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There Were So Many More Sporty Cars in the 1990s

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2020

It's hard to believe now, but just 20 years ago, sporty cars were everywhere. Really, truly, everywhere. All automakers had several sporty cars in their lineups, and it wasn't uncommon for many people to drive a sporty car, typically with two doors. Now, all that has changed.

Here's what I mean: Consider Toyota back in the 1990s. There was a sporty compact car, the Paseo, a sporty, slightly larger-than-compact car, the Celica, a true sports car, the Supra, and even a midengine sporty car, the MR2. Chevy sold a coupe version of the compact Cavalier -- and a convertible! That was in addition to the Beretta, the Camaro, the Corvette and the Monte Carlo. In addition to the Mustang, Ford had the Probe and a 2-door version of the Escort called the ZX2. 2-door cars were common.

These days, not so much. Only the legends survive: Mustang, Supra, Camaro, Miata, Corvette. All the other stuff is gone or deemed extraneous. Toyota has a second sporty car, sure, but not four. There's no Cavalier convertible or even coupe. The Mazda MX-6 is gone and so's the MX-3, and on and on down the lineup. The Mitsubishi Eclipse is an SUV. I could go on.

It's an interesting shift. While most publications are lamenting the loss of the sedan -- and, indeed, that is lamentable, and interesting and applicable to far more people than the loss of the sporty car -- the "sort of" sporty coupe or convertible has been almost completely lost. These days, if you want a sporty-looking car, you also get a truly sporty car, like a Mustang. There's no more "entry level" in the world of performance.

I suppose the reason for this is that people interested in a "cool-looking" car have now switched to SUVs. Those have taken up the title of the "cool-looking" car of the 2000s and 2010s, leaving the entry-level sporty car completely without buyers. I don't necessarily think this is a shame, but I do think it's been a fast shift in the market: In 20 years, we've gone from an abundance of these things to basically none, and now it's almost hard to imagine a time (or believe there ever was a time) when the car industry was basically filled with coupes and convertibles.

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There Were So Many More Sporty Cars in the 1990s - Autotrader
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