As the Olympic Games showcases the world’s most powerful athletes, we got to thinking about cars that are sportier and mightier than average. But rather than sports cars, we’re focusing on the everyday (sometimes unsung) heroes.
When you hear the labels sporty or high-performance, chances are you don’t associate them with a car in your price range.
Well, we’re here to debunk that notion and prove that cars don’t have to come with a six-figure price tag to be exciting to drive. Here are six affordable models that blend powerful performance with sporty good looks.
The 2021 Renault Captur packs a lot of punch for a small SUV. Its exterior is immediately striking, with muscled shoulders, sculpted sides and signature C-shape LED daytime running lights.
Its interior is elegant and driver-focused, featuring a 9.3-inch touchscreen, wraparound front seats and – on the top-spec Intens variant – a flying centre console with futuristic e-Shifter.
And then there’s its turbocharged engine, elevating its performance above some of its small SUV rivals. The steering is quick and light, making it a good little car to get you around town – and turn a few heads in the process.
One of the most enduringly popular sports cars in Australia, the MX-5 has undergone several facelifts since its debut in 1989. The current fourth-generation version was named Wheels Magazine’s Car of the Year for 2016.
It’s easy to see the MX-5’s appeal – it’s a traditional two-seat convertible with a lightweight body and rear-wheel drive. One of the reasons the model has been so successful is that it’s simply fun to drive – pairing driver comfort with precise handling, sharp steering and great road-holding.
Plus, there’s a new track-focused 2021 variant, the GT RS, which sports some seriously stylish upgrades including the ‘floating’ 7.0-inch central display and eye-catching 17-inch BBS forged alloy wheels.
If it’s the output under the hood you’re most interested in, this punchy roadster doesn’t disappoint; its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine unleashes up to 135kW of power and 205Nm of torque.
Mitsubishi Triton Double Cab
Combining workhorse toughness with the latest in tech and safety, the Mitsubishi Triton Double Cab is one of the most affordable (not to mention stylish) options in the rapidly growing sports ute segment.
Drivers are increasingly seeking a ute that is as comfortable as it is capable, and the Triton delivers in droves for all passengers. The Double Cab body style boasts a spacious cabin, generous leg room, dual zone climate control and heated leather-appointed front seats.
The GSR model also flaunts a sporty exterior, showcasing black 18-inch alloy wheels, blacked-out grille and black roof.
With a durable cargo bed and a braked towing capacity of 3.1 tonnes, the Triton Double Cab makes light work of heavy loads. Add to that a fuel-efficient engine, a 5-star safety rating and Mitsubishi Diamond Advantage (Australia’s first 10-year warranty and 10-year capped price servicing program)**, you won’t find many sports utes that represent such outstanding value for money.
The newly-crowned Drive Car of the Year 2021 (as well as the winner of the Best Large SUV) fires on all cylinders – it’s got loads of room for seven passengers, strong towing ability and earns top points for safety, space and styling.
Kia states it’s the most high-tech car it’s ever made, as evidenced by the GT-Line variant which is equipped with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, 12.3-inch Digital Supervision instrument cluster and Remote Smart Parking Assist.
It’s just as sophisticated on the outside too, with 20-inch rims, LED headlights with daytime running lights and Kia’s new take on its signature tiger nose front grille design.
The Sorento also comes with different driving modes for when you like to go off-road, whether it’s snow, mud or sand. And the gutsy 3.5-litre V6 petrol or 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine options deliver you versatile performance wherever you go.
Honda Civic Type R
Hot hatches are a great choice for those looking for hard-hitting performance at an affordable price. And few have made as big a splash in recent years than the Honda Civic Type R.
With its aggressive track-inspired styling inside and out, this hot hatch makes an undeniable first impression. We’re talking Alcantara-trimmed flat-bottom sports steering wheel, black 20-inch alloy wheels and accentuated rear spoiler.
Perhaps most impressive of all, the Civic Type R can even keep track of your driving data courtesy of the new LogR software, which monitors performance, logs lap times and scores driver behaviour.
Audi has recently added a performance grade SQ2 sports SUV to its popular Q2 range. This all-wheel drive, light-duty compact SUV comes with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that can generate up to 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
Its sporty styling is on full display, with 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights and red brake callipers. Inside you’ve got a 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit, heated front sports seats clad in black and red Nappa leather and a 10-colour ambient lighting package.
The SQ2’s unique S-specific suspension combined with its reduced ride height offers enhanced driving dynamics, giving you direct feedback from the road and sportier handling.
So, if you’re craving a little extra excitement behind the wheel, some of these models might be a good starting point for researching your next affordable sporty ride.