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.by Dim Angelov, on
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.
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.
|Engine||2.0-liter normally-aspirated inline-four|
|Weight||2,271 pounds (1,030 kg)|
|0 to 60 mph||5.7 seconds|
Read our full review on the Mazda MX5 / Miata
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.
|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|
Read our full review on the Honda S2000
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.
|Engine||3.7-liter VQ37DE V-6|
|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
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.
|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
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.
|Engine||2.7 - 2.9-liter flat-six|
|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)
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.
|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.
|Power||306 - 320 HP|
|0 to 60 mph||4.9 seconds|
|Price||$7,000 - $13,000|
Read our full review on the BMW 128i & 135i (E82)
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.
|Engine||2.0-liter normally-aspirated flat-four|
|0 to 60 mph||6.8 seconds|
|Price||$10,000 - $16,000|