Few things are as exhilarating as manually running through the gears of a sports car. It’s even more exciting if you can push it to the limit in a small, compact machine where you can feel every bump, every bit of body roll, and every groove in the road as you corner.

Now, imagine doing that for about $30K. Well, with the 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata and 2024 Subaru BRZ, you can do just that. Let’s compare two of the last models standing among traditional, affordable sports cars.

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Few vehicles on the road today are as readily recognizable as the Mazda Miata, or as it’s technically known, the 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata. And there are even fewer that are more fun.

The Miata’s changed so much and so little during its multi-decade run in the U.S. It’s one of the few vehicles where the brand sells more equipped with a manual transmission than with an automatic.

It’s a classic machine with an affordable price. Pricing starts at $30,150, including the destination charge.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Highlights

Plenty of fun: It’s a convertible. What’s not fun about that? It also possesses fantastic driving dynamics: tight steering and a responsive engine. It’s also fast enough to get your adrenaline pumping but not so fast you’re breaking many traffic laws to do it.

High quality: The Miata has been around for three decades. This means they’ve had plenty of time to get it right. Not just in terms of how it drives but to ensure it’s always ready to be driven. Not much downtime for this 2-seater.

Affordability: There are a handful of new roadsters driving the planet these days, and virtually all of them are much more expensive than Mazda’s offering. Also, it’s affordable to run: no special brakes or tires. They build them in bunches, so if you need to make a repair, the parts are plentiful.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the MX-5 Miata models for sale near you.

2024 Subaru BRZ

2024 Subaru BRZ tS in WR Blue Pearl with dry grass in the background.

The 2024 Subaru BRZ is the “black sheep” in Subaru’s family. It’s the one that isn’t like the others — and that’s just fine. What’s different? It’s the only Subaru model that doesn’t come with all-wheel drive as standard equipment (it’s not even an option!). And when you hop into this little 4-seater coupe, it doesn’t take long to figure out that rear-wheel drive is the right way to go.

Built in partnership with Toyota, which calls its version the GR86, the BRZ is a driver’s car. The focus is on the driving dynamics, less on speed. It’s not quite “slow car fast,” more like “quick car fast.” And the upside is you can get this one in a manual, too, so you can push it as hard or a little as you like. Pricing starts at $31,315, including the destination charge.

Subaru BRZ Highlights

Bang for your buck: The BRZ is an anomaly: a well-priced sports car. Subaru partnered with Toyota on it, meaning each spent less than usual to produce it, which shows up in the price tag. Even the “pricey” tS model is only a little over $36K.

Plenty of space: Subaru’s dubbed the BRZ a 2+2. You might fit a small child in the back, but in all reality, what you get is additional room for a couple of weekend bags. That said, they beat the non-existent back seats in the Miata. It makes the BRZ a more practical weekend car.

Saving the manual: Who wants flappy paddles in a car like this? Two of three trim levels exclusively come with a 6-speed manual, and the third offers a 6-speed auto if you must. We recommend rowing your own in this little coupe to enjoy the experience to the fullest.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the BRZ models for sale near you.


They are small sports cars with excellent driving dynamics and standard manual transmissions. They also happen to be pretty affordable while offering a spirited driving experience.


This is a bit of a rock-paper-scissors competition. If you really want a convertible, then the Miata beats the BRZ. However, the Subaru beats the Mazda if you insist on having four seats rather than two. Both are delightful to drive at any speed, so the right sports car for you comes down to your personal preferences as they relate to the top and the seat count.


2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata 2024 Subaru BRZ
Starting Price $30,150 $31,315
Popular Powertrains  
Engine 2.0-liter 4-cylinder 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Boxer
Horsepower 181 hp @ 7,000 rpm 228 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque 151 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 184 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy 26 city/34 highway/29 combined mpg 20 city/27 highway/22 combined mpg
Also Available 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety N/R N/R
Max Seating Capacity 5 4
Wheelbase 90.9 inches 101.4 inches
Overall Length 154.1 inches 167.9 inches
Width 68.3 inches 69.9 inches
Height 48.6 inches 51.6 inches
Turning Diameter 30.8 feet 35.4 feet
Headroom, Front 37.4 inches 37.0 inches
Headroom, Rear N/A   33.5 inches
Legroom, Front 43.1 inches 41.5 inches
Legroom, Rear N/A 29.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 52.0 inches 53.6 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear N/A 51.7 inches
Cargo Volume 4.6 cubic feet 6.3 cubic feet

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