Japanese sports cars have been on the North American scene since the mid-60s, but it's fair to say that it wasn't until the 1990s that they really found their stride and began to stun the world with models like the Acura NSX and the Toyota Supra. Reliable, stylish, and usually (semi) affordable - Japanese sports cars embrace one of the oldest segments in the automotive industry and thoroughly modernize its driving and ownership experience. Why shouldn't you be able to combine a start-every-time dependability with handling and acceleration that put a smile on your face?
Let's take a look at 10 of the best Japanese sports cars currently available on the market.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 01 - 2014 Nissan 370Z
The 2014 Nissan 370Z draws on the heritage of the Datsun / Nissan Z line to produce a compellingly-styled and intriguingly-quick two-seat coupe. The Nissan 370Z is unquestionably a performance vehicle, with its rear-wheel drive layout, its 332 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 (that also produces 270 lb-ft of torque) and its six-speed manual transmission with available auto rev-matching. You can get a seven-speed automatic gearbox with the Z, too, but for the life of us we can't understand why you would want to. Opting for the NISMO trim introduces an aggressive body kit and ups engine output to 350 horses.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 02 - 2014 Honda CR-Z
The 2014 Honda CR-Z is about as far away from what most would consider a traditional sports car as you can get. Unlike the Nissan, the Honda CR-Z boasts a front-wheel drive configuration, but even more unusual is its hybrid drivetrain. Also a two-seater, the CR-Z combines a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with a single electric motor to produce a total of 130 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, managed by either a six-speed manual or a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Not the quickest hatchback on the market, the little Honda is still relatively fun to drive on a twisty road, and it also offers 37-mpg in combined fuel mileage.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 03 - 2014 Subaru BRZ
The 2014 Subaru BRZ can be thought of as a more affordable alternative to the Nissan 370Z. The Subaru BRZ is also lighter, and better-balanced, giving it a natural flow on a road course that is very difficult to duplicate at its price point. The BRZ coupe is motivated by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that puts out 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, and it can be paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Subaru also comes with a vestigial backseat, one that's suitable only for short trips (or for folding down so you can carry an extra set of wheels and tires to the track).
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 04 - 2014 Lexus IS F
The 2014 Lexus IS F is in its final year of production, and this four-door muscle car has flown largely under the radar during its short time on the market. The Lexus IS F is built on the bones of the standard IS sedan, but adds Brembo brakes, an extensively re-worked suspension system, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and unique exterior body work to go with its hulking 5.0-liter V-8 engine. 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque allow the IS F to hit 60-mph in just 4.7 seconds, and handling is aided and abetted by 19-rims wrapped in performance rubber.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 05 - 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a callback to the Little British Cars that used to dominate the affordable sports car space - that is, until the Miata appeared on the scene and put them in their place with its excellent reliability and supernatural handling capability. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a roadster that has somehow managed to stay inexpensive since it was first introduced in 1989, and it's also managed to keep the pounds off, too, making it one of the lightest Japanese sports cars around. This means that the 167 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under its hood doesn't have to work as hard as one might think to bring the Mazda up to super-legal speeds. Enthusiasts can choose between either a six-speed or five-speed manual gearbox to manage the Miata's 140 lb-ft of torque, while cruisers can opt for a six-speed automatic unit.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 06 - 2014 Honda Civic Si
The 2014 Honda Civic Si might not be as frenetic as its predecessors, but there's still a lot to like about the quickest compact car in the Japanese brand's stable. Available in coupe or sedan body styles, the Honda Civic Si features a high-strung suspension system, a limited-slip front differential, and a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. The Si is the only member of the Civic family to feature a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that has been tuned to provide 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, and the vehicle can also be identified by its rear spoiler, 18-inch rims, and carbon fiber trim throughout the interior.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 07 - 2014 Scion FR-S
The 2014 Scion FR-S is essentially the mechanical twin of the Subaru BRZ, as the cars were co-developed by Toyota and Subaru in order to help keep costs down. This means that the Scion FR-S features the same 200 horsepower, direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder, the same six-speed transmission choices, and an identical rear-wheel drive layout. Where the FR-S differs from its cross-town sibling is in terms of styling, with the car wearing unique front and rear fascias, as well as in price: there aren't any options to be had with the Scion, which makes it a little more barebones, and slightly cheaper when compared to the Subaru.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 08 - Lexus LFA
You can't actually buy a Lexus LFA - all 500 editions of this supercar have been spoken for via the automaker's unusual semi-lease/semi-ownership program - but that doesn't mean that you can't appreciate its extroverted styling or earth-shattering performance. The rear-wheel drive Lexus LFA makes use of a 10-cylinder, 552 horsepower 4.8-liter engine that also grinds out 354 lb-ft of torque. The coupe is capable of leaping to 60-mph in just 3.9 seconds, and it features a six-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission. Keep your eyes peeled at your local Lexus lot, and you might luck out and find an LFA sitting in the CPO section one day.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 09 - 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X wraps rally heritage in a compact four-door sedan package to create one of the most boisterous sports cars ever to leave Japanese shores. An advanced computer-controlled all-wheel drive system shuttles the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X's 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to all four wheels on an as-needed basis, while either a five-speed manual (GSR models) or six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (MR models) transmission takes care of ratio changes. Ultra quick and more raw than one might expect, the Evolution X is the last of its breed and will soon be bowing out of the automaker's U.S. line-up.
10 Japanese Sports Cars - 10 - 2015 Subaru WRX
The 2015 Subaru WRX is the latest edition of that company's own WRC-inspired compact sedan. The Subaru WRX sports car offers an MSRP well under $30k while providing the best handling of any automobile ever to wear the WRX badge. A more mature and smoother-riding platform than was offered in the past is the 2015 WRX's hallmark, and the vehicle also gains a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo motor that produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and a continuously-variable automatic with launch control also debut with the Subaru for 2015.