The new 2016 Mazda MX-5 sports car is finally on the dealers’ showroom floor. The styling is far superior to the previous version. Horsepower is 155, and EPA gas mileage is listed as 27/36 mpg with the 6-speed manual gearbox or 27/34 with automatic. This is a real sports car that can compete with the expensive German machines. Handling in tight corners is great, strong brakes, and more than enough acceleration. On the bad side, the ride is firm and road noise finds its way into the cabin. But this is a sports vehicle, so why complain? Can’t complain about the price at $24K to $32K either.
Next is the Ford Mustang, offered in a V-6 rated at 300 horsepower–gas mileage is rated at 19/28, with 0-60 mph in 6 seconds. This one had the smaller 2.3 four-cylinder turbo rated at 310 horsepower, 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, and gas mileage of 22/31. As can be seen, the smaller 2.3 outperforms the V-6 on paper; but in the real world, the 0-60 time was 6 seconds with the 6-speed manual tranny. Gas mileage was slightly better at 30 mpg highway, but premium fuel must be used, so overall fuel cost is about the same as the V-6. So why buy the small 2.3 over the V-6? Ford won’t sell you any of the performance options with the V-6 as those are for the 2.3 turbo, which also costs $1,200 extra. The leather Recaro seats this one had were an extra $1,600 as well . . . total price jumped to $37K. There are also some powerful V-8 engines for those who want to go faster and spend more.
After the Mustang, the Scion FR-S arrived. This limited production sports car has few changes for 2016–that means there are still poorly designed sun visors and radio controls that are too small. But performance is here with a strong 200 horse engine, hooked to a nice 6-speed manual gearbox, or an automatic like this one had. A sport-mode button improved performance. Overall: great handling, quick steering, and strong brakes. The price sticker was about $28K. The Scion brand is being discontinued soon, but the word is that this car will still be sold with a Toyota name plate.
Last is the Honda Civic, which isn’t your mom’s typical Civic daily driver–but the performance Si model. Under the hood is a modern 2.4 liter cranking out 205 horses, with a slick 6-speed manual gearbox, big wheels, fat tires, 4-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, stiff suspension, and outside spoiler. This car is quick! It also takes corners with ease, about as well as the Mazda MX-5. Yet, it can be used as a smooth daily commuter if needed. The price is right at only $26K. Honda doesn’t discount these, so be prepared to pay full sticker, which is ok as the fee is low enough.