Most Affordable RWD Sports Cars You Can Buy in 2023

RWD Sports Cars Collage 6 photos
Photo: Collage (Toyota/Subaru/Mazda/Ford/Chevrolet)
2024 Chevrolet Camaro2024 Ford MustangMazda MX-50 30th Anniversary2024 Subaru BRZ2024 Toyota GR86
We live in an interesting age. The baton is being passed in the sports car industry, which is both a blessing and a curse, depending on your perspective. Gone are the days when you could walk to the nearest car dealership of almost any brand, and configure a relatively affordable, rear-wheel-drive sports car.
People used to consider the Porsche 911 as the peak sports car. Meanwhile, others felt that anything without a Prancing Horse or a Raging Bull on the hood didn't deserve the 'supercar' moniker.

Both categories have been proven wrong over the years. Still, those who say that you will never be able to configure an inexpensive RWD sports car in the future are probably right. While writing this story, I slowly realized we are almost living in that dreadful future, where nearly all cars are used as appliances, not as providers of fun on four wheels.

The five cars you're about to read about might be the last of their kind. They are a dying breed of pure, uncomplicated, mostly analog symbols of the good old days of motoring. They aren't AWD, nor extremely powerful or fast, but all are available with three pedals and a thing called a 'gear shifter' between the two front seats.

In other words, there are a ton of family SUVs or sporty hatchbacks that will demolish them in a drag race, all while having a lot more interior room, better comfort, and usability in poor weather conditions. That's not to say they aren't perfect just how they are, as long as you know what you're getting into.

An RWD sports car will obviously be harder to control at the limit because of its propensity to oversteer, meaning that, in general, the back end will try to run wider than the front during hard cornering.

That said, it's one of the key reasons why most racing cars are rear-driven, not FWD. They are harder to control at the limit but provide better cornering performance if the person behind the wheel is proficient at driving. If you ask me, that's exactly what makes them fun to drive.

On top of it, learning how to control a drift and using both feet and your arm to change gears will make you a better driver overall while establishing a much more in-depth connection between man and machine.

With that out of the way, the following five vehicles haven't been chosen in any order. They are simply the last remaining RWD sports cars under $30,000(ish) that still offer a manual transmission.

2024 Toyota GR86 - Low-budget drift king

2024 Toyota GR86
Photo: Toyota
Now having the GR moniker next to the lovable '86' name, the smallest RWD Toyota is an almost perfect example of how analog sports cars used to be, second only to the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Developed as a joint project with Subaru, whose input can be found all over the 2+2 car, but especially under the hood, the Toyota GR86 is based on the same but the heavily reworked platform as its predecessors, the 86 and the Scion FR-S.

The original model was an ode to the Toyota AE86, a drifty version of an '80s Corolla. Engineers had gone so far with the '86' references that even the Boxer engine bore and stroke was 86mm x 86mm. At the same time, the diameter of the exhaust tip was also 86 mm.

The model's current generation can no longer have the 86 by 86 bore and stroke because its displacement has been increased from 2.0 liters to 2.4 liters, bringing a bit more power and some much-needed torque at lower revs.

It still isn't overly powerful, with 228 HP (235 PS in Europe) and 184 lb-ft (250 Nm) of torque, which are good enough for a 0-62 mph (100 kph) time of 6.3 seconds.

With that in mind, the GR86 is still no Autobahn stormer or a drag king, its primary specialty remaining back roads hooning and drifting. It has an MSRP of $28,400 in the U.S.; in the E.U. you can have it for at least 35,490 Euros.

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata - Exoskeleton on wheels

Mazda MX\-50 30th Anniversary
Photo: Mazda
I said at the beginning that this list is in no particular order. Still, the MX-5 Miata would definitely be the winner if I had to pick one.

Now in its fourth generation, the tiny little roadster epitomizes lightweight, analog, inexpensive, rear-wheel-drive sports cars, and it's the yardstick by which you should measure the other four cars on this list.

Die-hard fans say that MIATA is short for Miata Is Always The Answer, and they are correct and wrong at the same time. The word 'Miata' is high-German for reward, precisely what the MX-5 will give you once you experience it on empty, twisty roads.

It's even less powerful than the Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ twins and only has two seats. Still, it makes up for it by being much lighter which, coupled with a superior weight distribution, translates into a perfect driving experience. Like the first generation, launched in 1989 as a nod to British and Italian lightweight roadsters of the 1960s, the MX-5 still follows the so-called Jinba-Ittai (oneness of horse and rider) credo.

Every single experience I've had with the fourth-generation Miata has been perfect because of this ethos. To put it into perspective, you never jump in an MX-5 and drive it. You wear it like a tracksuit.

The most potent engine in Europe and the only one available in the U.S. is a high-revving 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which delivers a 'measly' 181 HP (184 PS) and 181 lb-ft (250 Nm) of torque. Being over 200 kg (440 pounds) lighter than the already featherweight Toyota GR86, the MX-5 can hit 62 mph (100 kph) almost as quickly as only 6.5 seconds are needed.

In the U.S. it starts at $28,050 MSRP. At the same time, in Europe, you can have it for just under 31,000 Euros if you go for the 1.5-liter base model. This even tinier four-cylinder revs even higher to deliver 130 HP (132 PS) and 112 lb-ft (152 Nm) of torque.

