By on July 28, 2011



David writes:

Hi Sajeev and Steve,

I’d like your take on a replacement form my 2003 Honda Accord coupe. It has a 4 cylinder and a 5 speed and has been a pretty good car.  But I miss rear wheel drive.  In my younger days, I’ll be 60 next year, I had a Porsche 912, a Cortina GT, various Volvos and VWs before I ended up with pick up trucks before the current Honda.

I like the Honda, I just wish it was a bit lighter and rear wheel drive.  What are my options these days for a RWD car that doesn’t break the bank, gets decent fuel mileage and is dependable?    I’ve been thinking a used Miata or S2000, but would prefer a coupe.  I’m not really into BMW’s for various reasons.  What do you two think?

As a replacement for the Honda I’d spend $15,000 to $25,000.

Steve Answers:

Cheap to own? Well there goes all the Benzes, Bimmers and Audis I could have recommended to you. A lightly used Corvette with low mileage from the mid-2000’s is also a prime option here. However given that you want ‘lighter’, you may also want ‘smaller’.
I would drive the Vette and see if that’s for you. Have you driven the Vette yet? Okay. If that’s not your speed then consider the following idea.
‘All wheel drive = Rear wheel drive in the USA’

In North America rear wheel drive only sells if it has a truck or European bent.  However when you consider all-wheel-drive into the equation the entire world becomes your oyster. Except you happen to want… two doors?

The Infniti G35 is an obvious choice. I would also consider a 2009 Ford Mustang GT or perhaps a slightly older special model like this one. Drive these three cars if you must have the coupe and see which one is ‘just right’.

Sajeev Answers:

David, its pretty tough to beat a Mazda Miata for your price range and requirements.  If it doesn’t come with the hard top, buy one separately.  Maybe you’ll be smitten by the added Honda interior refinement (in my opinion) of the S2000, and that higher power, high revving motor is certainly a sweetheart. Maybe the added punch of a Solstice/Sky with the turbo mill and a little extra bulk?

Funny thing is, I went to both the Pontiac and Saturn websites just to see if they still existed.  And they do! When you select the Sky, there’s a frame on the webpage that suggests you should also look at a (C5?) Corvette. And maybe you should: stupid amazing highway fuel economy with a stick, insane power and performance that simply can’t be matched by smaller roadsters.  Not that I expect you to divert from a Miata, but maybe the Internet knows better.

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47 Comments on “New or Used: I Want Something Like My Honda, But…...”

  • avatar

    What exactly is that car in the picture a Corvord (Corvette/Accord) ?

  • avatar

    Totally agree with the 2008 Bullitt suggestion. It is relatively rare, yet easy and cheap to service, and both sounds and drives great. To most eyes it’s a nondescript coupe, so it doesn’t attract unwanted attention, and those who know, love it. Prices are down right now due to the hubub over the (admittedly impressive) new 5.0, so you can get one – like that one on eBay – relatively cheap. Great cars – I just spent the weekend with one.

    Of course the Miata is its own beast, and you can even get the newer folding hardtop model well within your price range. Question is – do you want a small roadster, or not? The mustang will swallow infinitely more stuff (both in the trunk and the interior) than a Miata/S2000, and makes a far better distance cruiser with roughly the same highway mileage.

  • avatar

    I’d go with a Mustang 6 cylinder. They have good economy, light weight and decent reliability. Plus they are fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      For a new 2011+ maybe but for a used 2010 or older skip the V6 – the V8 sounds infinitely better, the torque is way more fun and there’s not that much of an MPG advantage to the sixes anyway, plus they hold their value and appeal for much longer.

    • 0 avatar

      In what world is a 3400lb 2 door “light weight”? The Miata tips the scales at around 2500lbs with a folding hardtop. The S2000 is around 2800lbs. While neither has 300hp, if you desire that pure roadster feel, anything north of 3k isn’t adequate.

  • avatar

    As a replacement for the Honda I’d spend $15,000 to $25,000.

    A new Hyundai Genesis Coupe!

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve never driven a Genesis coupe, but the buzz I read online implies that people that buy them don’t like them very much. They end up back on market quick, though I’m not sure why.

    • 0 avatar

      I could easily imagine living with one of those, it’s not hugely fast even with the 3.8, particularly of the line, but fast enough for the road. And it really should be a hatchback. The only thing that slightly worries me is that even though the one i drove was a barely broken in press car, it had a couple of minor interior rattles on rough paved roads. Gravel would have been smoother and less grooved.

