• Unexpected Alternatives to the Toyota GR86

The new GR86 is a fun affordable sports car, but it still costs more than some are willing to pay. These cars are worth considering if you are hesitant to pay the GR86 sticker price.

The 2022 Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ twins are back in their second generation and better than ever. Given that cars are getting more and more expensive, it’s good to see manufacturers are still willing to make cars that more people are able to buy. The GR86 and BRZ have a bigger 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated flat-four with 231 horsepower and 184 pound-feet (249 Nm).

With that being said, the new BRZ still costs $28,845 and the GR86 around $31,000, which is more money than some people are willing to part with. Luckily, there is a surprising amount of alternatives out there that can provide similar levels of fun at a lower price.

Mazda MX5 / Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 614586

You probably expected this. Mazda’s little roadster has always been the closest modern-day alternative to the “Toyobaru”. Compact, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive, and powered by a normally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, both cars are the epitome of simplicity and fun.

The Mazda MX-5 is a bit down on power, as its 2.0-liter normally-aspirated inline-four makes 184 horsepower and 151 pound-feet (205 Nm).

However, the Miata makes up for it with lightness. At 2,271 pounds (1,030 kg) it’s significantly lighter than the 2,800-pound (1,270 kg) Toyota GR86. Because of this, the 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) sprint is dealt with in just 5.7 seconds – 0.5 seconds quicker than the GR86’s 6.2-second time. The little Mazda starts at $24,051, which also makes it a lot cheaper. If you want to go the used car route, earlier examples of the Miata start from as little as $5,000.

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Exterior
- image 614506
Mazda MX-5 Miata specifications
Engine 2.0-liter normally-aspirated inline-four
Power 184 HP
Torque 151 LB-FT
Weight 2,271 pounds (1,030 kg)
0 to 60 mph 5.7 seconds
Price $24,051

Read our full review on the Mazda MX5 / Miata

Honda S2000

2007 Honda S2000
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When we talk compact normally-aspirated sports cars, the Honda S2000 is often the first to come to mind. It’s basically a Mazda MX5 turned to 11. Although it went out of production more than a decade ago, the car is still highly sought-after by enthusiasts and for a good reason. In addition to having a fun and capable chassis, the Japanese roadster boasts one of the best high-revving, naturally-aspirated inline-four engines ever made.

Earlier cars had a displacement of 2.0 liters and produced 240 horsepower and 153 pound-feet (208 Nm). Even more impressive was the 9,000 RPM redline. In 2005, the S2000 received a facelift, which also bored out the engine to 2.2 liters and improved low-end torque. The roadster had a dry weight of 2,776 pounds (1,250 kg) and could sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in just 5.8 seconds. While earlier examples can be found for around $20,000, you’ll have to prepare at least $25,000 for a later one in pristine condition. Prices are steadily going up, so now is the time to get one.

2007 Honda S2000
- image 105513
Honda S2000 specifications
Engine 2.2-liter, 16-valve DOHC VTEC 4-cylinder
Power 237 HP @ 7,800 RPM
Torque 162 LB-FT @ 6,800 RPM
Weight 2,776 lbs (1,250 kg)
0 to 60 mph 5.8 seconds
Price $20,000-$25,000

Read our full review on the Honda S2000

Nissan 370Z

2015 - 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo High Resolution Exterior
- image 552618

If you want to get more car for your money, but retain the same normally-aspirated, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, it doesn’t get much better than the Nissan 370Z. Produced for more than a decade, the Z34 is finally getting a replacement, which means it’s going to get even more affordable in the near future. With this, you are getting into a completely different performance segment.

You gain two extra cylinders, thanks to the 3.7-liter VQ37DE V-6, which puts out 332 horsepower (350 in the NISMO) and 272 pound-feet (368 Nm).

Despite weighing in at 3,358 pounds (1,523 kg), the “Z” manages a 0 to 60 mph sprint in just 4.7 seconds. You can get a well-sorted one for under $14,000 and even the really good, later ones are around $25,000.

2015 - 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo Exterior
- image 552459
Nissan 370Z Nismo specifications
Engine 3.7-liter VQ37DE V-6
Power 332 HP
Torque 272 LB-FT
Weight 3,358 lbs (1,523 kg)
0 to 60 mph 4.7 seconds
Price $14,000 - $25,000

Read our full review on the Nissan 370Z

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe High Resolution Exterior
- image 539897

In 2009, Hyundai entered the world of rear-wheel-drive sports cars. The Genesis was best described as a nice middle-ground between the Pony cars such as the Mustang, and Japanese performance cars like the 370Z. Like the GR86/BRZ, the Genesis gives you rear seats, although they are almost as useless. You also get engine choices. If you fancy a turbo-four, you can get the 2.0-liter variant with 213 horsepower (274 for the facelift) and 223 to 275 pound-feet (309 - 373 Nm).

