If most sports car purists are to be believed, motoring fun is hard to attain in anything less than a $100,000 sports car. Sure, a super-charged Welsh-built V8-powered European sports car is great fun. But for those of us who actual work for a living, it’s unrealistic in more ways than one. Luckily, however, there is still a lot of excitement to be had behind the wheel of less expensive cars. In order to demonstrate this point, we put together a list of the top-five best sports coupes under $25,000.
2012 Ford Mustang – $22,310
The 2012 V6-powered Mustang, like the original 1965 Mustang, does things differently. It is by far the best handling stock Mustang ever built. Its 3.7-liter V6 makes a massive 305 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque. With the six-speed manual transmission, you’ll find yourself hitting 60 MPH in nearly five seconds, which by any measurement is quick. Impressively, the EPA estimates the V6-powered Mustang will achieve 31 MPG on the highway, proving you don’t have to sacrifice driving enjoyment to own a fuel-efficient sports coupe.
2012 Mini Coupe – $22,000
The newest derivation in the Mini lineup is the Mini Coupe, complete with what Mini is calling the “helmet roof.” Once you get over the initial shock of its design; get behind the wheel and you’ll be shocked again when you find its even more fun to drive than its “big” brother, the Mini Cooper. Though at the base price you only get a 121 horsepower engine, it’s a very athletic, peppy, and high-revving engine. The Mini Coupe, like all other Minis, has go-kart-style handling that is light and nimble. Even the base model is a great choice for someone who wants a fun little car that will stand out from the crowd.
2012 Mazda Miata – $23,190
These little Japanese drop tops are widely considered one of the best sports cars of all time. The Miata’s 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine hasn’t changed much over the years and only pumps out 167 horsepower. But what it lacks in power, it easily makes up for in sheer driving enjoyment. At the base price, you don’t get much in the Miata: air-conditioning and two air bags. Clearly then, it’s not the most luxurious sports coupe, but its stripped-down physique only heightens the driving experience. Plus, fewer add-ons mean fewer things to break or go wrong, making it a virtually worry-free sports coupe.
2012 Hyundai Genesis Coupe – $22,250
In sharp, high-speed corners, the Genesis Coupe will still have poise and grip long after your heart has jumped out of your chest and made its get-away. The base model Genesis Coupe comes with a turbo-charged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine making 210 horsepower and a surprising 223 foot-pounds of torque. The engine is a little buzzy and turbo lag can get a bit annoying, but if you keep the revs up, you’ll never want to drive anything else. Plus you get Hyundai’s 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is nothing to shake a stick at.
2012 Volkswagen GTI – $23,695
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is something special. It is one of the few VWs you can buy in the US that is built in Germany. It has a fantastic multi-link rear suspension system and a stiff chassis that make it exceedingly fun on a twisty bit of road. It also has a 2.0-liter turbo-charged four-cylinder engine that allows the GTI to be both fuel efficient and very peppy. Yes, the GTI is the most expensive sports coupe on this list. But a few extra hundred dollars get you the best interior on the list, the most usable interior space, and some of the snazziest wheels this side of the Rhine.