These cars cost less than a Nissan Z and are awesome, maybe even moresoby Dim Angelov, on LISTEN 12:37
The Nissan Z has been highly anticipated for almost a year now and we pretty much know all we need to know about it. We know when it’s coming and we know how much it costs. With a $35,000 starting price ($45,000 for the top-spec), it certainly is worth considering, if you are looking for an old-school sports car. That said, not everyone is willing or able to pay the Nissan Z sticker price. Regardless of the reason, here are some alternatives that should provide similar amounts of fun for less than a new Nissan Z.
The most obvious alternative is the Nissan Z’s predecessor. Some may be tired of seeing it, though, as it has been in production for 13 years. The new Z is actually based on a modified version of the 370Z platform, which in turn is a modified 350Z platform. Despite its age, the platform has proven to be very capable. Say what you will about Nissan, but their sports cars are well sorted.
They are generally very stout, in terms of the drivetrain. Just avoid the seven-speed Jatco automatic, which is a thrill-killer.
Other than that, you get the VQ37 DE 3.7-liter normally-aspirated DOHC V-6 that produces 332 horsepower and 271 pound-feet (368 Nm).
The six-speed manual is the preferred choice of gearbox. Power, of course, goes to the rear wheels only. The 370Z is capable of reaching 60 mph (97 km/h) in just 4.8 seconds.
Good condition earlier models can be had for as around $13,000. A high-spec with decent mileage 2014 model will set you back $21,000, while a 2020 model gets dangerously close to the new Z, at $32,000. Just beware of modified examples. You can choose between a coupe and a soft-top convertible.
|Engine||3.7-liter normally-aspirated V-6|
|0 to 60 mph||4.8 seconds|
|Price||$13,000 - $32,000|
Read our full review on the Nissan 370Z
The Genesis Coupe is Hyundai’s first attempt at a rear-wheel-drive sports car. Although earlier models were met with mixed reviews, the facelift version was an improvement. The Korean coupe is the more versatile of the bunch, as it has decent trunk space and (somewhat) usable back seats. You also get options in terms of drivetrain.
You can go with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 213 to 274 horsepower, or a 3.8-liter normally-aspirated V-6 with 306 to 348 horsepower.
The gearbox is either a six-speed manual or an automatic with five to 8 gears, depending on the model year and engine choice (the V-6 gets one extra gear). Earlier 2.0 turbo models can sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in around 7.0 seconds, while the later 3.8 cars can do it in as little as 5.2 seconds. Versatility comes at the cost of performance, as the car is bigger, heavier, and slightly less precise than the 370Z.
They are generally known to be reliable. That said, higher mileage cars with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine are known to have some oil consumption and the synchromesh on the manuals can have some issues. You do get plenty for the money, as good pre-facelift examples can be had for under $8,000. Later models can be had for as little as $14,000. Late 2016 models can fetch around $23,000. The 2.0-liter turbocharged models are generally cheaper than the V-6 ones.
|Engine||2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four||3.8-liter normally-aspirated V-6|
|Power||213 - 274 HP||306 - 348 HP|
|Transmission||six-speed manual||six-speed manual|
|0 to 60 mph||7.0 seconds||5.2 seconds|
Read our full review on the Hyundai Genesis Coupe
If you want a proper American V-8 sports car, you really can’t beat the Chevrolet Corvette. It’s the only car, on this list, capable of hitting 186 mph (300 km/h) in stock form. Earlier models come with an LS2 6.0-liter OHV V-8 that produces 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet (542 Nm). In 2008, came the LS3 6.2-liter OHV V-8, pushing power up to 436 horsepower and 428 pound-feet (580 Nm).
The 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time as 4.0 seconds.
Power is sent to the rear wheels through (preferably) a six-speed Tremec T56 manual or a four-speed (later six-speed) automatic.
The LS engines are praised for their reliability and tuning potential. The same goes for the Tremec T56 manual, which is a very stout unit. There are some cases of valve-spring failures, as well as some electrical gremlins, but other than that they are fairly reliable usable sports cars.
You can find a decent C6 for around $20,000, which is a bargain. Post-facelift (2008) models can still fetch $30,000, while a 2013 C6 can set you back around $40,000. At this price point, you can forget about the more hardcore Z06 and ZR-1 versions, as these can cost over $60,000.
|Engine||LS2 6.0-liter OHV V-8||LS3 6.2-liter OHV V-8|
|Power||400 HP||436 HP|
|Torque||400 LB-FT||428 LB-FT|
|Transmission||six-speed Tremec T56 manual||four-speed automatic|
Read our full review on the Chevrolet Corvette C6
The Porsche 911 doesn’t really need an introduction. With well over 60 years of history, it’s one of the most successful and usable sports cars ever made. Depending on the generation, it can be more affordable, more usable, and more fun than the Nissan Z. On top of that, it can be a potential investment, as all 911 models eventually go up in value.
