AutoGuide Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout

AutoGuide Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout
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Sixth Place –2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS FWD

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Attention Internet: Commence Outrage! A loathsome crossover just beat a Civic Si and a MX-5 in a fun to drive comparison! How can this be? What are the editors at AutoGuide.com smoking these days?

Honestly, we’re still scratching our heads as well. Going into the shootout, no one had much hope of the Juke doing anything but floundering in a hot mess of sloppy vehicular dynamics. But the more we drove the NISMO RS, the more it won us over.

The key to the NISMO RS lies under the hood. The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is boosted to an inch of its life, now producing 215 HP and 210 lb-ft of torque. Not only are these figures impressive, but on the road the Juke feels like they might actually be underrated. Comments on how no subcompact crossover or 1.6-liter engine should be this powerful could be overheard repeatedly during test days. Stab the gas, let the turbo boost and hold on as the Juke torque steers its way down the road.

Serious Seats

Inside, Nissan has done a good job trying to give the illusion that the Juke NISMO RS is sporty. Aside from faux-suede inserts on the steering wheel, a set of real, no compromises Recaro bucket seats have been installed. 2014-Nissan-Juke-NISMO-RS-back.jpgSupportive to no end when flogging the Juke, the Recaros did get a bit uncomfortable for some of our staff during longer drives behind the wheel.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS Review

Steering is hair-trigger responsive and makes the NISMO RS feel like it handles better than it actually does. But, this is a high riding crossover after all and no amount of sport suspension, large wheels and grippy tires can overcome the laws of physics. Toss the Juke hard enough into the corner and it will quickly remind the driver that it is no FR-S.

Practical, surprisingly efficient and affordable, the Juke NISMO RS is a rather shocking alternative to the usual sporty compact crowd that we never saw coming.

Fast Facts

Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 215 HP, 210 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, helical (gear-type) LSD Fuel Economy Ratings: 25 MPG City, 35 MPG highway Fuel Economy Observed: 34.6 MPG Price: $26,930 after destination charges

LOVE IT

  • Unique looks
  • Tons of power
  • Recaro seats
LEAVE IT

  • Handling
  • Unique looks
  • Recaro seats

Fifth Place – 2014 Ford Focus ST

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The Focus ST is a torque monster. With 270 lb-ft on tap from the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, there is always power on hand to thrust the Focus forward and/or rip the steering wheel out of the driver’s hand. Like many other vehicles in this shootout, the Focus utilizes a sound tube that amplifies engine noise into the cabin, making it arguably the second best sounding vehicle in the shootout after the GTI.

All of the brake vectoring trickery the Focus ST utilizes on the racetrack is present on the street as well, but less noticeable. This doesn’t mean the ST can’t negotiate a corner, because it can. Thanks to quick steering and grippy tires, the Focus tackles bends in the road at alarming speeds. The problem is the car is almost too composed. It lacks the raw, visceral sensation behind the wheel that the Fiesta ST and FR-S provide. It feels like the car is more in charge of the Focus ST’s cornering prowess than the driver.

Comfortable and Practical

On the upside, the car’s refinement does come with some positives. Ride comfort is much better in the Focus than its little brother, the Fiesta ST. As well, being a compact hatchback, practicality is near the top in this comparison. 2014-Ford-Focus-ST-rear.jpgEven the Recaro seats fitted into the Focus were found to be more comfortable than the ones in the Juke NISMO RS or Fiesta ST.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Ford Focus ST vs 2013 Mazdaspeed3

Refined and fast, the Focus ST does not come cheap. Nearly as expensive as the MX-5 once the optional Recaro seats are added, the Focus ST only beat the surprisingly inefficient Civic Si during our fuel economy testing. This was enough to keep the Focus out of the top half of street portion of the shootout, but with all that power and capable handling ability, maybe it’ll move up once we hit the track.

Fast Facts

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 252 HP, 270 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, eTVC differential Fuel Economy Ratings: 23 MPG City, 32 MPG Highway Fuel Economy Observed: 27.1 MPG Price: $29,000 after destination charges

LOVE IT

  • Engine power
  • Handling ability
  • Comfort
LEAVE IT

  • Expensive
  • A bit too refined

  • Rickers

    Such a tease! Who won dammit.

  • Jamal

    The FR-S should take this for sure.

  • Felix James

    Of course it will, these guys are a bunch of FRS nut-huggers

  • shaikh

    370z ???

  • Sarah H

    Why isn’t the Veloser Turbo there?

  • Mike Schlee

    Unfortunately, like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8, the 370Z does not undercut $30,000 once destination charges are added.

  • Disco Stu

    Are you kidding? These guys love Subaru and Mazda for some reason. I’d bet the WRX or MX-5 win this comparison.

  • Billy Cypher

    I had a 2006 GTI. While it was fun to drive I would only ever consider leasing one in the future due to the reliability issues.

    The first year I had mine it was mostly fine with only a few minor problems – the airbag light coming on – which the dealer was able to fix. Sometime in the second year of ownership the electrical gremlins becoming more persistent, more lights flashing on the dash, a headlight that sometimes didn’t light. By year three full demonic possession was underway and was told that I’d need to get some mother board thing-a-ma-jig replaced on the now non-warrantied car and that it was going to cost me a couple thousand.

    This is all by way of saying – I chuckle everytime I see the GTI at the top of these “Fun To Drive” lists to which I always want to say “Fun to drive but enjoy it while it lasts.”

  • Shiratori90

    Not a real performance car…………

  • Sean Williams

    The Genesis 3.8 Coupe is $27,645 and you guys obviously haven’t driven the Veloster Turbo manual or R-Spec.

  • ColumWood

    Sadly, this seems to be true of so many fun to drive cars. Take Alfa Romeos for example.

  • John

    Ford mustang? Base v6 with performance pack would be mid $20s. Mine was 27k with perfpack, sync and comfort pack. But with rebates and xyz disc. Had a 2006 vw gli, great fun cars. If wife learns to drive manual I’d get that fiesta in a heartbeat

  • Thomas Paletta

    And the 15 year old Honda S2000 still outperforms them all and has the best reliability and can be bought used for under 20k

  • Eric

    Lame.. The the MX-5 Miata is easily the most fun to drive car of this lot. The reviewers here are smoking something.

