Daily Drives that Perform
Sports cars attract a singular buyer because that level of performance comes at a high price, but what about the rest of us? Happily, nearly every automotive brand offers at least one sporty option in their lineup that won’t break the bank. For those who’d like a little more performance in their daily drives, Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently tested the following options.
Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Originally called a liftback, the Corolla Hatchback is back as an official member of the lineup for 2019. LTR recently tested the 2019 Corolla XSE (above), one of two available trims and the sportiest with standard 18-inch wheels, LED fog lights, and a chrome front grille surround. The test model also came in a special Blue Flame exterior paint.
A 2.0-liter Dynamic-Force direct-injection inline four-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower and 151 lb.–ft. of torque powers all Corolla Hatchbacks. While a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is available, the test model came with the six-speed manual transmission combined with a multi-link suspension with a stabilizer bar, and updated shock absorbers and springs that added sportiness and lots of fun to the drive.
The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy was 28/37 miles per gallon (mpg). The test model averaged 31.5 mpg.
Sitting in the hatchback, it felt finished and a bit upscale, that’s because the XSE grade added fancy standard features, including dual-zone climate control, two-tone combination leather seating, and heated front seats. Unique stitching on its instrument panel and doors, the multifunction steering wheel and a seven-inch TFT Multi-Information Display (MID) that showed vehicle information like turn-by-turn navigation and a new feature, Road Sign Assist, set it even further apart.
Toyota’s infotainment system, the Entune 3.0 Audio Plus, is standard on the XSE and features Sirius/XM satellite radio and a high-resolution eight-inch multimedia touchscreen. Apple Car Play is standard on all Corolla Hatchbacks.
Standard semi-autonomous features included Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, and adaptive cruise control. My favorite safety feature, the Blind Spot Monitor, was also standard on the XSE.
Pricing for the 2019 Corolla Hatchback starts at $20,910. The as-tested price came to $23,910.
Mazda Miata MX-5
Since its introduction 30 years ago, the Mazda Miata combined a striking design, nimble performance, and a drop top with a surprisingly affordable price. LTR recently tested the 2019 Miata MX-5 Grand Touring soft top and happily, not much has changed to lessen its appeal. Indeed, when the thirtieth anniversary edition was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show this year, the 500 anniversary models set aside for sales in the United States sold out in four hours.
The modern Miata is sleeker but its agility will still make its owners smile. A sport-tuned suspension and Bilstein shock absorbers enhanced handling further on the test model.
Formerly the top-of-the-line trim out of three until the anniversary edition was introduced this year, the Grand Touring trim comes equipped with posh features like, heated leather seats, automatic air conditioning, and Mazda navigation with traffic sign recognition. The blind spot monitor becomes a standard feature on the Club trim, one below the Grand Touring, so it was included as well.
All Miatas are powered by 2.0-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv engine with 181 horsepower and 151 of lb.–ft. of torque. While an automatic transmission is available, thankfully the test model came with a six-speed manual transmission that elevated the driving experience. Fuel economy is also an added plus with an EPA estimated city/highway rating of 26 mpg and 34 mpg respectively. It earned an average of 34.1 mpg on the test drive.
The canvas top remains manually operated but it can literally be done while siting in the car with one hand. A retractable hardtop version is also available.
Pricing for the 2019 Miata MX-5 starts at $26,625. The as tested price came to $33,050.
In the car world “sporty” almost always describes a performance or sports car. But for this list, we broadened the definition of sporty to include off-road performers as well. With its symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD), the Subaru Crosstrek can handle the outdoors for owners who want to take it there, but it also has sporty qualities that set it apart in its segment.
The tested model was the Crostrek 2.0i Limited with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (right)—a suite of autonomous safety features, from pre-collision braking to adaptive cruise control. For 2019, it’s now available on all 2019 Crosstrek trim levels.
All Crosstreks are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Subaru Boxer engine that delivers 152-hp and 145 lb.–ft. of torque. Transmissions do vary, however, starting with a six-speed manual. The tested model, however, included a CVT with a seven-speed manual mode function and steering wheel paddle shifters for those who want the performance of a manual transmission but without the clutch. Not only did the CVT offer the better fuel economy, with an average of 29 mpg, it added muscle as well with an X-MODE and Hill Descent Control for better traction off-road. The test model also included 18-inch alloy wheels in black with a machine finish.
Some call it a wagon, others a compact SUV but either way, the Crosstrek offers the convenience of both with a rear seat that folds to expose 55.3 cubic feet of cargo room.
As the top-of-the-line trim, the test model also included convenience features like an eight-inch touchscreen with voice-activated controls, Keyless Access with Push-Button Start, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Pricing for the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek starts at $22,870. The as-tested price came to $28,170.
Lexus IS 300
For its entry-level offering, Lexus introduced the 2001 IS compact sport sedan in 2000, allowing more buyers to step up to the brand with the added plus of performance.
The test model on this drive was the IS 300, the most affordable IS, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque. In 2018, the entire lineup received a five horsepower increase.
It was matched to an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel and Eco, Normal, Snow, and Sport drive modes to customize the ride and handling further. The city/highway EPA estimated fuel economy for the test model was 22/32 mpg. It averaged 24 mpg on the test drive, mostly in Eco mode.
Available with all-wheel-drive (AWD), the test model stuck to its sporty intentions with rear-wheel-drive, improved for 2019 for better performance. Ramping up performance further, the test model included the F-Sport package ($3,195) with a unique bumper and spindle grill, 18-inch split five-spoke wheels, a sport suspension, and aluminum pedals.
As a Lexus, luxury features like NuLuxe trimmed seating, ten-way power front sport seats, a dual-zone automatic climate control system with touch-sensitive controls, a power moonroof, SmartAccess with push button start and adaptive cruise control come standard. The available blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, was also included on the test model for no charge. While a seven-inch touch screen is standard, the test model included the available 10.3-inch display for entertainment and climate control interplay, heated and cooled leather seats, and a leather steering wheel.
Pricing for the 2019 IS 300 starts at $39,585. The as-tested price came to $46,395.
Ford Edge ST
Combining functionality with versatility, the midsize SUV market shows no sign of slowing in popularity, so it behooves automakers to forward products that stand out. Ford added the first performance SUV to its lineup for 2019, the Edge ST. LTR recently tested the sportier Edge equipped with standard AWD.
At first glance, the Edge ST signals its performance nature with design cues like a wide mesh grille for optimal cooling, deep side skirts and dual-exhaust outlets. The test model also included the available 21-inch wheels with darkened rims that come with the Performance Brake Package ($2,695). Interior design cues included badging on the steering wheel, seat backs, and scuff plates.
Tuned by the Ford Performance team, the Edge ST gains a sport suspension, Sport Mode, a new quick-shifting eight-speed transmission, and a powerful V6 engine with 335 horsepower and 380 lb.–ft. of torque.
Where there’s power, there’s less fuel economy, however, even with the standard Auto Start-Stop technology to help save gas at idle that managed to fade the air conditioning at times. The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy for the Edge ST is 19/26 mpg. It averaged 22.4 mpg on the test drive.
The Edge ST also maintains the standard for convenience expected of SUVs in this class by offering seating for five and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. It deploys easily with the push of a button to expose 73.4 cu. ft. of cargo space. For a modern touch, the Edge ST includes a Wi-Fi hotspot for Internet access via FordPass Connect, standard on all 2019 Edges.
Pricing for the 2019 Edge ST starts at $31,090. The as-tested price came to $52,325.