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The Best Daily Driver Sports Cars For Everyday Thrills

Best Daily Driver Sports Cars 0 Hero
Photo: Porsche 911 Carrera

Not unlike purpose-built race cars, high-performance sports cars tend to lack the practicalities and creature comforts of regular commuter vehicles, with seating for two, ultra-tight track-focused suspension and running gear, and little to no cargo space. And while there’s no denying that these cars are exhilarating to drive, the reality is that the lion’s share of these models make for wildly impractical choices for everyday driving duties.

There is, however, a shortlist of cars that offer spirited performance in more practical and utilitarian packages, capable of taking on commuting and grocery-getting duties as well as weekend canyon carving and track days. And though this is admittedly a tough balancing act to achieve, there are a handful of Goldilocks sports cars that have managed to pull it off in spades, and it’s this selection of vehicles that we’ll be counting down today in this guide to the best daily driver sports cars.

The Best Daily Driver Sports Cars

Practical Performers

Elements To Consider When Buying A Daily Driver Sports Car

Purchasing a solid daily-drivable sports car requires finding the right balance of performance and practicality. And while this may sound fairly straightforward on the surface, the reality is there are numerous finer points that one needs to be privy to when shopping in this unique space. Below, we’ll briefly touch on half a dozen of the most pivotal factors to consider when looking for a sporty yet utilitarian daily driver.

Cargo Space: One of the biggest factors that makes a lot of sports cars less-than-conducive to daily driving is their lack of cargo space. Because storage space also tends to be somewhat limited even on daily driveable sports cars, the trick is to consider a car’s accumulative cargo space, factoring in the cubic feet of the trunk, as well as the backseat (and even an empty front passenger seat).

Number Of Seats: Another factor that plays a significant role in determining how practical and daily drivable a car is is its number of seats. And while this may seem fairly obvious on the surface, it’s extremely important to think about the size of each seat, as a lot of small coupes are equipped with back seats, though in many cases these seats are only large enough to accommodate a small child (or bag of groceries).

Acceleration: While it’s obviously fun to pilot cars with blistering top speeds, the reality is that in most daily driving situations, you’ll very seldom come anywhere near a vehicle’s top speed. As a result, off-the-line acceleration is markedly more important, as you’ll experience this every time you’re behind the wheel which will hugely contribute to the overall enjoyment of daily driving. The easiest way to get an objective sense of this metric is to review a given vehicle’s 0-60mph time.

Handling: One of the main variables that makes a car “sporty” is its handling, which is why this is a crucial area to consider when shopping around. This factor will primarily boil down to a vehicle’s curb weight (as well as power-to-weight ratio) and its suspension package. As a result, it’s important to review the running gear on each vehicle, including the suspension and the braking components.

Bells & Whistles: Though they admittedly aren’t vital for simply getting from A to B, extra features can hugely bolster a vehicle’s convenience and/or comfort. Unlike supercars with largely spartan cabins, daily drivable sports cars often come outfitted with a plethora of creature comforts like heated and/or cooled seats, connectivity to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, built-in GPS, and central infotainment displays, just to name a few.

Maintenance & Ownership Costs: Because these vehicles are being purchased for daily driving, maintenance and ownership costs are super important factors to consider when shopping around. This is especially true when dealing with more high-end makes, as these can often only be serviced by trained specialists. More high-end supercars are also not only markedly more expensive to maintain, but also tend to depreciate in value when loaded up with miles from daily commuting duties — a factor that doesn’t affect sporty daily drivers to the same extent.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport

Photo: Mazda
Why It Made The Cut
  • An affordable and highly-nimble featherweight two-seater with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

Best Lightweight Pick: Nimble, lightweight, and affordable, the MX-5 is a sporty true driver’s car that’s engineered from the ground up with a major focus on performance. Boasting a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the car is powered by a 181-hp 2.0-liter four-banger and features a host of bells and whistles such as Mazda’s i-Activsense safety package, plush race-inspired Terracotta Nappa leather seats, and the Mazda Connect infotainment display with Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) integration.

Engine: 2.0L Four-Cylinder
Power: 181HP & 151FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 5.7 Seconds
Weight: 2,341LBS
MSRP: $28,050

Subaru BRZ

Photo: Subaru
Why It Made The Cut
  • A Toyota & Subaru-developed rear-wheel-drive sports car with an enormous wealth of aftermarket upgrades.

Best Tuning Pick: Jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, the BRZ is a sub-3,000lb rear-wheel-drive sports car that makes for an absolutely stellar daily driver. Benefitting from a recent facelift, this car features a retuned track-developed suspension, paddle shifters, an upgraded steering setup, a revised braking package, new wheels, a 2.4-liter direct-injection Boxer four putting down 228hp, and a suite of tech that includes a digital cluster, the SUBARU STARLINK Multimedia, Safety, and Security package, and EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. A fold-down rear seat also affords this vehicle — which is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission — a surprising amount of cargo space.

Engine: 2.4L Boxer Four
Power: 228HP & 184FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 5.9 Seconds
Weight: 2,815LBS
MSRP: $28,595

Hyundai Veloster N

Photo: Hyundai
Why It Made The Cut
  • A performance-spec hatchback loaded with track-focused bits and true daily driving capabilities — all for under $35,000.