      Not really relevant in the US but if it cost 25-30k€ instead of the 50k€ it costs here it would be on the top of my list. That’s still 15-20k€ cheaper than competing coupes but still way more than i want to spend on a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      $25k gets the limp-wristed 2.0T. The 3.8 liter V6 is the one to get, but that’s more like $30k with decent options.

      But $25k also buys a C5 Corvette Z06. I’d go for the used Detroit muscle with low parts cost and universal serviceability.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    A new Hyundai Genesis Coupe!


  • avatar


  • avatar

    A coworker of mine is selling his Bullitt for $22k. Wish I had the money, definitely get it over a 2011 GT or even V6 (same price). I just like the cleaned up look and of course, Highland Green.

  • avatar

    Another thought: look into leasing a new Infiniti G25. Most dealers are overflowing with them, and even before they piled up they were giving away ridiculous lease rates. I was offered a 2011 G25 lease with 15k miles a year for $0 down, $299/month for 39 months back in December; I can only assume the deals are at least as good now.

    No, I didn’t go for it, b/c I ended up liking a used TL more (and leasing doesn’t work for my driving needs). But you’ve been around the block a few times and deserve leather and a few amenities. Plus, you don’t need more power than that anyway, especially if you’ve been driving an Accord and are considering a Miata.

  • avatar

    Went and looked at the new Corvette specs, and they’re pretty awesome:

    drag coefficient of .286.
    Top speed of 190 mph and a 0-to-60 time of 4.2 seconds on the test track
    26 MPG highway with no gas-guzzler tax

  • avatar

    Are American car makers assleep at the wheel or something? There is a huge demand for RWD cars that aren’t Corvettes, Mustangs, Cadillacs, Chargers, F-150s or German. Who decided and can he be fired?

    • 0 avatar

      I really don’t think there is now, I wish there was but FWD has been the standard for so long now for cars that there are lots of people who have never driven anything else. It will take a lot to overcome that. I mean cars only, not trucks and SUVs. The last 25 years FWD has been the most common choice of family car buyers. Just think how many have come of driving age in that time. My family always drove Panthers and pickups so we were different but most family cars were FWD, in many cases that was the only choice. I hope RWD comes back but I’m not holding my breath.

    • 0 avatar

      Define “huge demand”!

      Police cars and taxi cabs is pretty much it.

      It’s all about the cost and it’s way simpler and cheaper to install an already assembled FWD transverse engine/ transmission in a unibody sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a huge demand for RWD cars that aren’t Corvettes, Mustangs, Cadillacs, Chargers, F-150s or German.

      I doubt that the average American driver even knows whether his or her own car is FWD or RWD, let alone cares much about it. I know that on the internet that everybody wants a turbodiesel rear-wheel drive station wagon with a manual transmission, but the real world doesn’t seem to resemble that.

      If Ford and GM wanted to give it a shot, they could build their Aussie family sedans in North America. But since not many of us ran out to buy a G8 when we had the chance, should Ford believe that it would have any better luck trying to sell us Falcons?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    If he doesn’t need a back seat, $15-25k will easily net a late-model Miata or S2000 plus a factory hardtop, and the soft top can be pulled out in a few hours.

    Outside option: wait a year or so and see how the Toyota/Subaru FT86 turns out.

  • avatar

    CPO 128i.

  • avatar

    Since David seems to want a Japanese brand car , if he doesn’t mind waiting a year or so the new rear drive Scion FR-S with the Subaru boxer engine should be out in dealerships – middle of 2012 is what they’re saying . I don’t know the fuel economy numbers (said to be surprising in the link below) , but it should be selling right around his 25k price point , maybe even under it . It is a Scion after all not a Lexus .

  • avatar

    My C6 just threw up a little when it saw that picture.

  • avatar

    Miata with factory folding hardtop. S2000 with hardtop is great, too. Those two cars are just pure joy.

  • avatar

    Mazda RX8

    Might not be the cheapest to own but the smiles per mile are hard to beat.

  • avatar

    Hi all, David here,

    Thanks for the advice. It’s always interesting to see what you all come up with. I’m not tied to an Asian built car, just seems like they are the most dependable these days. I’m also not tied to a coupe.

    How about keeping the Honda as an everyday car (it only has 140,000 miles on it) and a 1980’s 911SC? I do like the S2000 though. There are some good deals on 04-05 Mazdaspeed Miata’s too, a little more power is always good. I do like the newer vettes, the significant other despises them for some reason. The new toyabru looks interesting too. Thanks to all of you again, I appreciate the comments.


    • 0 avatar

      The Honda/911 idea sounds like the best one yet!