  • Eric

    The Honda S2000 is good but it isn’t any more / less reliable than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. As far as fun to drive it’s about a wash between the S2k and MX5. This particular test is a farce / JOKE.

  • Eric

    The 370z is not much fun to drive. The MX-5 Miata destroys the Z in the fun / rewarding to drive department. Test track #’s only matter if you happen to race your daily driver’s for a living.

  • Eric

    The Mazda MX-5 should have won but these guys are smoking crack.

  • Thomas Paletta

    In terms of fun yes the S2000 and the Miata I agree both are equally fun to drive but in terms of specs and design the S2000 is the better car.

  • James Adams

    So the Miata was a car when they rounded up the contestants, but then it blew everything away so they penalized it because, well, it’s not a real car.

  • Mike Schlee

    As an owner of Miata, I love the car and would probably take it again. But it’s hard car to live with day in and day out, is expensive, uses a lot of gas and isn’t at all practical.

  • Mike Schlee

    No, the MX-5 was always a toy ;) A hell of a fun toy, but still a toy. For those like me who don’t want to grow up, I don’t care.

  • Mike Schlee

    We wanted one, but the 2015 aren’t out yet. Next year…next year…

  • Mike Schlee

    I’ll add the Mazda RX-8 to this list

  • Rocket

    Since I can’t get a WRX 5-door (stupid decision, Subaru), I’d have to go with the GTI for daily road use. I respect both of the Ford hatches, but this old dude wants a bit more refinement these days.

  • Rocket

    You may be right, but it’s a moot point since Honda gave up on the S2000. Damn shame, too.

  • Srikanth Janga

    Mitsu Lancer Ralliart? Not expecting it to win this list of really goood cars, but definitely thought it was better than at-least a few in this comparison.

  • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

    *Eighth Place
    *be relegated to such a shameful placing
    *give the illusion that the Juke NISMO RS is sporty

  • ColumWood

    That’s why the ’90s Hondas were so great… they combined reliability and fun-to-drive. #S2000

  • ColumWood
  • ColumWood

    You bring up a good point. I’m curious how an S2000’s lap time at the AutoGuide Test Track would compare with these cars. We’ll have the lap times tomorrow!

  • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

    I’m not a fan of the Veloster (enough that I may end up appropriating “Veloser” from Sarah H, if she doesn’t mind) due to its hazardous roof glass and asymmetrical doors, but considering there’s a rally version, that shooting brake-style cars and kammbacks–both of which describe the Veloster–have a long history of being real performance cars, and that the Veloster Turbo has comparable engine stats to some of the competition here, I say it is a real performance car (if not terribly practical), and therefore belonged in this competition.

  • Teckler

    You must be real fun at parties

  • Teckler

    I agree! Where’s my hatchback Subaru?

  • Teckler

    Like every German car

  • Teckler

    Because it is horrible to drive. I tried one out when they first arrived. Ugh….

  • Mike Schlee

    As a two time owner of WRX hatchbacks, I am sad to see it go as well.

  • Shiratori90

    I disagree. It’s bloated, nose-heavy, has an un-sporty automatic (no dual-clutch or anything special), isn’t fun to drive, and doesn’t compare to the true drivers cars featured in the comparison. In short, it’s outmatched and is bringing a knife to a gun fight.

  • Hans

    I’d rather be a little slower and have a nicer car… like a Mercedes CLA

  • Shiratori90

    Again, the veloster isn’t a serious performance car. It’s an awkward and heavy mess.

  • Shiratori90

    The cla is a car for insecure posers who desperately need to prove to their friends and family that they “made it”. It’s a lie for the $30,000 millionaires out there.

  • Hans

    Have you driven a Z? It’s LOTS of fun to drive. YES, it can handle. AND… did you know that horsepower is also fun?

  • Shiratori90

    Not enough space at the Ōta plant where the Impreza/WRX is made. They are already making 3 different variants of the Impreza hatchback there (Regular, XV Crosstrek, XV Crosstrek Hybrid). That’s my theory on it.

  • Rocket

    I’m not saying there isn’t a capacity issue, but Subaru officials initially blamed the extra costs of designing and building two different body styles. They felt that most 5-door customers would ultimately settle for the sedan, and that the development money saved would be greater than revenue lost when customer went elsewhere. Given that 50% of past sales were for the hatch (in the US), that seems like a substantial gamble. I have to admit the sedan is selling better than I expected. I still think it was a mistake.

  • Shiratori90

    It’s both a cost and capacity issue. Regardless, the suspension/chasis improvements and the addition of an automatic transmission seem to have pretty much negated any loss in sales that would have occurred as a result of removing the hatchback option.Sales for the WRX are up, so they made the right decision, even if it doesn’t sit well with certain fans.

  • Krychec

    It was painfully obvious the guy who just happens to be personally building one for Targra is just panning everything else. Every car he got in he into he complained about the high seating position… we get it already, the FR-S puts the seats on the floor. Rule number one about reviewing cars… don’t review your own car, the other guy should have done the FRS and even cancelled out his votes to make it objective… anybody who reviews a car they own are going to be unfairly biased. Instead we get 5 minutes of him stroking his own ego… and no doubt tomorrow the FRS is going to miraculously win the track competition.

  • Rocket

    Sales aren’t up because they eliminated the 5-door, but rather despite the fact. The car is just so much improved it was bound to sell in greater numbers. One could argue that keeping the 5-door along with all the improvements would have resulted in a far greater increase in sales. Obviously we’ll never know exactly how many sales were lost. I took it off my list, and my son went elsewhere as well. It will be interesting to see how the new MazdaSpeed3 does now that there is one less hot hatch to deal with.

  • Shiratori90

    What I said was that the improvements and additions to the WRX made up for the lack of a hatch as far as sales are concerned. With regards to the “50% of WRX buyers bought the hatch.” figure, people who throw that statistic around seem to assume that all of the people within that group didn’t buy and went elsewhere, which just isn’t true. The reality is among those who were interested hatch, some bought the sedan anyway, some are waiting for a reappearance of the hatch later on, and some went elsewhere. Ultimately, the decision has been made, and whether it’s a deal-breaker or not varies from person to person.

