Who says you can’t have fun and be economical too?

LISTEN 14:01

Fuel efficiency may not be the prime concern when looking to purchase a sports car, but these days the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Long gone are the days when you had to sacrifice pretty much everything in order to drive a fun car that put a smile on your face - these days you can have your sporty cake and also eat it, and these are the cars you can do it in. All models below blend twisty road enjoyment with some manner of fuel-sipping tech on top of their improved practicality and day-to-day usability compared to equivalent models of decades past.decades past.

Porsche 911 Carrera

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Porsche 911

After the 2015 refresh, all base model Porsche 911 (991) Carreras come with a 370-horsepower, turbocharged, 3.0-liter engine. The base model can sprint to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with the optional PDK gearbox and can hit a top speed of 182 mph while maintaining an EPA estimated 30 mpg on the highway. These figures are possible thanks to the 911 being 110 pounds lighter than the outgoing generation and that smaller, turbocharged engine. Despite its lower weight, it has a larger wheelbase and a new, mostly aluminum platform (only the third all-new platform in the 911’s history.)

The current 911 is a highly desirable car that any enthusiast would like to own and, while it’s definitely pricey, you really do know what you’re paying for.

No other sports car currently available can match its blend of pedigree, fun, practicality, or efficiency. This current model is on its way out and its replacement (due out next year) is reportedly going to feature standard mild hybrid tech that will make it even faster and more frugal.

It is worth noting that the base Carrera, with its 3.0-liter flat-six, is more economical than the smaller Porsche 718 Cayman, which has a 2.0-liter flat-four, yet only manages 28 mpg on the highway.

Engine Twin-turbocharged boxer 6
Horsepower 370 HP @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 331 LB-FT @ 1,700- 5,000 rpm
Acceleration (0-60 mph) 4.2 seconds
Top Speed 182 mph
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 22/30/25

Read our full review on the 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera

Jaguar F-Type 2.0-liter turbo

2017 Jaguar F-Type High Resolution Exterior
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Jaguar’s fairly new, turbocharged, four-cylinder F-Type is next, with a highway efficiency rating of 30 mpg, a figure that is equal to that of the Porsche.

It uses a smaller, 2.0-liter engine with 296 horsepower that sends the British coupe to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds before topping out at 155 mph - it is the most powerful four-pot ever used in a road-going Jaguar, and it’s part of its Ingenium family of engines.

It is claimed to be some 16 percent more frugal than the V-6 model thanks to the use of several fuel saving pieces of tech: an electrohydraulic valvetrain, an exhaust manifold that’s integrated into the cylinder head that reduces warmup times and boosts efficiency, and a twin-scroll turbocharger complete with low-friction ceramic ball bearings.

Four-cylinder F-Types are also around 52 kg / 115 lbs lighter than V6-equipped cars, and this helps in literally all areas that matter for a performance car: cornering, acceleration, and braking. The F-Type may not be the sharpest handler around (it’s really more of a grand tourer), but the four-cylinder should have the best steering and be the lightest on its feet out of all engine variants available.

2018 Jaguar F-Type 2.0-liter turbo specifications

Engine 2.0-liter inline-four engine
Horsepower 296 HP @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 295 LB-FT @ 1,500- 4,500 rpm
Acceleration (0-60 mph) 5.4 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 23/30/26

Read our full review on the 2018 Jaguar F-Type 2.0-liter turbo

Audi TT Coupe Quattro

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The Audi TT Coupe Quattro is able to return 30 mpg on the highway too, despite having a fuel-sapping all-wheel-drive system. In fact, it is the only all-wheel drive vehicle to make this list, with its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four sending 220 horsepower to all four wheels via a standard six-speed, dual-clutch gearbox.

Its benchmark sprint time is 5.3 seconds and, in the U.S., its top speed is limited to 130 mph.

This car isn’t about straight line speed, but rather accelerating off the mark and out of corners.

When attacking a twisty road you know you can rely on its great traction to just pull you out of corners. Standard front-rear torque vectoring aids in this respect.

Features that sweeten the package include Audi’s gorgeous Virtual Cockpit (a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster,) a pop-up rear spoiler, and clean, understated (interior and exterior) styling which will keep it from looking dated for years to come.

2018 Audi TT Coupe Quattro specifications

Engine 2.0-liter inline-four
Transmission Six-speed S tronic®
Horsepower 220 HP @ 4,500-6,200 RPM
Torque 258 @ 1,600-4,400 RPM
Acceleration (0-60 mph) 5.3 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 23/27/25

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi TT Coupe Quattro

Chevrolet Camaro 2.0-liter

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You can now order the Chevy Camaro with what may sound like a puny 2.0-liter four-pot turbo, yet this engine delivers decent punch and even better efficiency.