Your second option is a normally-aspirated 3.8-liter V-6, which produces from 306 to 348 horsepower and 266 to 295 pound-feet (361 – 400 Nm).

Later versions (2012 - 2017) give the V-6 direct injection. The Genesis is one of the bigger and heavier cars on the list, with a dry weight of 3,393 to 3,483 pounds (1,523 - 1,580 kg). Depending on the engine, you’ll hit 60 mph in 7.0 to 4.8 seconds. Prices start from as little as $7,000 for an earlier 2.0 turbo, while later V-6 models currently go for around $22,000.

2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe High Resolution Exterior
- image 539888
Hyundai Genesis Coupe specifications
Engine 3.8-liter V-6
Power 306 - 348 HP
Torque 266 - 295 LB-FT
Weight 3,393 to 3,483 lbs (1,523 - 1,580 kg)
0 to 60 mph 7.0 - 4.8 seconds
Price $7,000 - $22,000

Read our full review on the Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Porsche Cayman (987)

2011 Porsche Cayman Exterior
- image 390939

Did you know you can get a mid-engine Porsche for less than what you would pay for a brand new Toyota GR86? Now, you do. The 2006 to 2012 987-generation of the Cayman is one of the purest compact sports cars you can get. Currently, the prices have dipped below the $20,000, and yes, this includes the more potent Cayman S, which is powered by a 3.4-liter naturally-aspirated flat-six with 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet (340 Nm), later replaced by a 3.6-liter unit with 320 horsepower and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm).

The “lesser” versions have either a 2.7 or a 2.9-liter flat-six with up to 265 horsepower and 221 pound-feet (300 Nm). At around 2,865 pounds (1,300 kg), the Cayman is very light, which is why the sprint to 60 mph takes from 5.9 to 4.2 seconds, depending on the version. Earlier 987 Caymans can cost as little as $14,000, while the Cayman S will set you back around $20,000.

Unexpected Alternatives to the Toyota GR86 Exterior
- image 390942
Porsche Cayman 987 specifications
Engine 2.7 - 2.9-liter flat-six
Power 265 HP
Torque 221 LB-FT
Weight 2,865 lbs (1,300 kg
0 to 60 mph 5.9 - 4.2 seconds
Price $14,000 - $20,000

Read our full review on the Porsche Cayman (987)

BMW 128i & 135i (E82)

2008 BMW 1-Series Coupe
- image 182655
008 BMW 1-Series Coupe

The first BMW 1-series showed that BMW can still make compact rear-wheel-drive cars like they used to. If you don’t mind a bit of forced induction and can appreciate a potent inline-six engine, this is the one you should get. The BMW E82 came with a variety of 3.0-liter inline-six engines. Even the normally-aspirated 128i produced a very healthy 230 horsepower, which is enough for a 5.9-second sprint to 60 mph.

BMW 128i specifications
Engine 3.0-liter inline-six
Power 230 HP
0 to 60 mph 5.9 seconds

Step up to the 135i or 135is, and you get 306 – 320 horsepower and 300 pound-feet (407 Nm), from either the N54 or N55 engines. The turbocharged inline-six unit allows for a 4.9-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h). Prices start from around $7,000 for a decent 128i, while a well-sorted 135i can cost you around $13,000.

BMW 135i specifications
Engine 3.0-liter inline-six
Power 306 - 320 HP
Torque 300 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.9 seconds
Price $7,000 - $13,000
2008 BMW 1-Series Coupe
- image 182665
008 BMW 1-Series Coupe

Read our full review on the BMW 128i & 135i (E82)

Toyota GT86 / Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS

2013 Toyota GT 86 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 453865

If you really want to have the GR86 or BRZ without paying the sticker price, the previous generation is as close as you can get. Sure, the previous generation had less power, producing only 205 horsepower and 151 pound-feet (205 Nm), which allowed for a 6.8 second time to 60 mph, but the character is still there. The biggest complaint with these cars was the lack of power. That 2.0-liter normally-aspirated flat-four really needed some neck-ringing, in order to give you that power, and at low RPMs, there was literally no one home.

The good thing is they’ve become so affordable it hardly matters. Earlier examples can be found for as little as $10,000, while later ones will cost you around $16,000. Moreover, it’s a very good platform and specialized tuners have figured out how to reliably utilize forced induction, bringing power well over factory figures. This also gives you a chance to make the car truly your own, while still paying less than the cost of a new one.

2013 Toyota GT 86 High Resolution Exterior
- image 453868
Toyota GT86 specifications
Engine 2.0-liter normally-aspirated flat-four
Power 205 HP
Torque 151 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 6.8 seconds
Price $10,000 - $16,000

Read our full review on the Toyota GT86 / Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS

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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