  • Hans

    I’d rather be a $30,000 millionaire than some bro driving around in a Focus ST.

  • Shiratori90

    Neither one is an intelligent pick, so…..yeah.

  • 2011CTSV

    So what you’re saying is that you don’t like cars that are fun to drive. Hence why you’re a poseur. The CLA is not only more expensive, it’s worse in nearly every way.

  • 2011CTSV

    Oh god no. The base Mustang is fucking awful. Even with the performance pack the stock FR-S was kicking its ass all the way around the track, with 100 less HP. There’s a reason it’s not on this list, and that’s because it’s not fun to drive. At least not the 2014 and prior, maybe the 2015 will be an improvement.

  • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

    If the writers pay attention to the details of cars, they should pay attention to detail when they write about those details.

  • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

    Then they should lose the Nissan Juke as well. Even by Autoguide’s own admission, it’s way too top-heavy, and what’s more, it’s completely in the wrong class of car, whIle the Veloster is just a poor example.

  • expert

    LMAO at another badge whore!

  • expert

    I would wait for the Golf R before picking up a GTI.

  • expert

    MX-5 is too slow….bring back the MAZDASPEED Miata and we’ll talk ;)

  • expert

    should get better tho since they are now built in mexico (sarcasm).

  • Rocket

    Well, me too. Or the Focus RS. But this discussion is about cars below $30k.

  • smartacus

    You read the tea leaves correctly, one up vote for you

  • Driver

    I’m confused with the Focus ST’s gas mileage score. On your Fast Facts you wrote 34.6 MPG Observed. So why does it earn a 5.2 score and place second-to-last? Is the MPG a typo?

  • Eric

    The current 09+ NC2 Mazda MX-5 Miata is no slower than the 04-05′ Mazdaspeed Miata. Both run 0-60 in 6.1 – 6.3 depending on who’s testing and 1/4m in 14.7-14.9.Handling numbers the same story.

    The current MX-5 is factory rated @167hp but it is a bit under-rated making closer to 180hp. Also, being N/A there is no turbo lag and it has better gearing than the 04-05′ Mazdaspeed version.

    The MX-5’s Achilles hill is body roll which is easily fixed with a set of ~$300 after-marker anti-roll bars. Once installed none of the cars here can touch it.

  • Eric

    That’s obviously subjective the “design” part. Specs? What does that matter unless you happen to race your daily driver’s for a living?

    In terms of driving a car day to day the MX-5 is much more pleasant / not nearly as harsh.

  • Eric

    Yes I’ve driven the Z and the novelty of going fast in a straight line wears off fast. The Z is simply not a great driver’s car it is a numbers car. Test track numbers don’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to evaluating how fun / rewarding to drive a car is to drive.

  • Eric

    Just a bit of advice. Don’t relay on “AutoGuide” for your automotive review information. These people are obviously smoking some good sh#t placing the the Mazda MX-5 (World renowned for being among the best driver’s cars on the planet regardless of price) behind these hopped up FWD econoboxes.

    Also, look how much emphasis they put on the cars having 4 doors and a lot of cargo capacity, etc..? Newsflash! Not everybody needs / requires 4 doors and a lot of cargo capacity! Obviously if you do you will not be looking at 2 seat roadsters like the MX-5 but lets go ahead and put marks against the MX-5 for not having 4 doors.. Also, the reviewer owns a FR-S… Gee I wonder how this will go…

    Seriously, you’d have to be a moron to take this review seriously.

  • Eric

    The Merc CLA is a travesty, an abomination. It loses literally every single comparison test its been in.

  • Thomas Paletta

    Did you find out the lap times yet?

  • Tom Bombadil

    So you guys left out a bunch of sub-30k performance cars that would walk all over everything except the WRX, all of which would give the WRX stiff competition.. this list includes the V6 camaro, V6 & turbo 4 mustang, 370z & genesis coupe. The only thing I got from this comparison is that it prompted me to go to Mazda’s website to verify they no longer make the mazdaspeed 3. Try again guys.

  • thatguy88

    I somewhat disagree. I do agree that the Veloster Turbo not the best stock out of the factory. However, I’d argue that it’s a great “blank slate” for the tuner crowd. That’s pretty much true of most “sporty” Hyundais & Kias. More often than not, people will spend the extra money to squeeze a little extra performance out of a car. Hyundais & Kias are great for this, especially the Genesis coupe, the Veloster Turbo, and any of the Forte SX Turbo variants.

  • thatguy88

    I SINCERELY disagree with this. Having driven a 370Z, it’s a lot of fun. It has weighty feel to it that’s very trustworthy around corners, and the straight-line acceleration is ludicrous at the price. It’s not very practical, but then again, these cars aren’t bought for practicality.

  • thatguy88

    Again, I disagree. Read my post above. Really, just avoid the pointlessly maintenance-heavy matte paint option & the automatic, and ditch the stock rubber, and you should have a pretty good fun-to-drive car with some style. There are other ways to make it better, but that’s all subjective, anyway.

  • Shiratori90

    You shouldn’t have to “avoid this, change this, swap this out” in order to make a performance vehicle good. ANY version of it should be good, which is very much the case for the Si, WRX, and FR-S/BRZ.

  • thatguy88

    You’re right, one shouldn’t have to, but that’s not stopping enthusiasts from doing it anyways. And your examples CAN be improved from the outside. The Si, & the Scionbaru twins could use more power. Even with a 25-50 hp increase would make either car more fun. The WRX could use a better infotatinment system and better rubber. There’s no such thing as a perfect car from stock (or a perfect car, in general). Again, these are just examples of improvements on some cars (certain ones you named) that can be and are often made.

  • andrew

    370z? maybe used. but not new.

  • ColumWood

    Technically speaking it starts at just under $30k, but we always use pricing that includes delivery and with delivery it’s over $30k so we didn’t include it. And NO ONE has driven the 2015 Mustang yet.

