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Best sports cars

Best sports cars

Cars don’t just have to be about transport. You can also have some fun along the way.

Which is where sports cars come in. Often putting style and driving excitement ahead of everyday practicalities, sports cars cover a broad spectrum. Here are some of the best.

Toyota 86

Toyota has had no shortage of sporties over the years, from the MR2 through to the Celica. But the Toyota 86 follows a faithful formula of placing the engine up front and sending the drive to the rear wheels. It does so with great effect. You don’t have to be on a race track or driving hard to appreciate the inherent balance and playfulness of the 86. And while it’s not overdone with power – many people tune or modify them to get more from the 2.0-litre engine – there’s a purity and crispness that reaffirm its sports car heritage. Corners are an 86’s friend, too; it steers precisely and has a wonderful balance that can make heavy traffic that little more bearable.

Subaru BRZ

OK, so the Subaru BRZ is effectively a rebadged Toyota 86. The two share the same design, engine and interior and both come out of the same Japanese factory. But there are some differences, including subtly different headlights and a slightly different suspension tune that gives the first two-wheel drive Subaru in decades some added fizz. Oh, and if you want a blue one you get the Subaru-only World Rally Blue that is a celebration of the brand’s motorsport success. Besides, there’s arguably more Subaru in this jointly developed sports car; the 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine is based on a Subaru design, albeit with significant Toyota engineering to get it zinging even more.

Hyundai Veloster

Symmetry is usually a given in a car, save for the steering wheel on one side or the other. But in a Hyundai Veloster the idea of the left being the same as the right has been thrown out the window (and taken a window or two with it). On the driver’s side is a long coupe-inspired single door. But on the passenger side the front door is markedly shorter and there’s a smaller back door to make it easier for those to get in the rear. It was designed as a best-of-both approach, with some hatchback practicality thrown into the coupe mix. Underneath is plenty of i30 hatchback, although Hyundai stepped it up to ensure a sharper drive in the Veloster. And the option of a potent 1.6-litre turbocharged engine ensured the Veloster had the bark to match its looks.

Ford Mustang

Aussies love a muscle car and with the demise of the V8-powered Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores that once provided a high octane hit it was only a matter of time until something filled the void. And it’s the Ford Mustang that has done the most convincing job. While it’s available as a four-cylinder turbo, it’s the V8-powered GT models that live up to the muscular Mustang expectations. Bold looks and a loud and proud 5.0-litre engine ensure the Mustang turns heads. That V8 delivers on performance, too. There’s no hiding the weight of what is a burly but effective two-door sports car, but it can still scurry around corners smartly. A digital instrument cluster and plenty of Mustang badges ensure the legend lives on in what is a tantalisingly fun sports car.

Volkswagen Scirocco

Volkswagen makes plenty of brisk cars – the Golf GTI and Golf R among them – but it’s the Scirocco that arguably best lit the sports car flame. Utilising the underpinnings of the sporty front-drive Golf, the Scirocco packaged it in a squat three-door body that perfectly encapsulates European flair. A punchy 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo makes a rorty noise if you choose the right driving mode and the chassis is highly capable, allowing for slick cornering. An elegantly-presented cabin and enough sporty design touches ensure the Scirocco lives up to its sports car positioning – and all with some hatchback practicality thrown in.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Few brands have the sporting history of Alfa Romeo. And even the mainstream models from the Italian brand have a focus on eliciting a smile (or two) when you’re behind the wheel. Moreso in a car such as the Giulietta, a three-door hatchback with trademark Alfa Romeo style. That style flows through to the cabin, too, with deep circular dials built into the instrument cluster perfectly complementing the optional red highlights. As with all Alfa Romeos, the Giulietta has a sweet-revving engine at its front-wheel drive heart. While the 1.4-litre turbo was adequate, the 1.7-litre four-cylinder turbo packed in plenty more for some fiery Italian acceleration.

Mazda MX-5

Mazda must be doing something right with its MX-5 because it’s officially the world’s top selling sports car. Over four generations – the first of which arrived in 1989 – the MX-5 hasn’t deviated from its purist formula: rear-wheel drive, naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) performance and lightweight simplicity that’s focused on the driver. It’s the emphasis on leaving things out of the MX-5 – it only picked up Bluetooth connectivity in 2015 – that adds to the appeal of this little two-seater, in part because it’s so light and agile. While MX-5s have never been particularly powerful, the lack of kilos makes them zippy and enjoyable, and one of the sweetest-shifting manual gearboxes ever created adds to the driving appeal.

Nissan 370Z

Nissan Z cars have a rich history and the 370Z leans heavily on that lineage that first kicked off in 1969. Six-cylinder engines driving the rear wheels have been a staple, and the 370Z has had the biggest engine of the lot, at 3.7 litres. It’s a gravelly and raucous V6 that beautifully blends with the brutish character of Nissan’s two-seat sports car. Flashes of technology – such as a manual gearbox that can rev match downshifts – and an instrument binnacle that adjusts its position when you raise or lower the steering wheel reinforces the efforts of Nissan designers. No shortage of punch, either, and with all of it heading to the rear wheels it makes the 370Z an exciting way to get around.

Kia Stinger

With a name like Stinger some will no doubt expect big things from this four-door sports sedan. Seen as the closest thing we have to a modern day version of our V8-powered Falcons and Commodores, the Kia Stinger instead used turbos and six cylinders to deliver its addictive performance hit. Sending drive to the rear wheels, the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 lacks nothing for force and excitement, occasionally testing the traction of the rear tyres. Hey, it’s all part of the performance sedan experience. Those who don’t need quite as much can pick up a still-brisk 2.0-litre model, although it doesn’t have the outright excitement of the V6. Still, there’s no shortage of trinkets inside what is a nicely presented cabin that also provides a surprising amount of space for five.

Mini Cooper

Just the name Mini conjures images of driving fun and distinctive – and thoroughly British – styling. The front-drive Mini Cooper can be had as a relatively basic city hatchback, albeit one that also happens to be a step above for steering accuracy and driver engagement. Mini calls it go-kart handling, and there’s certainly a driver connection that makes getting into a Mini that little bit more fun than your average hatchback. Sportier Cooper S or JCW models step up the power, while you can even get five-door models for those who need more Mini practicality.

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