Chevrolet claims that with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, the turbo Camaro returns 31 mpg on the highway; six-speed manual-equipped cars manage 30 mpg.

The 275-horsepower engine pushes the Camaro from naught to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, but according to Chevrolet’s press blurbs, they don’t define it as a muscle car. They’re marketing it as a genuine sports car that blends decent acceleration with good handling and a very affordable entry price compared to the previous three vehicles on this list.

Reviews say the engine itself is actually really good, and equipped with it, the Camaro feels quite nimble and always ready to surge - turbo lag is apparently all but nonexistent and even the automatic gearbox is good, responding to paddle input (in manual mode) with minimal delay, not detracting from the driving experience in any way. The only thing that is lacking from this package is a racy soundtrack that the four-pot fails to provide. But at least you can travel much further without refueling compared to Camaros with bigger engines, so it’s all about priorities and compromises if you opt for one in this spec.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro specifications

Engine 2.0L I-4 DOHC VVT DI Turbocharged
Horsepower 275 HP @ 5,600 RPM
Torque 295 LB-FT @ 3,000-4,500 RPM
Transmission TREMEC six-speed manual (std.)/Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic (avail.)
Fuel economy city/highway 20/30 (manual) / 22/31 (auto)

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro.

Ford Mustang 2.3-liter EcoBoost

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Ford Mustang GT - $35,095

Skepticism was high among some enthusiasts when Ford released its turbocharged, four-cylinder version of the latest Mustang. But the 2.3-liter EcoBoost unit proved such a good match for the coupe that the Blue Oval completely abolished the V6-powered unit it offered in parallel at first.

The turbo Mustang preceded the turbocharged Camaro and it not only made for a viable entry point for Mustang ownership, but also gave other manufacturers confidence to adopt a similar path.

It is slightly more powerful than the four-pot Chevy, putting out 310 horsepower, and with the 10-speed automatic gearbox and Performance Package fitted, it can complete the benchmark sprint to sixty miles per hour in 5 seconds.

Efficiency doesn’t take a back seat, though, and Ford claims this Mustang can return 32 mpg on the highway. Its only downside as a sports car is the fact that the turbo four-pot doesn’t really sound that exciting, but Ford has fitted it with augmented engine noise that is pumped into the cabin - some may not agree with this practice, but it’s there and you can quite easily notice it.

2018 Ford Mustang specifications

Engine 2.3L EcoBoost I-4
Horsepower 310 HP @ 5,500 RPM
Torque 350 LB-FT @ 3,000 RPM
Transmission 6-speed manual/10-speed SelectShift automatic
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 21/31/25 (manual) / 21/32/25

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Mustang.

Lexus RC300

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Lexus botched its RC coupe before launching it, making its chassis stronger (and heavier) than it had to be in preparation for a convertible model it never got around to building but did preview with the striking LF-C2 concept.

Even so, the most recent RC300 still makes our list with its claimed 32 mpg highway rating.

It is rear-wheel drive only and uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four with 241 horsepower and can sprint to sixty in 7.3 seconds on the way to a top speed of 143 mph.

It isn’t really a sports car per se, though, according to reviews, as its 1,695 kg / 3,737 lbs does hamper its agility somewhat. But Lexus has worked really hard to make that less obvious, and it’s not really a bad package overall, especially given its striking, unusual look, its great interior, and the kudos provided by that Lexus badge up front.

2017 Lexus RC Specifications

Engine 2.0-liter In-line 4-cylinder
Horsepower 241 HP @ 5,800 RPM
Torque 258 LB-FT @ 1,650-4,400 RPM
Transmission six-speed automatic
0–60 mph Acceleration 7.3 sec
Top Track Speed 143 mph
Estimated Fuel Economy (City/Hwy/Combined) 22/32/26

Read our full review on the 2017 Lexus RC.

Toyota 86

2017 Toyota 86
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Toyota 86 (formerly known GT 86) is currently one of the purest driving experiences to be had at any price point. It’s not that fast in a straight line, but it isn’t really about that as this car concentrates on making you smile when taking it around corners while you try to keep its rowdy tail in check.

Power comes from a Subaru-built, naturally-aspirated, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder with 205 horsepower that sends it to sixty in 6.4 seconds, before topping out at 136 mph.

With the manual six-speed gearbox, Toyota claims it can return 28 mpg on the highway, while the automatic delivers up to 32 mpg.

You really have to treat the 86 as a momentum car, meaning you won’t rely on its engine that much when threading it around some twisties, focusing instead on maintaining speed through the corners and using the brakes as little as possible. This makes the 86 one of the best cars to learn the basics of how rear-driven cars handle and thankfully you won’t burn too much fuel in the process.