  • ColumWood
  • Mike Schlee

    Yes, it’s a typo. My mistake. The observed fuel economy was 27.1 MPG for the Focus ST. It has been corrected.

  • Mike Schlee

    Actually, the writer of this review (me) owns a Mazda MX-5. Truth is, it’s beginning to show its age and not everyone can afford to have their one and only car be an impractical two-seat roadster.

    But I can’t wait to see the new 2016 next week!

  • Jake Foster

    really… how could you leave out the mazda 3?

  • Chuck Heath

    You say you don’t include the Genesis Coupe because the 2.0T is being dropped for 2015 and the 3.8 is over $30K – but you don’t look at the 2015 3.8 manual that starts at $27,645 including destination ($27,945 with the usual accessories) or even the automatic which is still under $30k. If you’re going to drop the 2.0T because of the change for 2015, then you should include the 3.8 because of the change (lower base price) for 2015. Either go with the 14’s or the 15’s don’t exclude one because of ’14 model and the other because of the ’15 model. And yes, 2015 pricing is out and cars are on dealers lots – I’m sure you could have had one for the test if you wanted to.

  • Keith Sweeterman

    Right now Ford is slashing the price on a NEW 2014 Focus ST at $20k
    even.. I seen it on carsdirect. I Currently own a stock 2013 Civic
    Si coupe and it seems like a fun car to drive w/ ALOT of power for its
    size. I live in the country with winding curves that I power through
    every morning. I get 32.3 mpg and I do not drive on the highway. I have
    raced a few new Mustang GT and not one has passed until we hit like
    85mph.. The 2014 base Camaro also discounted to 20k is a sled and
    performs terrible in cornering and I felt too many blind spots. I bet my
    Si with stiffer springs and a turbo would wax in speed and performance
    over any other car in this review. Like they said the Civic is raw
    horse power lacking Turbo and Civic Vtec is a great engine to handle a
    turbo longterm. Fear TYPE-R its coming boys.. :)

  • Paul

    I’m a previous owner of Nissan vehicles and disappointed anything
    from their current lineup was included in this comparison. While they do produce a token number of expensive performance models, Nissan has abandoned the average car enthusiast. They simply no longer make a fun to drive car in the sub 30K segment. It’s insulting that they slap a six speed manual in a Juke crossover and promote it to be fun
    to drive when they won’t allow you to buy an Altima or Maxima with anything other
    than a CVT. Granted, their chosen sales strategy to win over the typical Buick LeSabre / Toyota Camry buyer has been quite successful. With that said, they should own up to the fact that is the market they now build their vehicles to suit. Perhaps when I am at the stage of life where I need a car to get from the assisted living center to the golf course I’ll consider a Nissan fun to drive. It’s a shame that so many worthy cars were passed over to allow the Juke to have a place in this comparison.

  • Eric

    Oh okay well my bad for assuming another poster knew what they were talking about.

    However, why even include a nitch car like the MX-5 Miata when your going to immediately knock off 10 pts right off the bat for it not having 4 doors and a lot of cargo capacity?

    Obviously people looking for a practical 4 door car aren’t going to be in the market for a 2 seat roadster. So it really doesn’t make sense to include the MX-5 in this particular group.

    As far as the MX-5 “being a bit slow” its a “bit slow” compared to what? The last two times Motor trend tested the MX-5 they got 6.1 – 6.3 seconds for 0-60mph and 14.7 – 14.9 for the 1/4m. So if the MX-5 is “a bit slow” so is the Fiesta ST and most of the other cars tested here.

    As far as the cost well if you really understood what a bargain the MX-5 is considering what a magnificent machine it is, the price is hardly too much but a bargain. Also, you tested the most expensive model with the phenomenal PRHT which adds $2000.00 to the price.

    The MX-5 is a light weight, RWD, 50/50 weight distribution sports car and is thus fundamentally a far superior platform to work with. Switching out the weak stock anti-sway bars a lone for a good pair of after-market anti-sway bars does wonders to eliminate the body roll, improve the overall handling and sharpen up the steering.

    Another benefit to a light weight, rear wheel drive, ~ 50/50 platform is that the cost of consumables like tires, brakes, clutch and so on are much lower than that of front heavy boosted FWD econoboxes.

    As far as looking forward to the next MX-5 well its always interesting to see how a new car ends up. However, the current MX-5 isn’t somehow “broken” or in need of serious revisions as its a “driver’s car” and a damn good one at that.

    As mentioned previously, the cars Achilles hill “body roll” is an easy and inexpensive fix w/ a set of $300 anti-sway bars. Also, there are plenty of other great after-market suspension upgrades (shocks, springs, coil-overs, etc) that do wonders to improve the cars handling.

    As far as power, all it takes is a full exhaust, intake & tune to bring the power up to 200hp. There are also FI kits that can bring the power up to 230hp safely on the stock forged internals and plenty more if you upgrade to even stronger internals.

    So the bottom line really is that if one values fun / rewarding to drive above all else, doesn’t need / require a 4 dr or a ton of cargo capacity (The truck is actually quite accommodating / can hold a good bit of groceries, etc..) the MX-5 Miata is in a class of its own.

    The MX-5 Miata has never been about test track numbers but the experience behind the wheel. Besides, unless you happen to race your daily driver’s for a living why be so hung up on the cars “numbers”? The MX-5 stock has more than adequate power for the street.

    If the car was much quicker all this would mean is that you would have to pay a lot closer attention to the speedo, wouldn’t be able to run the car through the gears nearly as much before exceeding every posted limit. But those all so important “bragging rights” though…

    The MX-5 has more than enough power to be enjoyed by novices and pros alike. It is and also will be more of a “momentum car” which helps teach you how to drive properly / take the proper lines vs. relaying on the cars excessive power and electronic nanny’s to get you around the track.

    You can’t honestly day “X” car is a superior handling car vs. the MX-5 when you test “X” cars on a power track. Take the cars to a very technical track with a pro driver like a Randy Pobst and see what happens and then see what happens once the MX-5’s stock pathetic sway bars are replaced with a decent set.

