In many ways, sports cars are like a paraphrasing of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity and pornography; not everyone can define the term “sports car” clearly, but they think they know one when they see one.
Thus, any discussion of sports cars should always begin with the definition of what a sports car is. While many people automatically lump “sporty” cars such as Camaro and Mustang into the category of sports cars, those cars do not qualify.
So, what is a sports car?
For the purposes of delineating this 2012 small sports cars list, we shall define a sports car as a small two-seat automobile (or one possessing a barely usable rear seat) with distinctive styling and outstanding driving dynamics.
By outstanding driving dynamics, we mean agile handling, a spirited engine, highly communicative steering, and determined braking. The car should also provide drivers the option of controlling the transmission’s gear selections themselves. Said control could come by way of a traditional manual transmission with a clutch, one of the new direct-shift gearboxes with an automatic clutch, or a traditional automatic transmission with a well-functioning manual mode.
Ideally, the top should open to admit the elements, whether by means of a conventional convertible roof, one of the new folding hardtops, or a removable “Targa-style” panel. Here though, we hasten to add, the convertible roof is a want, not an absolute need. Several of the cars making this list are available as both hardtops and convertibles—or hardtops only—and yet they satisfy all of the other requirements set forth above.
Well, perhaps it will be clarified for you after perusing Autobytel’s listing of the best small sports cars for 2012.