In the automotive world, fun often comes wrapped in a small package, as lightweight compact cars can offer a level of handling and performance that is harder for their larger cousins to duplicate. Even more interesting is the fact that many compact sports cars are also positioned as the entry-level offerings of their respective brands, which makes them more affordable than one might expect. This is taken to further extreme on the previously-owned car market, where used compact sports cars represent some of the most intriguing deals available.
Let’s take a look at 10 used compact sports car bargains that offer the best bang for the buck.
01. 2004 – 2009 Honda S2000
The second-generation Honda S2000 was built between 2004 and 2009, and it offered the most refined driving experience available from the compact roadster. Used 2004 to 2009 Honda S2000 models feature a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that revs all the way to 7,800 rpm in order to provide 237 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, figures which are good enough to launch the convertible to 60 miles per hour in just under six seconds. The S2000 also features a snug cockpit that wraps around the pilot like a race car, as well as almost supernatural steering feedback and handling capabilities that make the compact vehicle a favored choice amongst amateur track day drivers. A six-speed transmission, with ratios perfectly placed to take advantage of the four-cylinder’s unique powerband, is the only available transmission with the Honda S2000.
02. 2006 Acura RSX Type-S
The Acura RSX Type-S was built until 2006, and it represents the most recent example of the Japanese premium brand mixing sport and luxury together in an affordable package, with the small hatchback borrowing much of its platform from the lauded Honda Civic Si. This is evident under the hood, where the Acura shares the Honda’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that has been tuned to provide 201 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission that isn’t available on any other version of the RSX. The vehicle also comes standard with leather seats, a moonroof and a stiff sport suspension system that has made the Type-S a highly sought-after commodity amongst secondhand compact sport coupe buyers.
03. 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
A used 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX provides more than just a hot engine matched with a compact chassis. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX was the Japanese brand’s thinly-disguised World Rally Championship warrior for 2006, a four-door car packed to the brim with high tech features such as an active center differential for the vehicle’s all-wheel drive system and a revised turbocharger, as well as a suspension system that features Bilstein shock absorbers and a relentless spring rate that helps to keep the car glued to the road. The Mitsubishi’s 286 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder also generates 289 lb-ft of torque, figures which are managed by either a five or six-speed manual transmission. The Lancer Evolution IX hunts down much more expensive sports cars with a zero to 60-mph time of less than five seconds.
04. 2006 – 2010 Honda Civic Si
The new Honda Civic might have just debuted this past summer, but the 2006 to 2010 Honda Civic Si is still going strong as a used option for performance-hungry compact car enthusiasts. Found in both coupe and sedan editions, a used Honda Civic Si delivers a balance between inexpensive daily transportation and an edgy, nimble compact car that urges drivers to push its engine up to almost the redline in order to squeeze out as much acceleration as possible. The 2006 – 2010 Honda Civic Si features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder motor that is good for 197 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, and a limited-slip front differential helps to put that power down smoothly enough to shoot the car to 60-mph from a standing start in about seven seconds. Regardless of whether the sedan or coupe body style is encountered, all examples of the 2006 – 2010 Honda Civic Si come with a six-speed manual transmission.
05. 2009 – 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2009 – 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a used roadster choice that trades on its reputation for offering extreme handling prowess, an easy to drive demeanor and an inexpensive purchase price. The most up-to-date used Mazda MX-5 Miatas are the 2009 – 2010 editions of the car, which come with a revised engine, a sportier exterior appearance and a few extra comfort items thrown in for good measure. Available with either a traditional soft top or a retractable hard top, the Miata also features a 2.0-liter engine that pushes out 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque when matched with a five-speed or six-speed manual transmission. Finding a used Miata with the optional six-speed automatic gearbox drops power output to 158 horses.
06. 2006 – 2009 Pontiac Solstice
Although it only shone for a very short time, the 2006 to 2009 Pontiac Solstice helped to send off the now-departed Pontiac brand with a flourish. A used Pontiac Solstice (which can be found in either roadster or very rare coupe editions) provides unique styling, a high-speed corner-friendly weight balance and a choice of two different drivetrains. The rear-wheel drive Solstice starts out with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 177 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, while the upscale GXP model slaps on a stiffer suspension system and includes a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit that churns out 260 horses and 260 lb-ft of twist. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, and a used Solstice GXP can leap to 60-mph in an impressive 5.8 seconds.
07. 2007 – 2010 MINI Cooper S
The 2007 – 2010 MINI Cooper S hatchback is an intriguing used compact sports car that takes maximum advantage of a platform that pushes its wheels out to the corners of the chassis in order to deliver better than expected handling for a front-wheel drive car. A very lightweight design takes a lot of the strain off of the MINI Cooper S’ 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which provides a very capable 172 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. Six-speed automatic and manual transmissions can be found mated to this engine on the used car market, and the Cooper S is fleet enough of foot to reach 60-mph in roughly seven seconds.
08. 2009 - 2010 Porsche Boxster
A used Porsche Boxster is for many sports car fans the gateway to Porsche ownership. Inexpensive in comparison to the Porsche 911, the 2009 – 2010 Porsche Boxster still provides many of the same thrills and sensational driving characteristics that have helped the Teutonic automaker hang on to its title as one of the world’s most respected performance brands. The Porsche Boxster offers up a 2.9-liter, six-cylinder engine as its base engine, and this unit provides a healthy 255 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque. Stepping up to a used Porsche Boxster S introduces a larger, 3.4-liter six-cylinder motor that doles out 310 ponies and 266 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the two-seat roadster to 60-mph in a startling five seconds. Each version of the Boxster was originally available with either a six-speed manual transmission or Porsche’s seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.
09. 2008 - 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX
The 2008 – 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX follows a similar design philosophy as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: stuff a forced-induction engine inside a compact sedan (or hatchback) package and give it superior all-wheel drive grip. A used Subaru Impreza WRX, however, isn’t quite as tech-focused as the Lancer, and as a result is more affordable as a secondhand vehicle. It’s also a lot easier to find thanks to stronger sales when new. The Subaru Impreza WRX is a blast to push to the limit due to the 265 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque offered by its 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and a five-speed manual transmission helps the four-door reel off a 5.2-second zero-to-60-mph time.
10. 2009 - 2010 Audi TT
The 2008 – 2009 Audi TT is an excellent compact sports car option for those who value style and presence above all else. A used Audi TT can be purchased in both hatchback and roadster versions, each of which are visually striking. All TT’s also feature Audi’s exception interior design, which imparts a luxurious, upscale feel not often encountered in the previously-owned compact performance segment. A 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger to produce 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque is the most commonly found mill when searching for used Audi TT’s, but a 3.2-liter V-6 (250 horses and 236 lb-ft of torque) was also available for the 2009 model year. Depending upon whether you are looking at a 2009 or a 2010 TT, you will also be able to find features such as quattro all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission, or one of two different six-speed automatics.