    All in all this particular review is lacking and extremely unfair. Any other credible reviewing entity for one: Would NOT include a 2 dr. roadster like the MX-5 in the comparison test if it were going to be automatically penalized 10pts for being what it is a “nitch car” /2dr. Roadster. Also, a credible reviewing entity would NOT put so much emphasis on “test track numbers” seeing as these cars are daily driver’s and very few race their daily driver’s for a living.

    Also, they would appreciate and point out the benefits of the MX-5’s fundamentally superior light wight, RWD, 50/50 set-up as I very briefly pointed out.

    How one could own the current model 09+ NC2 MX-5 Miata and not realize these things is pretty amazing and honestly makes me wonder if the individual really does own the car. That are perhaps the owner is not well suited for the car by being 6’3+ in height or something…

    Anyways, as I said the MX-5 is not perfect but it is damn near perfect in terms of what Mazda made it for being one of the best driver’s cars on the planet regardless of price. Yes the “body roll” is a bit excessive stock but if an easy / cheap $300 remedy (sorry the reviewer failed to point this out) will make you pass up the car… Well that’s your lose.

    If you do plan to complete with your daily driver (probably not for $$$ but for fun like autocross or something) check out the after market for the MX-5. The cars been around for a while and there are really great aftermarket suspension kits and so on available that do wonders to improve upon an already phenomenal car.

  • Eric

    Oh okay well my bad for assuming another poster knew what they were talking about.

    However, why even include a nitch car like the MX-5 Miata when your going to immediately knock off 10 pts right off the bat for it not having 4 doors and a lot of cargo capacity?

    Obviously people looking for a practical 4 door car aren’t going to be in the market for a 2 seat roadster. So it really doesn’t make sense to include the MX-5 in this particular group.

    As far as the MX-5 “being a bit slow” its a “bit slow” compared to what? The last two times Motor trend tested the MX-5 they got 6.1 – 6.3 seconds for 0-60mph and 14.7 – 14.9 for the 1/4m. So if the MX-5 is “a bit slow” so is the Fiesta ST and most of the other cars tested here.

    As far as the cost well if you really understood what a bargain the MX-5 is considering what a magnificent machine it is, the price is hardly too much but a bargain. Also, you tested the most expensive model with the phenomenal PRHT which adds $2000.00 to the price.

    The MX-5 is a light weight, RWD, 50/50 weight distribution sports car and is thus fundamentally a far superior platform to work with. Switching out the weak stock anti-sway bars a lone for a good pair of after-market anti-sway bars does wonders to eliminate the body roll, improve the overall handling and sharpen up the steering.

    Another benefit to a light weight, rear wheel drive, ~ 50/50 platform is that the cost of consumables like tires, brakes, clutch and so on are much lower than that of front heavy boosted FWD econoboxes.

    As far as looking forward to the next MX-5 well its always interesting to see how a new car ends up. However, the current MX-5 isn’t somehow “broken” or in need of serious revisions as its a “driver’s car” and a damn good one at that.

    As mentioned previously, the cars Achilles hill “body roll” is an easy and inexpensive fix w/ a set of $300 anti-sway bars. Also, there are plenty of other great after-market suspension upgrades (shocks, springs, coil-overs, etc) that do wonders to improve the cars handling.

    As far as power, all it takes is a full exhaust, intake & tune to bring the power up to 200hp. There are also FI kits that can bring the power up to 230hp safely on the stock forged internals and plenty more if you upgrade to even stronger internals.

    So the bottom line really is that if one values fun / rewarding to drive above all else, doesn’t need / require a 4 dr or a ton of cargo capacity (The truck is actually quite accommodating / can hold a good bit of groceries, etc..) the MX-5 Miata is in a class of its own.

    The MX-5 Miata has never been about test track numbers but the experience behind the wheel. Besides, unless you happen to race your daily driver’s for a living why be so hung up on the cars “numbers”? The MX-5 stock has more than adequate power for the street.

    If the car was much quicker all this would mean is that you would have to pay a lot closer attention to the speedo, wouldn’t be able to run the car through the gears nearly as much before exceeding every posted limit. But those all so important “bragging rights” though…

    The MX-5 has more than enough power to be enjoyed by novices and pros alike. It is and also will be more of a “momentum car” which helps teach you how to drive properly / take the proper lines vs. relaying on the cars excessive power and electronic nanny’s to get you around the track.

    You can’t honestly say “X” car is a superior handling car vs. the MX-5 when you test “X” cars on a power track. Take the cars to a very technical track with a pro driver like a Randy Pobst and see what happens and then see what happens once the MX-5’s stock pathetic sway bars are replaced with a decent set.

    All in all this particular review is lacking and extremely unfair. Any other credible reviewing entity for one: Would NOT include a 2 dr. roadster like the MX-5 in the comparison test if it were going to be automatically penalized 10pts for being what it is a “nitch car” /2dr. Roadster. Also, a credible reviewing entity would NOT put so much emphasis on “test track numbers” seeing as these cars are daily driver’s and very few race their daily driver’s for a living.

    Also, they would appreciate and point out the benefits of the MX-5’s fundamentally superior light wight, RWD, 50/50 set-up as I very briefly pointed out.

    How one could own the current model 09+ NC2 MX-5 Miata and not realize these things is pretty amazing and honestly makes me wonder if the individual really does own the car. That are perhaps the owner is not well suited for the car by being 6’3+ in height or something…

    Anyways, as I said the MX-5 is not perfect but it is damn near perfect in terms of what Mazda made it for being one of the best driver’s cars on the planet regardless of price. Yes the “body roll” is a bit excessive stock but if an easy / cheap $300 remedy (sorry the reviewer failed to point this out) will make you pass up the car… Well that’s your lose.

    If you do plan to compete with your daily driver (probably not for $$$ but for fun like autocross or something) check out the after market for the MX-5. The cars been around for a while and there are really great aftermarket suspension kits and so on available that do wonders to improve upon an already phenomenal car.

