These 10 front-wheel-drive coupes might be a wise purchase in 2021by Dim Angelov, on
Some of you may laugh at the notion of a front-wheel-drive car having serious performance credentials and, in most cases, you wouldn’t be wrong. While there are plenty of high-power builds (mainly Civics), the general belief is that front-wheel drive doesn’t cut it after a certain power output – usually around 300 to 350 horsepower. With that being said, here are some of the last front-wheel-drive coupes you can still get for a very reasonable price. Some of them might surprise you.
Just like the Alfa Romeo 147, which we listed as one of the best hot hatchbacks ever made, the Alfa Romeo GT is a 2+2 coupe that shares its platform. More importantly, it shares the same incredible 3.2-liter Busso V-6 engine. Actually, it is the last Alfa to feature this engine, as later models went for a GM-derived 3.2-liter V-6.
The Busso V-6 develops 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet (300 Nm), which is enough to propel the Italian coupe from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.5 seconds. Unfortunately, it had an open differential, which translated into a lot of torque steer and understeer. The brakes and suspension also left something to be desired, just like on the 147, which is why many owners have addressed the Alfa’s shortcomings
Power from the transversely-mounted V-6 goes to the front through a six-speed manual or the God-awful, “SeleSpeed” automated manual. Do I need to tell you, which one is better? In Europe, every Alfa equipped with a Busso V-6 engine is already appreciating in value. While many examples go for the equivalent of over $24,000, you can still find decent examples for around $12,000 or less, depending on the region.
|Engine||3.2-liter Busso V-6|
|0 to 60 mph||6.5 seconds|
Read our full review on the Alfa Romeo GT
The sixth-generation Toyota Celica is mostly known for the rally-bred, all-wheel-drive GT Four, which used a turbocharged version of the 2.0-liter Toyota 3S engine. The SS III is the most powerful of three “Super Strut” packages, which aimed to improve the car’s handling and chassis rigidity.
The Toyota Celica SS III was powered by a high-revving, normally-aspirated version of the 3S engine, known as the Redtop BEAMS engine, where BEAMS stood for (Breakthrough Engine with Advanced Mechanism System. The rev-happy four-banger could rev up to 9,000 RPM and made 200 horsepower at 7,000 RPM and 152 pound-feet (206 Nm) at 6,000 RPM. With a five-speed manual, the SS III could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.5 seconds.
By all accounts, the Celica SS III is more than a worthy competitor to the venerable Honda/Acura Integra Type R. Why it remained in relative obscurity while the Integra thrived in the automotive community is unknown, but one good thing from all that is the prices. Because of its lack of popularity, you can pick up a decent Celica SS III for anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000.
|Engine||2.0-liter Toyota 3S|
|Power||200 HP @ 7,000 RPM|
|Torque||152 LB-FT @ 6,000 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||6.5 seconds|
Read our full review on the Toyota Celica SS III BEAMS
Honda Prelude 4th & 5th Generation
The Honda Prelude has remained relatively steady in terms of value on the used car market. The last two generations, in particular, are still a bargain and you get a bunch of rev-happy inline-four engines that would “tickle the pickle” of any Honda enthusiast. The H22-equipped versions are usually the most sought-after, with power ranging from 185 to 220 horsepower and 163 pound-feet (220 Nm).
Of course, you will want to get the five-speed manual and not the four-speed automatic, which robs performance and fuel economy. With the manual, 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) can be achieved in around 6.7 seconds. For a decent example, be prepared to pay between $7,000 and $8,000.
|0 to 60 mph||6.7 seconds|
Read our full review on the Honda Prelude
Sometimes, carmakers really nail it when it comes to naming their cars. The word “Tiburon” means shark in Spanish and looking at the second facelift (2007-2009) of Hyundai’s second-generation front-wheel-drive sports coupe, you can definitely spot some resemblance. What sets the Tiburon apart is that it’s an entry-level sporty coupe that isn’t trying hard to be a serious sports car.
Compared to, let’s say, a Toyota Celica, it’s slightly heavier and has a torquey V-6 instead of a rev-happy inline-four. It’s more of a cruiser by comparison, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a capable platform, should you decide to build upon it. With a built engine, even a 2.0-liter Tiburon could become an 11-second car.
