Test Fest: Best new sports performance car under $50,000
Although the most expensive of the group, the BMW M235i is a totally new car in the marketplace, and its quality easily outclasses the rest.
4x4 off-road safari. Egypt. Sinai desert
M stands for mmmmm in BMW M235i
By Emily Atkins
A disparate group of five quick cars is contesting the Best Sports Performance Under $50,000 category this year, but one truly stands above the rest.
The BMW M235i is a totally new car in the marketplace, and it has the attributes of a much pricier ride. Although the most expensive of the group, its quality easily outclasses the rest.
BMW M235i (base $45,000, as tested $46,500)
The M in this car’s name must stand for “mmmmm,” because that’s what most drivers will be saying once they’ve pushed the start button for the 3-litre, turbocharged V6 engine. Even before the sport pedals unleash its 320 hp and 332 lb.-ft., its rumble fills the luxurious and beautiful cabin with a glorious vibration.
When you press the go pedal this car answers with tremendous acceleration, propelling itself from zero to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds (according to the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s own performance testing data). The manual transmission and butter-smooth clutch let you snap off quick shifts like a pro.
And it has the handling to match. Crisp, precise steering, smooth braking, and adaptive suspension setting complete the suite of features that make the M235i a superb driver’s car.
One quibble: BMW is asking almost $1,000 for any colour other than white.
Subaru WRX STI (base $37,995, as tested $40,495)
Twitchy, fun and fast, the STI is the star performer in Subaru’s lineup. Although a four-door sedan, this car is all about performance.
From the giant wing on the rear deck, to the sport seats, hard ride and tweaked-out turbo engine making 305 hp and 290 lb.-ft. of torque, it’s all designed to let you get sideways — quickly — and live to boast about it. It’s acceleration matches the BMW’s.
This is a great car — if you can live with the hard ride and poor fuel economy.
Kia Forte Koup SX (base $21,295, as tested $24,195)
An entry-level winner, the Koup has plenty of pep, good handling and decently sporty looks. This little car would be a great daily driver for those who want a little fun on the ramps, and enough sizzle to keep the heart rate up on the open road.
It’s got a 6-speed manual mated to a 2-litre, turbocharged four-banger. With 201 hp and 195ft.-lb. of torque, it makes the 0-100 run in 7.4 seconds. Not quite blazing, but quick enough.
The car is comfortable and has room for four adults and some gear. It’s not terribly upscale inside, but for the price, it offers really good value.
Ford Mustang EcoBoost (base $33,499, as tested: $42,859)
The Mustang equipped with the EcoBoost engine is muscle milquetoast. It’s got the looks, but it’s a little bland.
But make no mistake, this is a good car. That 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine produces 310 hp and 320 lb.-ft. of torque for a decent zero-to-60 ride of 6.6 seconds.
It’s well put together, with a comfortable interior. The new exterior design is a definite improvement over previous generations.
It’s a muscle car trying to be polite, and that will definitely appeal to a certain group of buyers.
Volkswagen Golf GTI (base $34,295, as tested: $34,990)
Spoiled by a rough automatic transmission, the GTI fails to deliver the driving experience it’s designed for. The handling is spot on and power is derived from a 2-litre, 4-cylinder engine making 210 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, but they don’t hook up nicely with VW’s DSG tranny. The manual is likely worth a try.
This car looks great, with a newly lowered stance and all-business face. It offers a well-designed interior, great visibility and decent fuel economy. It boasts plenty of standard safety and connectivity goodies as well, but strangely lacked a USB port.