  • Ironwood

    Just bought a new 2014 Mustang GT for my son that was under 30K until I added Brembo brakes. Even without the brake package, I bet the fun factor is off the charts. Odd this article brags about the exhaust note and power of 220 HP cars when you can have 426 horses and exhaust sound heaven for the same price.

  • Eric

    That’s funny… Just about any other source you look at such as Motor trend the Mazda MX-5 is faster than the Fiesta ST. Here however, the MX-5 is considered “a bit slow” while the Fiesta ST is only slower than the WRX & STI…

    Motor trend clocked a 6.1 0-60mph and a 14.7 quarter mile which is quicker than the Fiesta ST which runs mid to high 6’s for 0-60mph and 15.0 for quarter mile. But here the MX-5 is “a bit slow” and the Fiesta ST fast…

    Also, the idea that the WRX and Fiesta ST are somehow “more fun to drive” vs. the MX-5 Miata is a FARCE. Don’t believe me? Go out and test them yourself or borrow one, etc.

    Not only that but the criteria used to rate these cars was obviously designed to make a nitch car / true sports car / roadster like the MX-5 Miata fail and what do you know they have it finishing 2nd to last…On the other hand if the car is that of a Hot hatch configuration it gets mad points right of the bat giving it a tremendous advantage.

    Seriously what a dick / slanderous move to put a truly great driver’s car in this obviously absurd / biased comparison test. Just go to the last page and look at the criteria used if you have any doubts.
    If you read this review / comparo and can’t see how ridiculous it is I truly do feel sorry for you. It was literally set up so that the most fun and rewarding to drive cars in the test the MX-5 & FRS fail.

    The title should have been something like: “Budget practical performance cars shootout” and true sports cars like the MX-5 & FRS would not be included as they obviously don’t fit the criteria of being “practical” vs. including them anyways and rating them next to last, etc. for not having a 4dr hatchback or sedan configuration.

    Seriously, do not take this comparo seriously it is a FARCE as I stated earlier. For credible reviews / comparos there are a number of sources such as Motor trend, Car & Driver, Automobile Mag, etc…

  • Eric

    1.) Test track #”s don’t matter unless you race your daily driver for a living.

    2.) The Mustang is no where near as fun / rewarding to drive vs. the Mazda MX-5 Miata or Scion FR-S and other cars in this group.

    3.) This comparo is a FARCE as I explained in my previous post. It was designed so that the most fun / rewarding to drive cars (MX-5 & FR-S) in the grouping fail.

  • Realist

    You are completely insane if you don’t think a 426 horse aluminum coyote engined Mustang isn’t a blast to drive.

  • Eric

    Slow your roll Ghost rider… Nobodies saying your Mustang isn’t fun its just that compared to the MX-5 & FR-S it isn’t up to par as a driver’s car.

    Yes the Mustang is much faster but as mentioned test track numbers a lone don’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to evaluating how much fun / rewarding a car is to drive.

    Also, the novelty of going fast in a straight line wears off fast, as does doing smoky burnouts and the resulting $$$$ tire bill.

    But as I mentioned before this particular comparison test is a FARCE anyways. The test was literally designed to make the best driver’s cars here the MX-5 & FR-S somehow look inferior to the FWD boosted econoboxes.

    They rated cars that aren’t nearly as fun to drive as the MX-5 & FR-S higher
    than the MX-5 & FR-S due to the fact that the MX-5 is a nitch car, a 2dr. Roadster and the FR-S a small 2dr. Coupe with limited cargo room.

    Well no sh$t… People in the market for a practical 4dr. automobile aren’t out there looking at MX-5 & FR-S’s so why in the hell include them in this particular group of cars??

    Also, they state that the MX-5 is “a bit slow” and their # 1 rated FWD econobox the Fiesta ST as “fast”… Well that’s odd seeing as if you look at any other source the MX-5 is the quicker car.

    Motor Trend tested the MX-5 and achieved 6.1 sec for 0-60 and 14.7 for 1/4m. The Fiesta ST on the other hand is a good bit slower running 0-60 in 6.6 and 1/4m in 15.1

    So a lot of their stuff doesn’t add up or make any sense whatsoever. Seriously if you want a legit / no BS review of a car do yourself a big favor and don’t relay on Autoguide.

    Its like they are trying really hard to “stand out” from other reviewing entities by rating vehicles that are always rated very high (see: MX-5 Miata & Scion FR-S) / highly regarded as somehow sub-par. If you don’t know much about cars they can fool you but otherwise not gonna happen.

    The mere fact that they rated a freakin JUKE ahead of the MX-5 Miata is proof enough that Autoguide is a FARCE.

  • Eric

    The MX-5 is expensive to maintain & a gas hog? Compared to what?

    For one, the car is just 2500-2580lbs. depending on options and has a 50/50 weight distribution when driver is in the car.

    Compared to front heavy 60/40, boosted FWD econoboxes the MX-5 is far less expensive to maintain. Consumables like tires, brakes and clutch last a lot longer.

    A gas hog… The MX-5 gets roughly 20MPG in the city and ~ 30MPG on the HWY. That hardly makes it a car with bad gass mileage.

    I know people are excited about the new MX-5 coming out but this attempt to make it seem as the current MX-5 is somehow way past its due date/ in need of a seriously overhaul / update is laughable.

  • ColumWood

    GT is an awesome car and what you paid is a good price. Unfortunately we can only go by what manufacturers say they charge for cars. The Mustang GT starts at around $32,000 with delivery. Even a V6 with the track pack would have been a great competitor in this field.

  • ColumWood

    Eric: We’re just trying to give a well-rounded look at each car. And we’re huge fans of both the MX-5 and the FR-S. Both outright speed and driving enjoyment were the main factors with some importance given to just how useful these cars are in daily life – which is hugely important considering any car under $30,000 is almost certain to be that person’s only car. As for the statement about the MX-5 being a it slow, well, for a rear-wheel drive sports car it is. And it was roughly a second slower around our test track than the Fiesta ST.

  • ColumWood

    Also, if you drive a Mustang you’ll see they are certainly more than straight line machines.

