come a long way since it arrived in 1967. The sixth generation, introduced in 2016, evolved the muscle car legend into a true sports car while keeping the roaring V8 engine and aggressive styling cues of its muscle-car heritage.

The 2017-2019 models of Camaro come with a good variety of engine choices, including:

  • 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (275 horsepower)
  • 3.6L V6 (335 horsepower)
  • 6.2L V8 (455 horsepower)
  • 6.2L supercharged V8 (640-650 horsepower, ZL1 models only).

And having learned lessons in the handling department from its sibling the Corvette, the modern Camaro is just as potent in the corners as it is on the highway.


01

Ford Mustang

Best Affordable Sports Cars: Ford Mustang | CarMax

One look at the current generation, introduced in 2015, demonstrates why the Ford Mustang continues to be a popular choice of sports car. A range of engine options, a wide range of features, and sporty muscle-car styling make it a great choice. The 2017-2019 models have the following choices of engines and drivetrains:

  • 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine (310 horsepower, EcoBoost trims)
  • 5.0L V8 (435 horsepower on 2017 models, 460 horsepower on 2019 models, GT trims only)
  • Choice of a six-speed manual or ten-speed automatic transmission
  • All running through a rear-wheel-drive platform with independent rear suspension.

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1Based on prices on carmax.com from May 1, 2019 through October 31, 2019. Actual prices may vary based on your selected model year, features and trim packages. Prices do not include taxes, tags, titles, and any applicable fees.
2Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates when vehicles sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov for details.
Unless otherwise noted, information relating to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.