Affordable Alternatives to the 2022 Nissan Z - story fullscreen Fullscreen

Affordable Alternatives to the 2022 Nissan Z

These cars cost less than a Nissan Z and are awesome, maybe even moreso

These cars cost less than a Nissan Z and are awesome, maybe even moreso

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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.

Nissan 370Z

2009 - 2017 Nissan 370Z High Resolution Exterior
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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.

2009 - 2017 Nissan 370Z High Resolution Exterior
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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.

Nissan 370Z specifications
Engine 3.7-liter normally-aspirated V-6
Power 332 HP
Torque 271 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed manual
0 to 60 mph 4.8 seconds
Price $13,000 - $32,000

Read our full review on the Nissan 370Z

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe High Resolution Exterior
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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.

2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe High Resolution Exterior
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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.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe specifications
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

Chevrolet Corvette C6

2005 Chevrolet Corvette C6
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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.

2005 Chevrolet Corvette C6
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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.

Chevrolet Corvette C6 specifications
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

Porsche 911 (996 & 997)

1998 - 2004 Porsche 911 Carrera (996)
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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.

Porsche 996 specifications
Engine 3.4-liter normally-aspirated flat-six
Power 345 HP
Torque 273 LB-FT
2005 Porsche 911 Carrera S (997)
- image 41773

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.

Porsche 997 specifications
Engine 3.6-liter flat-six
Power 325 HP
Torque 273 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.3 seconds
Transmission six-speed manual/five-speed tip-Tronic

Read our full review on the Porsche 911 (996 & 997

BMW Z4 M (E85) & Z4 (E89)

Affordable Alternatives to the 2022 Nissan Z
- image 35724
A proper M-car instead of a new Nissan Z
Its S54 engine is considered one of the most epic inline-six engines ever made

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.

BMW Z4 M E85 specifications
Engine 3.2-liter normally-aspirated inline-six
Power 343 HP
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.

BMW Z4 E89 specifications
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
2009 BMW Z4 Roadster
- image 277262

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.

Read our full review on the BMW Z4 M (E85) & Z4 (E89)

Mazda MX-5 (ND)

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Exterior
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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.

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 614505

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.

Mazda MX-5 Miata drivetrain specifications
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv G engine
Horsepower: 181 horsepower
Torque: 151 pound-feet
Drive (AWD, FWD, RWD): RWD
0-60 mph: 5.7 seconds
Top Speed: 140 mph

Read our full review on the Mazda MX-5

Porsche Cayman 987 & 981

2009 Porsche Cayman
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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.

Porsche Cayman 987 specifications
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).

2014 Porsche Cayman High Resolution Exterior
- image 484391

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.

Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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