When it comes to car reviews, Consumer Reports is known more for its reviews of practical, family vehicles than high-end luxury vehicles or sports cars. Just because the editors at Consumer Reports have a thing for reliable cars with comfortable rides and spacious backseats doesn’t mean they don’t also occasionally like to have a little fun, though. They test sports cars as well as regular cars, and they sometimes even test ridiculous cars, like the Tesla Model S P85D.
With that in mind, which fun-to-drive cars does Consumer Reports like the most? A few choices may surprise you, but the top 10 certainly make for a diverse list. If you’re looking to buy something that’s sporty and fun, it’s going to be hard to go wrong with any of the cars that are included. Perhaps more importantly, they’re all available with manual transmissions for those of you who like to keep your left foot busy. Here are the 10 best fun-to-drive cars that Consumer Reports has tested.
10. Subaru WRX
Sadly, the hatchback version of the Subaru WRX has been dropped from the lineup, but even in sedan form, for drivers who want to have their fun without giving up practicality, it’s hard to beat the WRX. With performance-focused all-wheel-drive, the WRX feels quicker than its 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque would suggest. Handling is excellent, but as a daily driver, its ride can be a bit on the stiff side. If you like the WRX but want even more performance, there’s always the WRX STI, which offers more power and better handling.
9. Mercedes-Benz SLK
One of the first cars sold with a hardtop convertible roof, the Mercedes SLK still offers a folding metal lid that allows it to function just as much like a coupe as a roadster. The SLK250’s 201-horsepower engine provides quick enough acceleration to have fun, but more powerful engines are available. Handling, meanwhile, is crisp and enjoyable, and the ride is firm but comfortable enough over long trips. It also receives praise for its high-quality though somewhat narrow interior.
8. Scion FR-S/Subaru BR-Z
Of course the Toyobaru twins were going to be on this list. How could they not be? They may not have the most horsepower, but when the road gets a little twisty, they completely make up for it with their spectacular handling. Interior amenities are sparse, the backseats are small, and the ride can be a bit jittery, but considering that they start at under $25,000, the tradeoffs are absolutely worth it. Plus, with four-cylinder engines that make 200 horsepower, they’re not necessarily slow.
7. Nissan 370Z
It feels like the Nissan 370Z has been around forever, but even though it has only received a slight refresh since its introduction in 2009, it’s still a strong sports car. Its 332-horsepower engine provides plenty of power, but handling is the 370Z’s true forte. It’s quite agile, providing plenty of grip through high-speed turns, but the ride itself is unrefined, tire noise is loud, and visibility is limited. It may be worth the compromises if you want a fun sports car, though.
6. Mini Cooper S
As a front-wheel-drive hatchback, it may be surprising to find the Mini Cooper S on this list, but if you’ve ever driven one, you understand. Lightweight and agile, the Mini Cooper S is a heck of a lot of fun to drive. The redesigned version isn’t quite as fun to drive as its predecessor, but with a much more comfortable ride, most owners find that the tradeoff is worth it. The 189-horsepower, four-cylinder engine is even pretty fuel efficient, as well.
5. Volkswagen GTI
Another hatchback, the Volkswagen GTI offers two more doors than the Mini Cooper S, as well as a reputation as the standard-bearer in the hot hatch segment. The 210-horsepower engine is quick enough, but like the other low-powered cars on this list, it truly shines in the handling department. While the ride is taut, it isn’t harsh, making it great for daily use. With a high-quality and comfortable interior, the Volkswagen GTI is one of the best daily drivers on the market.
4. Porsche Boxster
While it will probably forever live in the shadow of its big brother, the Porsche 911, the Boxster is still a spectacular sports car in its own right. Handling is sublime, the transmission is excellent, and the interior is luxurious and comfortable. It’s even somewhat practical, too, offering both a rear trunk as well as a front trunk. Conveniently, the convertible top can be operated at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, meaning that you don’t have to pull over and come to a complete stop if it starts raining.
3. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
For most of its history, the Chevrolet Corvette has been a great performance bargain that was only held back by its low-rent build quality. All of that changed when the current generation went on sale sporting a high-quality cabin that actually made it feel like you were driving a $60,000 sports car. Handling is excellent as always, and its 455-horsepower V8 makes it extremely quick. As an added bonus, it will even get 29 miles per gallon on the highway.
2. Porsche 911
Is any list of sports cars complete without the Porsche 911? It’s perhaps the most iconic sports car of all time, and while the Porsche Boxster is excellent, if you can swing the cash, the 911 is even better. Its exhaust note is “terrifically raucous,” according to Consumer Reports, and the driving experience is about as good as it gets. Not is it incredibly athletic on a twisty road, but it’s also comfortable over long drives. It’s quite expensive, but considering how good it is at everything, there are few cars that can beat the 911.
1. BMW M235i
Over the last few years, BMW has been widely accused of losing its edge, and its claim to the title of “ultimate driving machine” is hotly disputed. BMW’s best defense of that title might be the M235i. Its razor-sharp handling is paired with a 320-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine, which makes for a spectacular driving experience. The back seat isn’t exactly spacious, but there’s plenty of room for the driver and one passenger up front, and the interior materials are high quality. If you’re looking to enjoy your driving experience with the wind in your hair, you’re in luck, because the M235i is now available as a convertible as well.