In an age when $25K buys a substantial chunk of performance, cars like the MX-5 and the FR-S/BRZ seem like anachronisms. They don’t make a ton of power. They’re not particularly practical or fuel efficient. They’re not all that flashy—cute, maybe, but not flashy. Once upon a time, such cars existed to maintain balance in a world of meandering muscle, but in the evolved and capable body of modern performance automobiles, they’re merely the vestigial remnants of a once long tail of affordable sports cars.
One could reasonably argue that the outlook is even more bleak if you jump ahead a few tax brackets. Take a gander at what 60 grand will buy you these days—Z51 Corvettes, M3s, C63s, hopped-up TTs and enough letters and numbers behind pony car monikers to sustain an episode of Sesame Street—and we’ll find that even the flyweights here are pushing 3,400lbs. If you want featherweight performance, you compromise on a Porsche Cayman (which in its most aggressive guise will spec out well north of this price range) or cross your fingers on a lightly-used Lotus Elise.
Now you have another choice. Enter the Alfa Romeo 4C. 227hp. 2,465lbs. Carbon tub. Manual steering. And damn is it ever gorgeous.