Walked past a newsstand lately? Chances are the entire automotive section has been emblazoned with the same glossy, hi-res shots of one of the Toyobaru twins: the Scion FR-S or the Subaru BR-Z. Both the Firs and the Birz are being loudly lauded as a return to cheap, rear-wheel-drive, sports-car fun; we haven’t had cars this good for years! Or so the taglines go.
Two problems. First off, spin a little track three on Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Both cars are very, very good, but neither one is the paragon of sporting perfection they’re being held up to be, and they’re certainly not a perfect fit for every driver.
Second, the queue for these cars is as long as the Trans-Canada; you’d have a better shot at getting tickets to The Black Keys in a twenty-seat venue. But fret not: as much as the magazines would have you believe there’s no better bang for your buck, here are five rides that “Fight the Power.”
Ford Mustang V6
The pony car punches above its weight when spec’d out with that fire-breathing 420 hp V8, but here’s a surprise: in the motoring community, it’s the V6 that gets props.
With 305 hp on tap, the six-cylinder ‘Stang is no longer the lightweight option. Nimbler than the V8, add fuel-consumption ratings of 11.1 (hwy)/6.9 L (city)/100 km, and you might be asking yourself, “Why would I buy a four-cylinder again?
Good question. It’s a steed that can gallop, but nibbles at its oats.
Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec
When the previous-gen Gen-Coupe hit the streets, expectations were high. It didn’t quite live up to them. (Sound familiar?) “Face-lifted” to look like Billy Bass for the 2013 year, the Genesis is now packing something worthy underhood: a 274 hp turbocharged power plant.
What’s more, the R-Spec model rocks some serious race hardware with Brembo Brakes, stiff suspension, limited-slip diff and 19” alloys. And yes, this package puts it nearly $3K more than the FR-S, but you tell me, are you more likely to get a deal on a Hyundai or the sold-out Toyobaru?
Mazda MX-5 SV
It’s the benchmark for rear-drive, lightweight fun, and has been for over two decades. Ten minutes behind the wheel reveals why: the MX-5 is analog driving freneticism at its finest.
Butched-up with piano-black trim, gunmetal wheels and blacked-out roof, the new SV version dispels the MX-5’s chick-car image. Bolt on some sticky rubber-shod rims and a lowered suspension, and you’ll run rings round heavier hitters at the track.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Not all Toyobaru intenders want to be track-rats. Something small, cheap and practical that’s fun-to-drive? This calls for a little Italian flair.
The Abarth version of the Fiat 500 is a tiny car raised by a family of Lamborghinis. As such, it’s loud and obnoxious, clinging to the tarmac the way a Yorkshire Terrier clings to your ankle. It’s motoring espresso – ten gallons of awesome brewed in a four-ounce cup. Avanti!
The Used Option: Nissan 350Z
At about $31 grand after taxes, the FR-S isn’t exactly cheap, and it doesn’t yet have the low financing rates that can make a new car attractive. Take your purchasing power to the used market and see what you can turn up.
The Nissan 350Z has 300+ hp, a forty-year sporting pedigree and curb appeal in spades. Don’t think it’s not practical either — the Z’s hatchback layout makes the most of limited cargo room.
Image courtesy of needoptic.