  • ColumWood

    You do make a lot of great points and a lot of them are correct.
    Just to give you some added into, I can tell you our test track is NOT a power track. In fact, one could argue it’s the opposite of that, favoring smaller and more nimble cars.
    Also, we can’t review a car based on what potential is has with a sway bar upgrade or any other modifications. We can only review what Mazda offers from the factory.
    PS. Is Motor Trend paying you to write this? (Just kidding).

  • ColumWood

    We tried. We couldn’t. Hyundai wasn’t interested.

  • Guffaw

    Geeze, the Miata just isn’t that great. You have already clearly made up your mind that the Miata is the greatest car in the world, and that nothing will ever beat it.

    If it wasn’t included included in the test, you would have been upset too. So it has to be included, and it has to be docked marks for having no practicality whatsoever. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Get a grip man. The answer is not ALWAYS Miata.

  • Eric

    Wow… you are clueless! Try learning how to read next time before your make senseless comments.

    Get a grip man? No how about you learn how to read / comprehend before shooting off at the mouth like a tough guy.

    The points I made were quite simple and its a shame you couldn’t comprehend them. I’m actually embarrassed for you.

    The main point made is that it makes no sense whatsoever to include a car such as the MX-5 Miata in a comparison for which “practically” is the main selling point.

    Again, nobody shopping for a 4dr. Hatch or sedan is cross shopping them with a 2dr. Roadster such as the MX -5 Miata. How you fail to comprehend this extremely simple concept is actually pretty amazing.

    The MX-5 Miata is a nitch car for people such as myself and others who don’t need / require a 4 passenger car w/ tons or cargo room.

    . The MX-5 Miata regardless does have a quite spacious trunk in the back that is not at all hampered by the PRHT which goes up/down in just 12 seconds. So it is not all that “impractical” unless you require something with 4drs and more cargo room.

    Lastly if you knew anything about the MX-5 Miata you would understand why it is so highly valued as one of the best driver’s cars regardless of price and that a second to last finish against these particular cars is a joke / highly deceiving.

    You would also understand as I mentioned already that including it in this particular comparison test to begin with the prescribed criteria is a farce.

  • Eric

    I happen to own a 09′ Honda S2k. I have a close friend who owns a 12′ MX-5 GT w/ PRHT and 6MT. We’ve switched cars quite a few times and this is why I personally hold the MX-5 in such high regard.

    When his MX-5 was bone stock I thought it was about a wash between my S2K and MX-5 with the S2K perhaps having a slight edge in the fun to drive department but the MX-5 being the better daily driver.

    However, after helping my friend install some after-market anti-sway bars and then discovering what a profound difference this made to the cars handling (espeically body roll as now there is barely any / the car just grips and goes now. its amazing what a $300 modification can do) I’m soon going to be trading in my S2K for a new MX-5.

    The S2K is quicker but the MX-5 is hardly “slow” and more importantly it feels quicker than its numbers convey. Also, the MX-5 is much more pleasant to drive on a day to day bases vs. the high strung / harsh S2K.

    Also, after visting the MX-5 forums I discovered that the after market support is quite strong and the car responds really well to suspension mods especially. The MX-5 just has so much potential.

    If you aren’t 100% sold on the MX-5 stock there are plenty of inexpensive quality after-market modifications that dramatically improve the cars handling and fun to drive factor.

    Also, the MX-5 being just ~2500 lbs. and w/ a 50/50 weight distribution the car is really easy on “consumables” such as tires, brakes , brake pads, clutch and so on. You end up spending a good bit less vs. a car with a front heavy weight distribution and FWD.

    Just this past week I went over to the local Subura dealer to test drive the WRX. The car is quick, handles very well and is overrall a nice package.

    However, I took the car through its paces pretty good and would never rate the WRX as fun / rewarding to drive vs. the MX-5 nor FR-S and nor would most reviewers I would wager but these Autoguide guys do for whatever reason..

    I seriously can’t comprehend how they reached that conclusion and this is the reason I have suggested folks don’t relay solely on Autoguide.

    I have yet to drive a Ford Fieata ST so I have no way of knowing how it compares but judging based on how Autoguide has rated the WRX more fun to drive vs. the MX-5 & FR-S I have little confidence they are correct about that about this either.

    I have little doubt the Fiesta ST is a great fun little hatch but in terms of it being 1.) Faster and faster around a technical track nonetheless and 2.) More fun & rewarding to drive vs. the MX-5 & FR-S.

    For one, are the test driver’s pro driver’s or just regular yahoo’s? This would could fully explain why they couldn’t achieve a good result with a RWD car like the MX-5 around their track.

    You have to be more skilled as a driver to drive a RWD car around a track fast. Its much easier for a novice to drive quicker in a FWD car, especially if it has a bunch of electronic nanny’s assisting.

    Solution? Hire someone like a Randy Pobst to drive the cars. He’ll be able to take full advantage of a perfect balance, lightweight, RWD platform.

    I would bet just about anything a pro driver would get much better results out of the RWD cars in this group.

    Moving on, they did say “some” of the reviewers thought the MX-5 was the most fun to drive. I would be really interested to know 1.) How many reviewed the cars.

    2.) How many who voted nah on the MX-5 where super tall Individuals as the MX-5 was not designed for tall folks. If you don’t fit well in the car chances are you aren’t going to enjoy it very much.

    That however doesn’t mean points should be counted against the car (although I’m pretty sure they did just that anyways) If you are too tall for the car move on and try a different car that is more accommodating. The MX-5 simply wasn’t designed for you.

    These are the types of details that
    should be made clear for the sake of context.

  • Ed May

    Look… We get it. You love the MX-5. So do I — I have owned 4, and love my ’04 MSM.

    This is the STREET CAR comparison, where practicality DOES matter. Placing in a comparison test is less important than the words that explain it. It is clearly written that the MX-5 is probably the most fun, but by far the least practical. If you don’t need the practical, then ignore its placing and enjoy your car! No need to write such a long-winded rant about it.

