No other class in all of autodom has such a diverse student body. A few cars we categorize as sporty/performance could easily fall under the subcompact or compact headings, but they’re here because they just have a higher level of performance or personality than more mundane cars of their size. The class contains examples that are 2-doors, 3-doors, and 4-doors; 2-seaters, 4-seaters, and 5-seaters; coupes, hatchbacks, and convertibles; front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive.

The most affordable vehicle in the category is the Hyundai Veloster 3-door hatchback; it starts at $18,600 in base 2.0 form with the 6-speed manual transmission. At the other end of the scale are high-performance versions of traditional “pony cars” such as the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang. All offer V8 engines of more than 450 horsepower with base prices that stretch past $40,000—or past $60,000 for the super-performance versions.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2020

There are no major changes in the Sporty/Performance Car class this year—it’s mostly incremental updates and a few cancellations. The Buick Cascada, Fiat 500, and Volkswagen Beetle are discontinued. The Volkswagen Golf R is also dropped, but it’s only going on hiatus; Volkswagen says a new Golf R based on the forthcoming all-new Mk8 Golf platform is coming in the near future.

The Chevrolet Camaro gets a number of alterations: In addition to some new trim features across the line, a 10-speed automatic transmission is now available with the 3.6-liter V6 engine, the front-end styling of SS models is revised, and a new LT1 model offers the SS’s 6.2-liter V8 engine at a more affordable price. The Ford Mustang lineup sees the return of the ultra-performance Shelby GT500 model (this time with 760 horsepower) and the addition of a 2.3L High Performance Package for EcoBoost 4-cylinder models.

The Mini Clubman John Cooper Works model gets a new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 301 horsepower—a 73-hp bump over the previous engine. The Nissan 370Z loses its Roadster convertible body style, but gains a specially painted and trimmed 50th Anniversary Edition model. The Subaru BRZ’s base Premium trim is discontinued, but a limited-edition, specially tuned tS model returns to the lineup. The tS receives upsized wheels, performance tires, Brembo-brand brakes, and numerous chassis/suspension upgrades. The Toyota 86 gets an updated infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability, a specially trimmed Hakone Edition model, and a TRD Handling Package for manual-transmission models.

MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL

Due to their diversity, it’s hard to say that certain cars in the sporty/performance category “stand out,” but a few do. The Hyundai Veloster offers a third door on the passenger side for easier entry to its rear seat. The Subaru WRX has standard all-wheel drive, and the Dodge Challenger offers it as an option. The outrageous Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye is remarkable for offering almost 800 horsepower.

There are a good number of convertibles in this class. In addition to the Fiat 124 Spider, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Mini Convertible, droptops are offered on the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang.