What’s the Difference Between a Sports Car and a Sports Sedan?

Sports cars are admired in the automotive world for many reasons, the most obvious being their incredible performance capabilities. Some also carry an air of exclusivity: There are only four new muscle cars for the 2022 model year. Sports cars also have unique aerodynamic designs that other vehicles lack. Another class of cars, known as sports sedans, offer fine-tuned driving dynamics and more powerful engines. How do these vehicles differ from traditional sports cars?

Let’s go over the differences and compare some of the most popular examples from both segments.

How do you define a sports car?

2022 Toyota GR Supra sports car
2022 Toyota GR Supra sports car | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Automakers build sports cars with a focus on high top speeds and the car’s fun factor. They’re also designed to be lighter, giving them enhanced speed and better control in tight corners. It also makes them surprisingly practical for navigating busy city streets, Rapid MTS explains.

However, it’s difficult to recommend a sports car as a daily driver. Many models pack potent engines that earn terrible fuel economy ratings. For example, a Ford Mustang with a supercharged 760-hp V8 gets only 12/18 mpg city/highway.

Many sports cars also don’t come with many advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), which could increase the likelihood of accidents. Instead, these cars have track-focused features like sport suspensions and limited-slip differentials.

Though that isn’t always the case, several notable sports cars are available only as two-door models with two seats. Obviously, that makes them useless to drivers with families. Additionally, even four-door sports cars are known for their small cargo areas.

What is a sports sedan?

2022 Honda Civic Si sports sedan
2022 Honda Civic Si sports sedan | American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Sports sedans focus on practicality first. They usually have four doors and average cargo capacities. Automakers then add performance features as fun extras. Sports sedans also have relatively reserved engines, so you won’t have to sacrifice upgraded handling for decent gas mileage, GetJerry explains.

Sports sedans can be compact cars with dedicated sporty trims, such as the Honda Civic Si. As one user on Quora reminds us, many automakers also use the term “sport package” loosely. Sometimes it only refers to “sport” in the aesthetic sense and doesn’t include any actual racing enhancements.

Some sports sedans are based on existing models. For example, look at the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, with its manual transmission, adaptive dampers, and up to 241 hp. The regular Jetta makes only 158 hp, has fewer performance features, and offers more subdued exterior styling.

We see the same parallel in the EV and hybrid segments. Cars like the Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla, and Kia Niro have received hybrid or EV variants in recent years. However, these cars don’t always get the best mileage as vehicles designed as EVs or hybrids.

Here are a few of our favorite sporty cars

The Chevy Corvette, with its aggressive lines and flared air vents, easily sets itself apart from other sports cars. It also has the performance chops to match: Its robust standard V8 harnesses 490 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The Toyota GR Supra has a similar power output but a curvier body than the Vette. The Chevy Camaro is another iconic sports car, especially with the ZL1 Performance package.

The Kia K5 sports sedan might look as mean as a sports car, but it packs only 290 hp and no notable performance optimizers. The Kia Stinger GT sports sedan comes closer to sports car–like performance with its Brembo brakes and launch control. It also has an above-average top speed of 167 mph. It’s still slightly slower than a dedicated sports car and doesn’t have the most precise handling, according to U.S. News.

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