No other class in 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 Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-door hatchback; it starts at $22,900 in base trim. At the other end of the scale are the high-performance versions of traditional “pony cars”—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.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2022
The Subaru WRX is redesigned on an all-new platform, gaining a new 2.4-liter turbo flat-four engine (in place of the previous 2.0-liter), available adaptive-damper suspension, and controversial new exterior styling with black cladding around the wheel openings and lower body. The Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 rear-wheel-drive compact sports cars both skipped the 2021 model year, but they are back in redesigned second-generation form for 2022. The Toyota also undergoes a name revision—it’s now called GR 86. As with the first-gen models, the new BRZ and GR 86 are the products of a partnership between Subaru and Toyota. Both cars get a 228-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine in place of the previous 200/205-hp 2.0-liter, as well as a more-rigid body structure and new technology features.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R are redesigned on an all-new platform. Both use a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder; the GTI’s makes 241 horsepower, and the R’s puts out 315 hp. The R comes standard with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive and adaptive-damping suspension. The Mini Cooper Hardtop and Convertible receive mildly refreshed styling, new appearance options, and a digital gauge cluster and larger touchscreen as standard equipment. The Hyundai Veloster 3-door hatchback loses most of its model lineup; only the high-performance, 275-hp Veloster N model remains, and it’s carried over with no changes for 2022. The Chevrolet Camaro loses its 1LE Track Performance package on 4- and 6-cylinder models, though the package is still offered with the V8. The Ford Mustang adds specially trimmed Ice White Edition and Stealth Edition models. Nissan has unveiled the production version of its redesigned Z two-seat sports car, but it’s not a 2022 model, and it won’t be called 400Z as was expected. The new Z car—simply called “Z,” no numbers this time—is slated to go on sale in Spring 2022 as an early 2023 model.
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 N has 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 SRT Super Stock is remarkable for offering more than 800 horsepower. There are a good number of convertibles in this class. In addition to the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Mini Convertible, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang come as droptops too.
Vehicles in the Sporty/Performance Car class:
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Toyota GR 86
Volkswagen Golf GTI/Golf R