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7 Best 2017 Cheap Sports Cars Under $30K

5. Chevrolet Camaro Coupe 1LT 2.0 Turbo

Price as tested: $29,335
0-60 mph: 5.4 sec; EPA rating: 23 mpg city-highway combined
Hottest color: Hyper Blue Metallic

The magic here is General Motors’ world-class Alpha architecture. A wonderfully rigid and lightweight structure, it debuted with the 2013 Cadillac ATS and helped it out-handle BMW’s vaunted 3 Series in buff-book tests. Modified for sports-coupe and convertible duty, it underpins the all-new, sixth generation Camaro launched for model-year 2016. And it’s a revelation: this Chevy can attack corners with the aggression of pedigreed European machinery.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro

Exploiting that tectonic plate of a platform are multi-link MacPherson struts in front, a five-link independent setup in back, and some of the best electric power steering in the business. For shockingly good big-sports-car moves, ally it with the track-focused 1LE handling package (tweaked suspension, big Bembro brakes, Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires, higher downforce, more cooling). The 1LE kit is now available on Camaros with the 3.6-liter V-6 (335 horsepower, 284 pound-feet of torque), not just on 455-horsepower V-8 SS models. Alas, it costs $4,500. Applied even to the entry-level 1LT Camaro coupe, it creates a $33,295 base price.

So our $30K cutoff confines us to Camaro’s base engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and 275 horsepower at 5600 rpm, 295 pound-feet of torque at 3000. Chevy charges the same $26,900 whether you get the six-speed manual transmission or the paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic. We’ll stick with the stick, and spring for two strategic options.

The $1,950 RS package toughens the styling with a sharper grille insert, xenon headlamps with menacing LED accents, and LED taillamps. More important in this context, it replaces 18-inch wheels with split-spoke gray machine-finished alloys wrapped in 245/40R20 all-season runflats. Fortify this with the Heavy Duty Cooling and Brake Package, bargain priced at $485. It greatly enhances engine cooling and includes the racer’s touch of an external engine oil cooler. Brembo four-piston front brakes do wonders for stopping power and control.

For a $29,335 bottom line, you get a sweet-handling coupe with miles of style and a dash of practicality. This turbo four isn’t particularly symphonic, but the stout six-speed helps you tap the surprising punch though the heart of its torque band. Ensconced on firm cloth buckets, a flat-bottom steering wheel and meaty shifter present for duty, the cockpit is GT-caliber, if a little hard to see out of. Think a pony car can’t defend itself against a like-priced sports car on a curvy road? Think again.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]