2017 Toyota 86 Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, boxer
Horsepower 205 hp @ 7,000 rpm (SAE NET) (A/T – 200 hp @ 7,000 rpm)
Torque 156 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm (A/T – 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm)
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined MPG) 21/28/24 (6-Speed M/T)
24/32/27 (6-Speed A/T)

Read our full review on the 2017 Toyota 86

Subaru BRZ

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Sister car to the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ is pretty much identical. Both are built in Ōta, Japan by Subaru and offer the same blend of qualities and quirks. Styling is ever so slightly different, but if one sped past on the street, you’d be hard pressed to tell which one it was, although the Toyota can be had with exterior accessories not available on the Subaru (TRD aero bits).

The BRZ uses the exact same 205-horsepower four-cylinder as the 86, but, interestingly enough, Subaru quotes its model as being able to return 33 mpg on the highway, when equipped with the optional automatic transmission.

It’s also slightly cheaper to buy than the Toyota-badged model and apparently has better, more luxurious feeling seats.

So choosing between this and the Toyota 86 therefore boils down to brand loyalty, whichever front fascia style you prefer, and the one extra highway mile per gallon you get from it if it wears a Subaru badge.

2017 Subaru BRZ Specifications

Engine 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, boxer
Horsepower 205 hp @ 7,000 rpm (SAE NET) (A/T – 200 hp @ 7,000 rpm)
Torque 156 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm (A/T – 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm)
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined MPG) 21/28/24 (6-Speed M/T)
24/32/27 (6-Speed A/T)

Read our full review of the 2017 Subaru BRZ.

Alfa Romeo 4C

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Ferrari doesn’t make an attainable, affordable mid-engined sports car, but the next best thing is the Alfa Romeo 4C. It is quintessentially Italian and can definitely be called a scaled down Ferrari thanks in part to the way it looks and just how special it makes you feel from behind the wheel.

Power comes from a 1.8-liter, turbocharged engine that sends all of its 237 horsepower to the rear wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Now that may not sound like a lot of power, but it results in a sprint time to sixty of just 4.1 seconds - a figure that is mostly down to its extremely low weight. This is truly an ultralight model, with Alfa going to great lengths to keep mass as low as possible.

Underpinning everything is a carbon fiber monocoque chassis and this car even lacks power steering in the quest for ultimate lightness - the US-spec hardtop model weighs 1,050 kg / 2,315 lbs dry and all these factors also make the 4C very efficient for something that can do 160 mph flat out.

The 4C coupe returns a claimed 35 mpg on the highway, also aided by its very low drag coefficient - 0.335 - for the hardtop.

2017 Alfa Romeo 4C - drivetrain specifications

Engine Inline 4-cylinder, liquid-cooled with turbocharger, intercooler and wet sump
Power (SAE net) 237 HP @ 6,000 RPM (136 bhp/liter)
Torque (SAE net) 258 LB-FT @ 2,200 - 4,250 RPM
Top Speed 160 mph
0 to 60 mph 4.2 seconds
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 24/34/28

Read our full review on the 2017 Alfa Romeo 4C.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

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Few cars blend fun and frugality like the current Mazda MX-5 Miata - in the US it is offered with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine that pumps out 155 hp and returns 36 mpg on the highway when equipped with the six-speed automatic gearbox; cars equipped with the manual gearbox return 33 mpg highway.

The MX-5 is well known for its good cornering ability and the connected feeling it gives the driver.

It has a manual soft top that is a doddle to erect or put down, which is how you want to have it because its four-cylinder engine has a pleasant, raspy exhaust note and is very eager to rev yet surprisingly torquey low down for a non-turbo engine.

In Europe and other markets, Mazda also offers the MX-5 Miata with a 1.5-liter engine that is even more efficient - it revs even higher, feels like it has even less inertia, and while it may be slightly down on power compared to the 2.0-liter (it packs 129 hp), it is a perfectly valid choice for MX-5 owners since its lower weight lessens the load on the front axle and makes the car’s steering even better. Converted from U.K. market data, the smaller engine should return close to 48 mpg on the highway (58 mpg UK claimed).

2016 Mazda MX-5 drivetrain specifications

Engine 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G inline four-cylinder engine
Transmission SKYACTIV-MT and SKYACTIV-DRIVE six-speed automatic
Max. output 155 HP
Max. torque 148 LB-FT
Fuel economy (city/highway/combined) 26/35/29

Read our full review of the 2016 Mazda MX-5.

Andrei Nedelea
Andrei Nedelea
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