Sports cars can transform a mundane commute into a thrill ride. No matter the price, the cars’ dramatic styling, athletic handling, and spirited engines can bring out the aspiring race-car driver in anyone. With today’s wide choice of sporty models and genuine sports cars, you should be able to find one that delivers the right blend of performance and practicality for you. The exhilarating Porsche Boxster, for example, is all about drop-top driving fun, thanks to its great handling. But if you need something with more room, there are plenty of sporty four-doors and hatchbacks with enough practicality for you to pick up the kids from school or a weeks’ worth of groceries, and still enjoy the long way home.
Drawbacks: Sports cars force a compromise in your life. Passenger and cargo space is a secondary consideration to styling and performance. Typically, they ride more stiffly than regular cars. Access can require yoga-grade flexibility, and visibility is sometimes compromised.Porsche Boxster
This mid-engined roadster was an instant hit at our test track. Its quick, direct steering gives it super-agile handling. The 2013 redesign brought a more-palatable ride, better noise isolation, a better-finished interior, and slightly better fuel economy. It’s now better suited to tackle the everyday grind than ever before, with two trunks and one of the slickest-operating convertible tops in the business. Some testers found the seats narrow, and the center console is cluttered with small buttons. Although it’s more affordable than Porsche’s flagship 911, the Boxster is far from entry-level: Be aware that prices climb quickly with options.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Price as tested: $59,600
Overall mpg: 23
The MX-5 Miata defines the modern roadster, delivering a grin-inducing, open-air driving experience. It’s hard to find a car that’s more agile and fun to drive. The Miata’s agility comes from its direct, communicative steering, light weight, and lively powertrain. Although the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine might seem modest on paper, it provides spirited performance on the road. Stick with the crisp manual transmission for the pure driving involvement and thrill it delivers. The retractable hardtop operates easily, but it adds about $3,000 to the car’s price, compared with getting the standard cloth top. And it does little to reduce noise. A redesign will be introduced soon.
Ford Mustang GT
Price as tested: $31,350
Overall mpg: 28
Celebrating 50 years as an American motoring icon, the Ford Mustang continues to offer potent and affordable, rear-wheel-drive performance. It’s available as a coupe or convertible, with even the base version boasting more than 300 horsepower. But the real thrill is the GT, with its muscular 420-hp V8 engine, agile handling, invigorating engine note, and slick manual shifter. Track-ready hardware and numerous comfort amenities are available, but even a lightly optioned Mustang delivers a high fun factor while keeping the price reasonable. Its relatively easy cabin access and good visibility even make it an acceptable daily driver. Look for a redesigned Mustang in late 2014.
Price as tested: $36,310
Overall mpg: 22
Ford Fiesta sT
Ford Mustang V6
You don’t have to spend big money to buy a car that’s fun to drive. In fact, several of our favorites cost thousands less than the average new car. Take the Ford Fiesta ST, a subcompct that has been given a fast-and-furious makeover. This hot hatchback delivers sports-car performance with super-crisp handling, a musical exhaust note, a terrific shifter, and instant power from its turbo four-cylinder engine. For a more classic ride, the Mustang V6 is a tempting package, delivering rewarding power and agile handling. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins are exhilarating rear-drive sports coupes that emphasize handling agility over outright power, although reliability has been below average.
Skip these: Tempting as the Chevrolet Camaro may be, styling takes precedence over livability, and its reliability is below average. The Nissan Z is long in the tooth, and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe rides too harshly.
Visit our 2014 Autos Spotlight special section to find Top Picks 2014, Who makes the best cars, Best & worst new cars, Best & worst used cars, Used car reliability, New car Ratings & road tests, plus our reports on extended car warranties and self-driving cars.
This report also appeared in the April 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
More from Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports' Spotlight on cars
Best & worst car values
5 great cars that won't bust your budget
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- Porsche Boxster
- Sports cars