So everything you know is wrong. All your hopes and dreams for a healthy, prosperous 2020, which seemed destined to come true as recently as a month ago, have gone out the window quicker than you can say, well, you know. Nobody other than an evil genius seeking to extort world governments plans for a pandemic, but here we are.
Yes, we will come out of it, but the odds are each of us will come out of it poorer than we expected to be. Job losses, business bankruptcies and a stock market worth a lot less than it was worth four weeks ago virtually assure that.
But all is not lost. With your portfolio in tatters, you might not be able to afford the Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini that had been keeping you awake at night. (Now the things that keep you awake at night have nothing to do with cars.) But when the coronavirus loosens its hold on us, some truly interesting import cars do await. They aren’t built by the big names in vehicle performance, but that doesn’t matter if the engineering is right. The fact they are both fun and affordable is their common bond.
Here’s a look at the best affordable import performance cars for the new reality, counting down from number six to number one. You can start dreaming now. In the cosmic sense, the renewed reality isn’t that far away.
The 2020 Hyundai Veloster N is remarkably track-worthy.
6. Hyundai Veloster N
You might snicker when I tell you the Veloster N is the highest performance version of the Hyundai’s sports coupe, opining that’s akin to being the world’s tallest midget. Well, keep your snide comments to yourself, for the Hyundai Veloster N has a lot to offer a performance enthusiast. No, really. The Veloster N can be fitted with 250-horsepower or 275-horsepower versions of Hyundai’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and for you old-school racers out there, both versions can be accompanied by a 6-speed manual transmission. The electronically controlled suspension and 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires turn the nifty-looking coupe into a track worthy competitor while 13-inch ventilated front brake rotors and 11.8-inch rear rotors deliver impressive stopping power. With a list price under $30,000, the Veloster N is a fast, affordable bargain buy.
The Subaru WRX STI uses high tech to turn a mundane compact sedan into a screamer.
5. 2020 Subaru WRX STI
The Subaru WRX STI is a rally-proven vehicle that stuffs a lot of technology into what starts as a pretty basic package. The WRX’s rally heritage is most evident in its all-wheel-drive system. The STI features Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive that does almost everything but let each wheel take off in its own direction. It’s accompanied by Active Torque Vectoring and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control, both designed to optimize handling in all conditions. A 310-horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder “Boxer” engine supplies the requisite go-power to make the WRX STI a truly rewarding ride. One of the cooler features is steering-responsive LED headlights with height-adjustment controls.
The 2020 Honda Civic Type R is the latest iteration of what is becoming a performance sedan to be … [+]
4. 2020 Honda Civic Type R
Honda is currently offering a number of very involving, driver-oriented versions of its Civic compact car, including the Civic Si, which we think is one of the performance bargains of the decade. The Si coupe and sedan feature a 205-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged direct-injected 4-cylinder engine plus a 6-speed manual transmission. But at the top of the Civic line performance-wise is the Type R. Housed in a snappy hatchback body is a direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that wrings out 306-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. A front-drive vehicle that overcomes the worst of front-drive tendencies, the Type R lets drivers choose any of three driving modes – Comfort, Sport and +R. The modes alter damping force, steering assist, and throttle mapping to support their individual missions.
50 years later Nissan’s venerable Z car still offers a very recognizable profile.
3. 2020 Nissan 370Z
The sixth-generation Z-car, known as the Nissan 370Z, builds on the legendary ethos of the original Datsun 240Z. It’s powered by a sturdy 6-cylinder engine, and it uses front-midship-engine architecture to give advantageous weight distribution. The acorn has not fallen far from the tree. Under the long, languorous hood lies a 332-horsepower 3.7-liter dual overhead cam V-6 engine with variable valve event and lift. It drives the rear wheels via either a rev-matching 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control. Yes, the 370Z’s looks are a bit old-school these days, but that’s a part of its charm.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI continues to offer impressive bang for the buck.
2. 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Volkswagen gives us two excellent choices for this list. The Golf R sports a 288-horsepower engine that immediately gets attention. But in this age of somewhat lower expectations linked to lower cost, the odds-on choice is the fabled Golf GTI. When it comes to overall performance it is certainly no slouch. Its 4-cylinder engine produces 228 horsepower at 4,700 rpm and torque peaks at 258 lb-ft beginning at just 1,500 rpm all the way up to 4,500 rpm. A 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 7-speed DSG automatic are the two transmission choices. Suspension tweaks and proper tires give the front-drive Golf GTI better-balanced handling that you might anticipate, and with 22.8 cu-ft of luggage space behind the rear seats you can take lot of stuff with you.
The Genesis G70 does a very good job of aping a European sports sedan.
1. 2020 Genesis G70
The Genesis G70 won North American Car of the Year honors in 2019, and that should more than hint at what it has going on. With its single-scroll twin turbo system, the 3.3-liter twin-turbo-powered version of the car offers the thrill of 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Add to that an 8-speed automatic and the choice of rear-drive or all-wheel-drive, and the top-end G70 has a lot to recommend it. At the same time, if your budget can’t let you go there, we think you’ll like the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder model that gives you 252 horsepower to play with. It can be had with an old-school 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic transmission that offers rev-matching and gear-holding. The Sport version of the manually equipped G70 has performance exhaust, Brembo brakes with enhanced pads, and assorted weight reduction measures. It’s the real deal.