Best Hot Hatch: Available with the driver’s choice of an N eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters or a six-speed manual, the Hyundai Veloster N is an ultra-sporty front-wheel-drive model that features a myriad of race track-focused features while still lending itself plenty well to daily driving. Powered by a 275-hp turbocharged inline-four, the car sports an N Corner Carving electronic differential, adaptive dampers, a sporty adjustable large bore exhaust setup, and four drive modes; one of which is the customizable N Mode that allows users to custom-dial-in elements such as throttle response, the limited-slip diff, rev-matching, stability control, and steering weight. 

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
Power: 275HP & 260FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.8 Seconds
Weight: 3,106LBS
MSRP: $33,595

Nissan Z Coupe

Photo: Nissan
Why It Made The Cut
  • A neo-retro-style seventh-gen two-door model with a twin-turbo V6 that’s got 400hp on tap in its stock form — and even more in the NISMO-spec.

Best Retro-Inspired: With production scheduled to begin in March of 2022, it won’t be long until the all-new Nissan Z will be hitting public roads. This modern retro-inspired car is powered by a front, mid-ship twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter two-dozen valve V6 with an aluminum alloy block and heads that’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission and good for an even 400hp. Performance brakes and suspension — plus a race-inspired yet still fairly plush cabin — round out what’s sure to be an instant classic.

Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L V6
Power: 400HP & 350FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 3.5 Seconds
Weight: 3,486LBS
MSRP: $40,990

Kia Stinger GT2

Photo: Kia
Why It Made The Cut
  • A twin-turbocharged all-wheel-drive track-specced sports car sold for around the $50K mark.

Best Value Pick: Kia is a brand we once gave little thought to, but in recent years has really impressed us with its cars’ performance and build quality, which is why we weren’t surprised by the practical and high-performance nature of the Korean carmaker’s GT2-spec Stinger. Equipped with a full-time torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, the Kia features a 3.3-liter twin-turbo GDI V6, launch control, an electronic variable valve dual stainless steel exhaust with chrome tailpipes, Brembo brakes, 19” wheels shod in sticky Michelin rubber, and electronically-controlled suspension, all as standard.

Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.3L V6
Power: 368HP & 376FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.7 Seconds
Weight: 4,023LBS
MSRP: $51,890

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Photo: Chevrolet
Why It Made The Cut
  • An upgraded, 650-hp pony car that’s just as conducive to commuting as it is to doing laps around your local circuit.

Best Muscle/Pony Car: Take the shell of a popular modern-day muscle car, shoehorn in a 650-hp supercharged and inter-cooled 16-valve pushrod aluminum block V8, round it out with a race-inspired cabin and a subtle aero kit, and you’ve got one of the best high-performance daily drivers in existence. Capable of firing off 0-60mph runs in just 3.5 seconds, this top-of-the-line Camaro variant features Brembo brakes, an electronic limited-slip diff, an oversized cooling system, and a cutting-edge Performance-Tuned Suspension package with Magnetic Ride Control and StabiliTrak electronic stability and traction control systems.

Engine: Supercharged 6.2L V8
Power: 650HP & 650FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 3.5 Seconds
Weight: 3,907LBS
MSRP: $67,300


Photo: BMW
Why It Made The Cut
  • The latest iteration of the Bavarian brand’s high-performance track-ready daily driver in a more practical four-door configuration.

Best Four-Door Pick: When first debuting the E30 gen of the now-legendary BMW M3 in 1986, the Bavarian brand essentially took a proven luxury sedan and bestowed it with a higher-performance powertrain and a selection of upgraded components — a recipe that would ultimately give way to one of the best sporty daily drivers in history. Coming standard with a manual six-speed transmission, the latest iteration of the mighty M3 is kicked along by a 473-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and features a full suite of M running gear, along with an M-equipped interior that’s received features like an available M Head-up display and M Carbon Bucket seats. BMW also offers the even more capable Competition and Competition xDrive versions of the M3, both of which make an additional 30hp while boasting 0-60mph times of 3.8 and 3.4 seconds, respectively.

Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.0L Inline-Six
Power: 473HP & 406FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.1 Seconds
Weight: 3,840LBS
MSRP: $76,000

Porsche 911 Carrera

Photo: Porsche
Why It Made The Cut
  • An eighth-generation automotive icon with true daily driving capabilities and a markedly more understated appearance than your average supercar.

Best Overall Pick: For the last 60 years or so, Porsche’s wildly-iconic 911 has stood as a symbol of cutting-edge automotive performance, while still coming in a somewhat understated — yet thoroughly attractive — package that makes it a more sensible and mature choice for daily driving than practically any other modern supercar. The latest base model of this fabled sports car (the 911 Carrera) is powered by one of Porsche’s signature mid-mounted Boxer engines — in this case, a twin-turbocharged six-banger that allows the automotive icon to achieve 0-60mph runs in four seconds flat and clock a respectable top speed of over 180mph.

Engine: Twin-Turbocharged Boxer Six
Power: 379HP & 331FT-LBS
0-60MPH Time: 4.0 Seconds
Weight: 3,354LBS
MSRP: $114,400

The Best True Driver’s Cars

Photo: Caterham Cars Seven 620

Looking for an even more spirited behind-the-wheel experience that forgoes practicality in favor of raw thrills, power, and handling? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best true driver’s cars for a handpicked list of ultra-spartan yet ultra-capable performance-focused rides.