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t blame you the 80s air cooled 911s are among my favorites too . If you go that route just research which years were the best , find a reasonable Porsche mechanic if one exists in your area , and be careful on wet roads with that rear engine weight bias . But if I wasn’t 6’2″ with long legs I’d be driving an S2000 right now !

      • 0 avatar

        I would never begrudge someone buying an old Porsche or other maintenance-intensive toy, but make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting into. You’d have 2 high-mileage cars, one of which is virtually guaranteed to need lots of maintenance and down time. While that’s fine if it works for you, there’s no question that a Miata, new or older, would spend much more time moving under its own power. These are cars that have been known to run for 200k or more miles on little more than fluid, timing belt, and ignition wire changes.

        My ’99 is a blast to drive: enough grip to impress you, and benign handling at its limit to make you feel like a rock star. The Mazdaspeed ups the grip a couple of notches and adds some much-needed power. You can also get a used base model, throw some upgraded shocks and sway bars on it, and go to Flying Miata for a fully-reliabe, bolt-on turbo kit. Anything from 180 to over 400 hp is available, depending on how extreme you want to go.

  • avatar

    Miata all the way. Just picked up a 99 a few weeks ago and I am just in love with it. There is nothing like the go-kart feel that you get with this thing. Just so much fun to throw around in the twisties. I paid 5k for mine with only 60k on the clock, spent about a grand on suspension/wheel/tire mods and now the car is even more amazing. Would definetely take a Miata over an S2000.

  • avatar

    I’m going the used 350Z route, go back a few years (05-07) and your budget is right on track. Downsides: drab interior, rattles, and bruising ride (from what I’ve read).

    The number of small, light, quick, RWD, affordable coupes is tiny – its basically the Miata and… ummm that’s it until the new FT-86 arrives. My problem is I want a hatchback. If the Genesis Coupe was a hatchback I’d have one in the driveway already, its a great car but the trunk is nothing more then a mail slot. Same with a used G35, awesome car but the rear seats are fixed so if you have anything sizeable it ain’t going in there. I remember back when Mustangs & Camaros had hatches… now everything is a 2+2 coupe with a small trunk. The RX-8 would be perfect, too bad the engine is a mess as a daily driver (low MPG, drinks oil, no torque).

  • avatar

    The Mustang on ebay is $23,000, you might as well just pony up $6,000 and buy a brand new one.

  • avatar

    * lighter than 2003 accord 4cyl (3100 lbs)
    * RWD
    * < $25k
    * decent fuel mileage
    * dependable
    * prefer a coupe
    * not BMW

    Miata PRHT or Solstice Coupe (good luck finding one!) is probably the only thing that matches all your criteria.

    Miata, S2000, Solstice/Sky with removable hardtops might also be acceptable.

    If you're willing to fudge the weight by a couple hundred pounds, a Genesis coupe or Mustang 3.7L might be a good option. Nissan 350z / 370z are a bit dodgy on reliability, but otherwise are decent options. A corvette under your price cap will have a bunch of miles, and might be more power than you want.

  • avatar

    Go Korean! Avoid the overpriced crap from Japan, Germany and USA. I suggest the Genesis Coupe.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Why doesn’t a used Holden/Pontiac GTO fill his bill?

  • avatar

    hard to beat a Boxster in that price range

    I just got rid of my 2.7 and picked up an S for $21,500 – car is the best car I have ever owned (I’ve owned 24 cars, including 5 Porsches, including a 911).

  • avatar

    If you can wait a year or so, Scion FR-S/Whatever the Subaru equivalent will be.

    The S2000 is a great car, but the starchy ride can be a bit tiresome on longer drives.

  • avatar

    A Thunderbird is pretty good. I prefer the super or turbo coupe variety but a mid 90’s with the 4.6l mod motor is cheap, comfy, and easy to find, I’m not sure I’d trust the ones with the jag motors though.

    No suggestions for an RX-8? I like the looks of em and the suicide rear doors but I haven’t driven many to gauge a good opinion on them.

  • avatar

    Hey folks,

    Again thanks for all the advice, just to let you know I went a completely different way. I, with my significant other, ended up buying a house and to go with it a 2005 Ranger pickup. Both the house and the truck were deals we couldn’t resist. Actually the house came first and that made the truck necessary to haul supplies as I repair it, landscaping plants, compost, etc. You know the drill. The truck is just as plain as you can get, regular cab, 5 speed, nothing extra, just a good little truck with 30,000 on it.

    Now the plan is to do some repairs and add a garage so I can have a toy to keep running.

    Thanks again,

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