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Buying a Car: What Does Sporty Really Mean?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2015

If you're interested in buying a car, you may hear a vehicle described as sporty. This often brings up images of high-performance driving and race-car-like acceleration, but what makes a car sporty? More importantly, is it good or bad to own a sporty car? We have some answers.

What Makes a Car Sporty?

To some people, a car is sporty if it has sporty looks. For instance, Honda calls its Civic coupe sporty, even though the economy car largely uses the same mechanical components as the more practical Civic sedan, from the engine and suspension to the brakes and transmission.

To us, sporty means the car has a few upgrades beyond styling. One is engine power: a sporty car usually offers more power than a standard model. A sporty car also offers improved suspension, enhanced brakes and possibly additional stylistic touches, like a rear spoiler or side skirts, to distinguish it from a standard model.

The Drawbacks of Sporty

To some drivers, those features may sound pretty good. Better suspension, better brakes and more power means enhanced performance and more fun behind the wheel. Those are some benefits of a sporty car, but there are a few drawbacks, too.

For instance, if a sports car uses beefed-up brakes, suspension and tires, those items cost more to repair or replace than they would in a normal car. Additionally, sporty suspension may lead to poorer ride quality, while sporty brakes and tires will almost certainly wear faster than regular brakes and tires typically do. Then, there's the engine. A high-performance engine will likely offer poorer gas mileage than a normal vehicle's powerplant, and it'll probably cost more to fix, as well.

Should You Buy a Sporty Car?

If you're interested in buying a car with a sporty flair, you should carefully consider all these items before signing the papers. Don't buy a car just because you like the look or the speed. You may not want a sporty car if you're not ready for a harsh ride or if you don't want to spend extra money for tires, brakes, suspension components, repairs and fuel.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: What Does Sporty Really Mean? - Autotrader