The most desired version of the car is the 2.7-liter V-6 with a six-speed manual. With only 172 horsepower and 181 pound-feet (245 Nm), you wouldn’t expect much. However, while Hyundai claims a 7.8-second 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time, MotorTrend actually managed a time of 7.0 seconds dead for the same discipline.
Good examples currently go for $6,000 to $8,000 with low mileage, but you can find others for even less if you don’t mind a few more miles on the clock. The good news is, these are quite reliable if they are taken care of and parts are reasonably priced. Probably the most sensible buy on this list. Moreover, the design has aged very well.
|0 to 60 mph||7.8 seconds|
Read our full review on the Hyundai Tiburon GK
Sadly, French carmakers don’t have a strong presence in the US (if any). While this may change in the future, the land of the free would still have missed one of the quirkiest front-wheel-drive coupes to ever come from Europe. While French cars often have a reputation for being sketchy in terms of reliability (that’s not always true), you’ll be glad to know the RCZ (2009-2015) was built in the Magna Steyr factory, in Graz, Austria.
The petrol engine is only one - a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four. It has three power levels, but the one you really want is in the RCZ-R. It makes 270 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 243 pound-feet (330 Nm) at 1,900 RPM, which is enough for a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) sprint in 5.6 seconds on its way to 155 mph (250 km/h). While the base 1.6-liter version can also be had with a Tiptronic automatic gearbox, the RCZ-R comes with a manual only.
In case you are looking to buy one, a Peugeot RCZ-R currently goes for around €20,000, which is around $24,000, at the time of writing this. As a model, the RCZ did not have much success, mostly due to its ambitious pricing. Brand new, it cost around the same as a Nissan 370Z. Which one would you have chosen?
|Engine||1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four|
|Power||270 HP @ 6,000 RPM|
|Torque||243 LB-FT @ 1,900 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||5.6 seconds|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
Read our full review on the Peugeot RCZ
As a model, the Mitsubishi Eclipse had had its ups and downs. Unfortunately, Mitsubishi spit on the Eclipse name, by putting it on a boring sub-compact crossover. But before that happened, the fourth generation of the sporty coupe was Mitsubishi’s last chance to redeem the model. While some would argue, it did not succeed, mostly because it wasn’t a two-door EVO like everyone wanted, the GT V-6 version still offered quite a bit of grunt with some old-school Japanese reliability.
Like the Tiburon, this wasn’t an edgy car that tried too hard to be a proper performance coupe. It was more of a cruiser that could still deliver a dose of fun, on occasions. Naturally, if you care about performance you should avoid the five-speed automatic and go for a six-speed manual. With it, the Eclipse GT V-6 can reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.6 seconds, on to a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h), despite weighing in at 3,472 pounds (1,575 kg).
A lot of the credit goes to the 3.8-liter normally-aspirated SOHC V-6 engine, which makes 266 horsepower at 5,750 RPM and 262 pound-feet (355 Nm) at 4,500 RPM. This is one of the most underappreciated cars on this list, which is why a decent example could be found for as little as $5,000.
|Engine||3.8-liter normally-aspirated SOHC V-6|
|Power||266 HP @ 5,750 RPM|
|Torque||262 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||5.6 seconds|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
Read our full review on the Mitsubishi Eclipse GT V-6
Say what you will about the overall quality of GM products, but there’s no denying that the Cobalt SS is a quick, little, front-wheel-drive coupe. Although it shares a platform with one of the most boring cars sold in Europe – Opel/Vauxhall Astra H (Saturn Astra in the US), it certainly doesn’t go like one.
The Chevrolet Cobalt SS was produced between 2005 and 2010. Initially, it came with a 2.0-liter supercharged inline-four, which, in 2008, became turbocharged. Earlier cars developed 205 horsepower and 200 pound-feet (271 Nm), which was good for a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time in around 5.9 seconds. The turbocharged version bumped output to 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet (353 Nm), which was good for a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph (257 km/h).