At this price point, you have a few options. The 997 generation is the newest you can buy. However, expect examples with around 100,000 miles. They currently go for around $33,000 on average, for a 911 Carrera model. The 996 Carrera examples go for around $25,000 with around 40,000 miles on the clock. Both the 996 and early 997 models can suffer from the infamous IMS bearing. Although it’s not a very common issue, a full inspection is recommended for peace of mind. Bore scoring is another known issue, plaguing these 911 models.
If you are going for a 996, ideally you want the facelift models, which have the 3.6 rather than the 3.4-liter normally-aspirated flat-six.
With a normally-aspirated 996, you get at least 300 and up to 345 horsepower and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm) depending on whether it’s the Carrera, Carrera S, or 4S.
|Engine||3.4-liter normally-aspirated flat-six|
For the 997, you’ll probably have to settle for a pre-facelift Carrera model. Still, the 3.6-liter flat-six is producing 325 horsepower and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm), allowing for a 4.3-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h). Moreover, you get a decent trunk and usable rear seats (better used as a second luggage area). With both generations, you can either have a six-speed manual or a five-speed tip-Tronic unit. The PDK comes with the later 997 models.
|0 to 60 mph||4.3 seconds|
|Transmission||six-speed manual/five-speed tip-Tronic|
For as long as they’ve been in production, the Nissan Z and the BMW Z-series have been direct competitors. Just like with the Porsche 911, you can choose between two generations. The question is whether you want an M car or a newer car. The Z4 (E85) M Coupe is the most sought-after of the bunch. These are also the ones expected to go up in value, so if you’re looking at it as an investment, this one is a no-brainer.
M-cars are generally known for being incredibly potent, some of the best to drive, and sadly not the most reliable. Still, the S54 engine is a masterpiece, especially coupled to the six-speed annual.
The 3.2-liter normally-aspirated inline-six produces 343 horsepower and 269 pound-feet (365 Nm) and revs to 8,000 RPM.
The sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) happens in 4.7 seconds.
|Engine||3.2-liter normally-aspirated inline-six|
|Torque||269 LB-FT @ 8,000 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||4.7 seconds|
The newer E89 generation never got an M-version, but you can still get a potent inline-six unit. The turbocharged 3.0-liter N54 engine produces 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm) in the 35i, or 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet (450 Nm) in the 35Is model – enough to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.8 and 4.6 seconds respectively.
|Engine||turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six|
|Power||306 HP / 340 HP|
|Torque||295 LB-FT / 332 LB-FT|
|0 to 60 mph||4.8 - 4.6 seconds|
Timing chain issues, head gaskets, and electrical gremlins are what you should be aware of in both generations. The Z4 E85 M will set you back between $30,000 and $45,000, depending on mileage and body style. The newer E89 comes with a retractable hardtop only and will set you back around $19,000 for an earlier one and $35,000 for a later model. Avoid the four-cylinder models, as they are less reliable.
Mazda MX-5 (ND)
Yes, it’s here again. No affordable sports car list is complete without a Miata. Also, you can buy it brand new, for almost half the price of a top-spec Nissan Z. For as little as $24,051, you can have the latest version of what’s arguably the most engaging compact sports car ever made. Moreover, because of its 2,271-pound (1,030 kg) curb weight, the 2.0-liter normally-aspirated engine can rocket the car to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.7 seconds, despite only producing 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet (205 Nm). You can have it as a soft-top convertible or as the RF, which has a retractable Targa top and costs more.
Granted, it won’t be able to keep up with the Nissan Z, which has more than twice the power and torque, but the Miata is about having fun, not being fast. Plus, there are plenty of professional tuners that will be happy to turn the Miata into a Z-killer. As the car is new, we cannot talk about common issues. Mazda does have a very good reliability record, so you should have trouble-free ownership, especially given the warranty that comes with a new car.
|Engine:||2.0-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv G engine|
|Drive (AWD, FWD, RWD):||RWD|
|0-60 mph:||5.7 seconds|
|Top Speed:||140 mph|
Read our full review on the Mazda MX-5
You can not only buy a Porsche for less than a brand new Nissan Z, but you also have options to choose from. We have another Stuttgart due – the 2006-2012 Cayman 987 and 2013-2016 Cayman 981. The 987 can be had with a variety of normally-aspirated flat-six engines, ranging from a 2.7-liter, producing 245 horsepower and 201 pound-feet (273 Nm) to a 3.6-liter, producing 320 horsepower and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm). The 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time is between 5.9 and 4.2 seconds, depending on the version.
|Engine||2.7-liter flat-six||3.6-liter flat six|
|Power||245 HP||320 HP|
|Torque||201 LB-FT||273 LB-FT|
|0 to 60 mph||5.9 seconds||4.2 seconds|
Good examples start from around $20,000, for an early 987 Cayman, while a base 2014 Cayman 981 will set you back around $40,000, which is still less than a top-spec Nissan Z. However, this means you have to settle for the 2.7-liter flat-six, producing 275 horsepower and 214 pound-feet (290 Nm). It still allows for a very respectable 5.2-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h).
With a 987, you have to check for oil leaks between the engine and transmission (rear main seal), smoke on cold start-up (cylinder/bore scoring), water leaks (water pump failure), and a few others you can check here.