  • ColumWood

    I think it’s pretty obvious that anything other than admitting the MX-5 is the best car in the universe isn’t going to please you. Regardless, here goes.
    1. David Pratte is a talented driver. He has a racing license and has raced in several series.
    2. There are three staffers over 6-feet tall but not by much. There are just as many under 6-deet. There are no giants here. In fact, I don’t think any of the taller folks are big enough to have issues fitting in the MX-5.

  • Eric

    Nah not even close. The difference between proclaiming a car as “the best in the World” and how it rates by comparison vs. a few other under $30K cars is quite immense.

    Apparently I haven’t made myself clear enough for some so let’s try again..

    1.) The main point I’ve made is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to include relatively impractical cars such as the MX-5 & FR-S in a comparison test that uses “livability / practically” as the main selling point / criteria.

    Again, nobody in the market for a practical 4dr., practical hatch / sedan is considering a 2dr. Roadster or Coupe with limited cargo room. When you include them anyways and rate them behind cars such as the Nissan Juke it just looks silly / pointless.

    Lastly, “context” as in context as to how you came up with the results you did is actually helpful. Simply inquiring how the results were attained (pro driver vs. novice) for example is actually pretty important as explained previously.

    Also, when you end up with results that seem contrary to what many others have ended up with it is only natural to insist how / why this happened.

    None of this has anything to do with the MX-5 being “the best car in the World”. It simply means the car really shouldn’t have been in this type of comparison to begin with and that more context is needed to explain the results obtained.

    With that said thanks for the added insight.

  • expert

    that’s fine for a 2004 or 2005 car…but this is 2014….I would think a 10 year younger car would be a LOT faster.

  • expert

    ahh yes, Focus RS!

  • Eric

    The MX-5 Miata has never been about #’s and never will and that’s fine for those of us (probably something like 99%) who don’t race our daily driver’s for a living.

    Then again, if you’re a race car driver you would most likely be racing against cars of similar specs (otherwise it would be pointless) in which case the MX-5 would be choice.

    If a car is fun / rewarding to drive it is fun / rewarding to drive despite what #’s it happens to produce on a test track not because of the #’s.

    If you want “bragging rights” to impress the younger / ignorant crowd you have a plenty of options however. You can bolt on a super-charger or turbo to the MX-5 or you have the option of choosing from a number of other relatively inexpensive performance cars.

    This obsession with test track #’s is precisely the reason for why truly great driver’s cars like the Honds S2000 go extinct.

    For example, people wrongly assume that because newer cars such as the 370Z or faster that they also must be more fun to drive.

    This couldn’t be much farther from the truth but unfortunately the general car buying public do NOT no what makes a good sports car. Most think its all about “numbers”.

  • Teckler

    Look, if you’re going to lie on the internet to spread your blatant, blind fanboyism, keep the lies consistent. You own a 2012 MX-5, you’ve stated it many times. Here is an example.
    http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1091644_giveashift-the-7-best-manual-transmissions-you-can-drive
    It could me one click to figure this out.

    Also, please stop guest up-voting all your comments. We can see you did it.

  • Alexis Ross

    As a MX-5 owner, this man embarrasses me. Man, get a life. Is this comparison THAT personal for you? The MX-5 is not for everyone. It has flaws, deal with it. I love it, but many don’t.

    Now, rather than spending over a week ranting online like a pissed off 14-year old boy who had his X-Box taken away by his parents, I think I’ll go outside to the big, real world and enjoy some top down motoring.

  • Tecks

    If you’re going to lie online and spew out blatant, blinded fanboyism, please be consistent. You do know people can click your username and see past comments right? Like ones were you talk about owning a 2012 MX-5?
    http://news.boldride.com/2014/08/2015-mazda-mx5-miata-teaser/54089/#comment-1545853374
    http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1091644_giveashift-the-7-best-manual-transmissions-you-can-drive

    Also, please stop guest up-voting all comments you make. WE can see that too.

    Now, troll on about how everything I just posted was wrong. I feel sorry for you actually.

  • ColumWood

    If you’re reading this shootout, you won’t want to miss our lap time videos from the track portion. Check them all out here http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2014/09/behind-scenes-autoguide-com-30k-comparison-hot-laps.html

  • Eric

    Congratulations! You’re that Idiot who jumps into a conversation having absolutely NO CLUE wtf your talking about!

    Seriously, next try reading / learning how to comprehend before making yourself look silly. Jumping into a discussion trying to be the “hero” and having no inclination what your talking about makes you look like an ass. Just a few words of advice.

    Nobody said ANYTHING about the MX-5 somehow being the best car in the World, etc. Pointing out simple facts, inquiring about context, etc. are basic points / questions that should be pointed out.

    The fact that you are somehow offended just goes to show that you really need to learn how to read and comprehend the English language.

  • Eric

    Okay moron, as I stated before I have a close friend who has an MX-5 and we’ve switched cars all the time. He really wanted an S2K and I was interested in how the MX-5 measured up.

    So know I don’t “own” an MX-5 but I’m VERY familiar with it. That post referring to “owning” is nothing more than a over-statement.

    However, the fact that I’ve driven the car a ton and I’m intimately familiar with it was the point I was making.

    You want to talk about pathetic / desperate? Look at you trolling through peoples past post! You must be extremely depressed. I feel sorry for you I really do.

    Nice try though troll.

  • Eric

    Again, you are quite pathetic see previous response and seek help ASAP

  • David S. Thornberry

    Does any of them have option for automatic? if not then the Veloster is for me.

  • ColumWood

    Sure. The GTI, MX-5, FR-S and WRX all come with an automatic option.

  • badbee

    It’s Veloster for me anyhow, love it!

  • David S. Thornberry

    too much fun I’m getting one!!!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngWkfNf98ec

  • samwichse

    How is the gas mileage on the FR-S so much higher than the rating? Is that a typo? Should it be 25 not 35?

  • ColumWood

    Nope. You made us go back an double check and it actually returned a fuel economy number that high! Impressive.

  • samwichse

    Wow, ok thanks for the reply. That’s extremely good mileage, literally 10mpg higher than I would have expected given the EPA ratings.

    That certainly bumps the FR-S up to the top of my list!

  • Brad Kalinoski

    Um where is the Hyundai Veloster Turbo?