There is also a normally-aspirated Cobalt SS, equipped with a 2.4-liter EcoTec inline-four engine that makes 171 horsepower and up to 167 pound-feet (226 Nm), which allows for a 0 to 60 mph sprint in 7.1 seconds. If you want a Cobalt SS, now would be a good time, as people have already started realizing their performance potential. Luckily, you can still find decent ones for around $5,000 to $6,000, although low-mileage examples are already creeping up on the $10,000 mark.
|Engine||2.0-liter supercharged inline-four||2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four||2.4-liter EcoTec inline-four|
|Power||205 HP||260 HP||171 HP|
|Torque||200 LB-FT||260 LB-FT||167 LB-FT|
|0 to 60 mph||5.9 seconds||5.5 seconds||7.1 seconds|
Read our full review on the Chevrolet Cobalt SS
The Audi TT is one of the more misunderstood cars on this list. I chalk it down to the fact that its front-wheel-drive layout (yes, Quattro AWD is optional), it was often pitted against the likes of Porsche Cayman and Nissan 370Z. The 8S-generation, in particular, made between 2014 and 2018 is a particularly interesting one as it is the latest TT-generation and is already quite affordable, while providing plenty of performance, even in the more base versions.
The 2.0 TFSI is sort of the middle ground between the base, 1.8-liter versions and the more hardcore TTS and TTRS models, which only come with Quattro all-wheel drive. Actually, finding a non-AWD version of the TT is becoming increasingly difficult, which isn’t necessarily bad, as Quattro-equipped models are much quicker, but also more complex. If you still manage to find one, you’ll be glad to know that it’s still a capable performer that can keep up with many modern performance cars and hot hatchbacks.
In this generation, the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four makes 230 horsepower at 4,500 to 6,200 RPM and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm) at 1,600 to 4,300 RPM. If you find one with a six-speed manual, you are looking at a 5.7-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) and a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h). Couple that to a nimble chassis and you have yourself a very capable compact sports coupe, which is refined enough to be driven on a daily basis. For a good example, be prepared to pay around $15,000.
|Engine||2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four|
|Power||230 HP @ 4,500 RPM|
|Torque||273 LB-FT @ 1,600-4,300 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||5.7 seconds|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
Read our full review on the Audi TT 2.0 TFSI
The Honda Accord Coupe may be stretching the definition of a sports car, as it shares a platform with its four-door counterpart. That said, Hondas have always had a slightly firmer setting compared to let’s say an equivalent from Toyota or Nissan. The Accord is no exception, as despite being more of a cruiser, it offers decent handling.
It may not be a scalpel,like the Toyota Celica SS III, but its 3.5-liter normally-aspirated, SOHC V-6 unit pulls strong with its 272 horsepower (278 for the XI-generation) and 250 pound-feet (240 Nm). Despite being front-wheel drive, the Accord Coupe manages to sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in just 5.2 seconds when equipped with a six-speed manual. The automatic takes 5.6 seconds. The manual also lets reach 155 mph (250 km/h).
While the ninth-generation Accord Coupes still hold firm around $20,000, the almost identical eighth-generation Accord Coupe can be found for as little as $5,000. If you want something with lower mileage, be prepared to pay around twice as much.
|Engine||3.5-liter normally-aspirated, SOHC V-6|
|0 to 60 mph||5.2 seconds|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
You don’t often hear the words Kia and future classic in one sentence, but this one may be the case. While time will tell whether or not that will be, the Lotus/Kia Elan can be viewed as the front-wheel-drive equivalent of the Mazda Miata. The story of the car begins in 1986, which is when General Motors purchased Lotus.
The third-generation Lotus Elan was meant to be an affordable sports car. When Lotus ceased production of the Elan, in 1995, it sold the rights to Kia, which spawned the 1996-2000 Kia Elan. The car looked identical to its Lotus counterpart but now had a Kia-derived 1.8-liter normally-aspirated inline-four engine, as opposed to the Isuzu-sourced 1.6-liter, which came in both normally-aspirated and turbocharged form.
The 1.8-liter Kia engine developed 149 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 137 pound-feet (186 Nm) at 4,500 RPM. The car weighed just 2,238 pounds (1,015 kg) and the 0 to 60 mph time was around 6.3 seconds. The only gearbox offered was a five-speed manual. Kia made only 1,000 of these, so they are pretty rare. Currently, the ygo for around $11,000, but prices may go up.