Set to be replaced by a new generation in 2024, the model is expected to follow the same recipe as its predecessors but with an added mild-hybrid system for better fuel economy and lower emissions.

2024 Ford Mustang - The original Pony Car

2024 Ford Mustang
Photo: Ford
The seventh generation of the original Pony Car has yet to hit dealerships, with the first units expected to reach their owners in the summer of 2023 in the U.S.

That's the good news, the bad being that it won't be available for order in Europe until 2024, so there are no prices yet on the Old Continent. For more bad news, the latest Mustang starts at almost $31,000 MSRP, which makes its appearance in this story a bit of a stretch.

To make bad things worse, you're not going to like the explanation for its increased price: it's more expensive because the most affordable 2024 Mustang now comes as standard with a 10-speed automatic instead of the six-speed manual of its predecessor. If you still want a new Mustang with three pedals, you'll have to go with the $42,495 V8-powered GT model.

Returning to the base model Mustang, it is still powered by a longitudinally positioned version of the 2.3-liter four-cylinder in the old Focus RS hot hatch. With less power comes less responsibility, not to mention less weight over the front axle, meaning that the Ford Mustang EcoBoost has always been a more sensible choice and many times a more driver-involving choice in the Mustang lineup.

Sure, it's no lightweight, but the 310 HP and 350 lb-ft (475 Nm) of torque give it plenty of performance, with a 0 to 62 mph (100 kph) time of just over 5 seconds. As a sidenote, I hope Ford gets sufficient angry fan mail to reintroduce the 6-speed manual in the entry-level model.

2024 Chevrolet Camaro - The last of its kind

2024 Chevrolet Camaro
Photo: GM
The Mustang's arch nemesis is a bit longer in the tooth than its rival. Still, you could say that the current generation of the Chevy Camaro has aged pretty gracefully in the last few years.

While the S650 generation of the Mustang looks broadly the same as the previous S550 because it's been developed on the same platform, the current Camaro is quasi-identical with the one from 2015 because they are part of the same generation.

GM put the model through two facelifts over its life cycle to keep it looking fresh, and the last time it will put the Camaro under the knife, it won't be a facelift but a mercy kill. As some of you know, the Chevrolet Camaro will cease to exist as a pony car in January 2024, with the nameplate being recycled on an electric crossover sometime in the future.

In other words, you should get one while it's still hot, especially since the least expensive version comes with a six-speed manual and starts at just $27,795 MSRP, making it the cheapest RWD sports car on this list.

It's powered by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 275 HP and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque, enough for a 0-62 mph (100 kph) time of under 6 seconds.

2024 Subaru BRZ - The only Subie without AWD

2024 Subaru BRZ
Photo: Subaru
As I mentioned above, in the Toyota GR86 chapter, the Subaru BRZ is the mechanical twin of the small Toyota coupe, with both cars having been developed together. In fact, Subaru is in charge of manufacturing both models at its factory in the Gunma Prefecture. The BRZ's name isn't a random collection of letters but stands for Boxer, Rear-Wheel-Drive, and Zenith.

While the interior between the two is quasi-identical except for the emblems on the steering wheel, a trained eye could catch many more design differences on the outside.

The Toyota GR86 has a trapezoidal-shaped grille that seems to provide better cooling. In contrast, the Subaru BRZ has a more aerodynamic-looking lower part of the front bumper, with a smaller grille.

Mechanical-wise, the only difference is a modified suspension setup on the BRZ. Subaru wants its car to be less tail happy and more planted at the limit.

This is in line with the company's philosophy over the years, with over 90 percent of all Subarus ever developed having been all-wheel-drive. Fun fact, when Toyota initially approached the company for the collaboration, Subaru rejected the offer because it conflicted with its 'stable cars' philosophy.

Thankfully, despite selling fewer units than the Toyota GR86 overall, the BRZ remains a more serious alternative to the drifty Toyota. In the U.S., it starts at $28,595, while Europeans can have the only Subaru without all-wheel-drive if they fork out at least 38,990 Euros.

Instead of a conclusion

Whether you like them or not, these five rear-wheel-drive affordable sports cars are the only ones left on the market right now, and there might be even fewer next year. What is the point, then? Surely there must be a reason they are selling less than before.

Is FWD safer than RWD? Yes, in almost all conditions, especially if someone is inexperienced behind the wheel.

Does RWD feel faster than FWD? Yes, and usually, it not only feels but it IS faster, thanks to the front wheels being in charge strictly of cornering and braking, not propulsion as well.

Is AWD better than FWD or RWD? From a 'car that can do anything' perspective, AWD beats both. But it also adds complexity, costs, and weight that could be put to better use if you want the purest driving experience with a sports car.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Alex Oagana
Alex Oagana profile photo

Alex handled his first real steering wheel at the age of five (on a field) and started practicing "Scandinavian Flicks" at 14 (on non-public gravel roads). Following his time at the University of Journalism, he landed his first real job at the local franchise of Top Gear magazine a few years before Mircea (Panait). Not long after, Alex entered the New Media realm with the project.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories