It may seem like every car on the road today is a dual-cab ute or SUV, but there’s still a bevy of performance options under $75,000.
It’s not the 1990s anymore, so the number of sporty coupes has well and truly receded. But under that price point, there are some back-to-basics Japanese rear-drivers, a glut of hot hatches, and several sports sedans.
Are we as spoiled for choice as we were, say, 25 years ago? No, but there’s still a lot to choose from.
Below, each member of the CarExpert editorial team has shared their choice for which performance car they would buy under $75,000.
That’s the no-brainer op-ed of the year. Honda Civic Type R in either Crystal Black Pearl or Championship White. At $72,600 drive-away, this is by far and away the best hot hatch ever built, thanks to a level of feedback that exceeds the current Porsche 911 CS, hands down and plenty of other expensive Euro machines.
The red seats instantly feel like they’ve been custom-moulded to you body and yet the comfort and bolstering is, again, better than a 911 – a car that costs four times as much.
Then there’s the steering. In ‘R’ mode, the level of feedback is akin to a Radical SR3 when it comes to feedback. It’s astonishing to have this in a road car under $73,000.
Honda has taken a properly holistic approach to its latest Type R. Every single mechanical component has been fine-tuned and calibrated to the nth degree, and it shows from the very instant you climb aboard, slip it into first gear and let the clutch out.
Pure magic in a family-friendly hatch. There’s nothing better.
I should preface this answer by saying I have not driven the new Honda Civic Type R, however I have heard Tony speak highly of it non-stop ever since he drove in earlier this year. While he is wrong about many things (and often), such as being the original ideas guy for the NCIS TV show and being good at table tennis, he is not often wrong about a performance car.
If I exclude the Honda simply due to lack of time behind the wheel, however, I would buy a Nissan Z.
It’s not the prettiest car around and the engine is from an old Infiniti and the underpinnings are from a 370Z which shared some bits with the 350Z… so it’s nothing new. Australia doesn’t even get the new infotainment system that North American markets get, but – and it’s a big, big but – the Nissan Z is extremely old school in its basic philosophy.
It is an overpowered rear-wheel drive sports car you can get with a manual transmission. It doesn’t sound awfully good either, but behind the wheel it takes you back to what 90s Japanese sports cars used to be… a little frightening and unhinged.
You can fix some of the balance issues with suspension and spring changes but you can’t beat the underlying power-to-weight ratio and the propensity to always oversteer. In today’s nanny state of cars engineered to the lowest common denominator, the Nissan Z stands alone as a lone wolf.
It’s like an old uncle at a family party who might say some inappropriate things, but you can forgive him.
If I was spending $75,000 on a performance car, I’d probably buy an SS Commodore and supercharge the living daylights out of it.
But given we’re a new car site, I’d get as close as I can to that formula – V8 and rear-wheel drive. I’d go for the Ford Mustang.
It’s a quintessential performance package and doesn’t aim to be anything it’s not.
I know there are a stack of front-wheel drive options available in that price bracket, but they’re just not the same as rear-wheel drive V8 monster. Well, in my opinion anyway.
A Ford Mustang GT is tempting, especially having seen how Ford has improved the formula for 2024. Will it cost less than $75,000? Maybe, and it won’t be far over that mark if it doesn’t.
Also tempting is the new Subaru BRZ. I had a first-generation model and absolutely loved driving it, from the daily commute to a few track days at Winton. Unlike an MX-5 it has a reasonably usable boot, and there’s room inside for my six-seven frame – and the new model has a more modern interior, along with a torquier engine.
But it’s impossible to look past the Honda Civic Type R. When it comes to all-round performance cars on a budget (well, a pretty generous budget) it’s hard to think of anything that balances fun (razor-sharp chassis, brilliant six-speed manual) with practicality (look at that boot!).
I’m going to be consistent and go with an SUV here. #sorrynotsorry
The Volkswagen Tiguan R is my pick. It’s very practical and it drives comfortably when not in sport mode, which makes it the perfect everyday car – while also allowing you to have a bit of fun on the weekend.
I know it isn’t traditional by any means, but I’d argue the Tesla Model 3 is one of the best bang-for-your-buck new performance cars you can currently buy.
I’d be more than happy to opt for the entry-level single-motor RWD variant but given I have extra theoretical budget to play with I can’t go past the dual-motor all-wheel drive Long Range at $70,400 before on-road costs. Sure it’s a little heavier, but it’s faster, has a longer claimed range, and has a better sound system.
The Tesla Model 3, thanks to its innate electric characteristics, is properly quick. It shouldn’t be underestimated as you’ll leave your average Joe Blow at the traffic light almost every time.
The electric sedan is also quite dynamic with a low centre of gravity. It’s such a joy to chuck around on some twisty turns.
Lastly, if you thought the Civic Type R was practical, just wait ’til you see how much interior space is on offer in the Tesla Model 3. There’s not only the regular boot in the rear, but an extra covered space under the rear boot floor, as well as a frunk. It seems you can actually have your cake and eat it too.
There are a few options that really appeal to me: the Toyota GR 86/Subaru BRZ twins are wonderfully balanced and show you don’t need a lot of power to have a lot of fun, while I love the feel of the Ford Mustang GT’s manual transmission and the sound of its V8.
I’m going to go a little left-field with my choice, though, and run right up to that $75,000 barrier. And yet I’m still picking what is somewhat of a bargain.
I love a sports sedan, and the Genesis G70 3.3T Sport, priced at $74,324 before on-road costs, offers a balanced, rear-wheel drive platform like that of a BMW 3 Series but with a stonking twin-turbo V6 engine – and all for around $30,000 less than an M340i or an Audi S4.
At the G70’s price point, you’re looking at just a 320i or C200. Yes, you could get an Audi S3 sedan for the same price and frankly you would probably be getting a vehicle with better packaging, but there’s no replacement for displacement and rear-wheel drive thrills in my eyes.
Without trying to copy anyone else, I too keep coming back to the new Honda Civic Type R as the ultimate performance car under $75,000.
It’s more mature and refined than the old one without losing the hardcore ability of its predecessors, and just would you look at it – it looks like a GT race car for the road.
Need more reasons? It’s a manual, it still has plenty of space for four if you need to take your friends along, and you can tear up a racetrack then drive home in it in relative comfort.
I will take mine in Championship White please…