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There are more sports cars on the market this year than we’ve had in a while. That’s something everyone can be thankful for. However, new sports cars under $30k are getting harder to find. Still, one new sports car stands out for its value and driving experience. In 2023, the Toyota GR86 hits a segment of the market that no alternatives can touch.

Is the Miata a good alternative to the Toyota GR86?

2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata, a weaker alternative sports car to the Toyota GR86, is shown driving in the desert.
2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata | Mazda

When considering affordable, two-seat sports cars, the Mazda Miata is always near the top of the list. And while the Miata certainly has its merits, it’s not a viable alternative to the GR86 in 2023.

The new Toyota GR86 uses a 2.4-liter flat-four engine good for 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Meanwhile, the Miata offers up 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter non-turbo engine. And while both engines are naturally aspirated, the torque curve of the GR86 ramps up at 3700 rpm instead of 4,000.

That seems like a small difference on paper, but combined with the extra horsepower, it means the GR86 is a much quicker car overall. The alternative Mazda takes 6.1 seconds to reach 60 mph, while the Toyota can get there in just 5.4. That figure is all the more impressive when considering that the Miata weighs 500 pounds less than the Toyota sports car.

Can the BMW 2 Series match up to the Toyota GR86?

BMW 2 Series Coupe, a good sports car for daily driving
BMW 2 Series Coupe | BMW

Perhaps the biggest reason the new BMW 2 Series isn’t a true Toyota GR86 alternative is the price. At nearly $40,000 for a base model, it’s $10,000 more than the Toyota. That’s a lot of value to overcome and try as it might, the BMW 230i can’t quite get there.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t come close. The luxurious cabin alone might be worth it for those who possess abundant resources.

But the GR86 is really about the raw driving experience over grand touring comfort. On this scale, the BMW 2 Series is an untenable alternative to the Toyota. Sure, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is a torque-heavy bit of kit that fires the BMW coupe to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds.

But that’s not enough of a performance gap to be worth the extra cheddar. Paying $10,000 for 0.3 seconds of acceleration might be worth it in Formula 1. But in terms of affordable sports cars, it’s a big ask for minimal gain.

The best Toyota GR86 alternative comes from an unlikely source

2023 Ford Mustang EcoBoost may be the best GR86 alternative
2023 Ford Mustang | Ford

Perhaps the closest alternative to the Toyota GR86 comes from the far end of the philosophical spectrum. The new Ford Mustang with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine chucks out 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough grunt to get it to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, and costs about the same as the GR86.

Even better, the latest Mustangs dispel the myth of lumbering American muscle cars. The 2023 Mustang is heavier on its feet than the Toyota, but not by much. The added 700 pounds is handled by wider tires, so cornering grip is roughly equal between the two sports cars.

Finding a Toyota GR86 alternative is no easy feat

Toyota GR86 right rear angle
2023 Toyota GR86 | Toyota

Of course, the Subaru BRZ is a viable choice, considering it’s the Toyota’s mechanical twin. But beyond the Toyobaru twins, it’s hard to find a nimble, punchy sports car that provides a better value in 2023.

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