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5 Cool American Sports Cars Under $30,000 (And Their Japanese Alternatives) – HotCars

by Oct 20, 2022Blog0 comments

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Whether you’re a fan of rowdy American V8s or want to drive a JDM legend, $30,000 will fetch you cool used sports cars from both corners of the world.
Sports cars are the vehicles for most car enthusiasts. Family cars simply don’t cut it, and buying hypercars or even supercars is not that feasible for most of us.
However, in recent years, more people have been buying SUVs than ever before, and the way things are going right now, it seems like all of the world’s automobile manufacturers will eventually jump ship to selling EVs since they are essentially the future. But that hasn’t stopped the manufacturers from making some cool sports cars amid a turning point in the automobile industry, nor did it stop us from buying one of the countless sports cars available on the used market. When it comes to luxury cars, Germany is the country to pick your automobile manufacturer from.
When it comes to supercars, Italian manufacturers such as Ferrari and Lamborghini come to mind. But when we think about affordable sports cars, we instantly think of either American muscle or a JDM import. Both are built and even drive completely different from each other. But they do share one thing in common: the purpose of these cars is to cater to our inner child and provide an amazing driving experience through sportiness, fancy gimmicks, and a bucketload of power.
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When it comes to sports cars from Chevy, the mind immediately goes to either the Camaro or Corvette. Boomers might remember the Chevelle, Chevette, or the Impala, too. But most of us probably already forgot about the brilliant Cobalt, especially its SS trim.
This relatively normal-looking sleeper was surprisingly quick, handled well (we are talking about the SS trim, the rest of them were dull), offered decent comfort, didn't cost a lot, and was fuel-efficient. Chevy might have predicted the future as it’s everything we need from a sports car in this day and age.
The BRZ is one of the best things to come out of the Toyota-Subaru partnership. Toyota and Subaru nailed the modern sports car formula with the 86/BRZ cars. They are lightweight, quick, nimble, comfortable, and drive like much more expensive sports cars.
What more can we ask for in a sub-$30,000 sports car? If you don’t want to miss out on modern safety and tech features but still want the basic fun-to-drive experience, then the BRZ is a good alternative to the Cobalt SS.
The Charger R/T is definitely going to make an appearance on the cheap and cool American sports cars list. A used 2011 to 2012 Charger R/T (or even an SXT) will fit the budget, has a roomy cabin, is slightly easier to ride compared to older models, a decent interior with an easy-to-use infotainment system, and unforgiving power we know Dodge for.
Chargers are available in abundance so finding one isn’t hard, and neither is finding spare parts for it or a mechanic who can work on them.
It always hurts when we hear about the Lancer Evo. We have enjoyed the Evo and its rivalry with the WRX so much that we are sad to see the Evo go so soon. Even the WRX seems to have slowed down on improvement compared to when it was competing head-to-head with the Lancer.
Because the Evo is everything it needs to be a sports car, and then some. Great power, great handling, AWD, four seats, good design, and an iconic turbo four-cylinder engine. And it’s not too expensive, either.
Pontiac made some highly underrated muscle cars over the years, and the 2002 Firebird Trans Am WS6 is the epitome of that. Maybe it’s the unique looks that aren’t liked by everyone, or maybe it’s because of the rise in popularity of smaller, more fuel-efficient family cars.
But the Trans Am is a surprisingly quick car that handled well, and its 305-hp 5.7-liter V8 engine sounded just great. We’d drive this cheap V8 over a Tesla any day before it becomes antiquated.
Related: Ranking The Best Trans Am Models Pontiac Ever Made
If you want a similar-looking Japanese alternative to the Trans Am, the Eclipse Spyder GT might be worth a look. Roman Pearce's Eclipse is one of the dark horses of Mitsubishi running under the shadows of the globally loved Lancer and Lancer Evo. It’s a 265-hp 3.8-liter V6 powered convertible that looks cool (unless you wrap it in a hideous livery), and handles very well.
It’s a Mitsubishi after all! Both the Trans Am and the Spyder GT have a somewhat similar power-to-weight ratio, and even the fuel economy is similar to each other. Same thing with the price as well.
Related: This Is Why Mitsubishi Eclipse Is The Most Forgotten Sports Car Of The '90s
From Charger to Challenger, we can see how Dodge has managed to successfully provide us with some great sports cars to enjoy on the roads without having to spend much. The R/T trim of the Challenger comes equipped with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that makes 376 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.
But it’s also heavy, so you get that proper muscle car experience along with all the modern safety and driver-assist features that make driving more reassuring and responsible. To this day, the Challenger remains one of the safer choices for affordable American sports cars.
The Subaru WRX is as close as you'll get to an affordable sports car that can still double as a family hauler and daily driver. Subaru has worked long and hard to improve the WRX to the next level every new year, thanks to the abovementioned fierce rivalry with the Lancer Evo.
By the time we saw the last ever Evo ride out of the factory, Subaru had developed its most powerful WRX to date. After that, progress has been slower, but steady nonetheless. Today, we have a powerful four-door sports sedan with rally roots that ensures great power, handling, and practicality.
Related: Here's What Made The Bug Eye Subaru Impreza So Awesome
We only saw the Crossfire for from years from 2004 to 2008. But those four years were enough for us to remember it when we think about an affordable American sports convertible that compares to the Miata. The Crossfire was a combination of American-styled chassis and Mercedes-sourced mechanicals.
Unfortunately, those parts are lifted from the previous-generation Mercedes SLK roadster, which debuted way back in 1997. The Crossfire was blessed with a great power-handling balance, distinctive styling, and the backing of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It’s not overly powerful unless you get the SRT6, but just quick enough to be an almost perfect city tourer.
Related: 10 Things Most People Forgot About The Chrysler Crossfire
When it comes to an affordable sporty convertible, the MX-5 is the undisputed champion. This little sports car has planted so many grins on the faces of people over the years, we can’t imagine not having this car on the list. A Miata from relatively recent years provides most of the needed tech and safety features, ample power to have fun with, and the market availability of spare parts and modifications are top-notch.
In terms of handling, the Miata is nothing but pure bliss on the road. Easily one of the safest, most stress-free choices for an affordable and reliable Japanese sports car on both the new and used markets.
Ramya is a Computer Engineering graduate with a lifelong love of automobiles. Digs all types of cars but has a special place in his heart for Japanese and Italian two-seater sports cars.