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The Best Sports Cars Under $40K - Subaru WRX Isn't A Top Pick, Is Beat By Its Little Bro

The best sports cars under $40,000 include the 2023 Subaru WRX, but it's still not the top pick. So, see why it gets topped by its little brother, the 2023 BRZ.

What are the best sports cars for 2023 under $40,000? U.S. News' top twelve picks include the 2023 WRX performance sedan and the 2023 Subaru BRZ. But the BRZ comes out on top according to the new ranking.

According to U.S. News, the 2023 Subaru WRX is the bottom pick of the twelve best new sports cars under $40,000. So, from last to best, here are the top new sports car picks for 2023.

2023 Subaru WRX

U.S. News 12 Best Sports Cars Under $40,000

2023 Subaru WRX: Overall Score: 7.4/10 | Price: $30,605
2023 Hyundai Elantra N: Overall Score: 7.9/10 | Price: $32,900
2023 Dodge Challenger: Overall Score: 8.0/10 | Price: $30,545
2023 Chevrolet Camaro: Overall Score: 8.1/10 | Price: $26,400
2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Overall Score: 8.2/10 | Price: $28,050
2023 Toyota GR86: Overall Score: 8.3/10 | Price: $28,400
2023 Kia Stinger: Overall Score: 8.4/10 | Price: $36,690
2023 Subaru BRZ: Overall Score: 8.6/10 | Price: $28,595
2023 Ford Mustang: Overall Score: 9.2/10 | Price: $27,770

What does U.S. news say about the BRZ?

"The BRZ features the same 228-horsepower four-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, and a six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearbox. Power is modest, but as we already know, power isn't everything."

2023 Subaru BRZ

The BRZ gets a better score than the Toyota GR86.

"The BRZ ranks above its Toyota cousin because its 2022 redesign features a nicer cabin. It's worth considering splurging on the top-tier Limited model, which adds synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and adaptive headlights, all while staying under our $40,000 price point."

What is the price of the 2023 BRZ?

The 2023 Subaru BRZ comes in two trim levels with two transmission options. The BRZ Premium with a 6-speed manual gearbox has a starting price of $29,615. BRZ Premium with an automatic transmission starts at $33,115. The Limited (6-speed manual) has a starting MSRP of $32,115. The Limited with an automatic transmission starts at $33,255.

What does U.S. News say about the WRX?

"The Subaru WRX is a compact sedan with true sports car chops, and it's a favorite among off-road rally racers worldwide. Unfortunately, the STI performance model isn't available for 2023, but the WRX is a lot of fun on its merit."

"The WRX features a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and a super grippy all-wheel drive system comes standard. Stick with the base six-speed manual transmission for the most authentic experience, though an automatic is available. The WRX is far from the most polished car you'll see on this list — in fact, it can be a little rough around the edges — but it's a great place to start your search for a budget sports car."

What is the price of the 2023 WRX?

The 2023 WRX 6-speed manual trim level starts at $31,625. The WRX with Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT) is $33,475, the WRX Premium 6-speed manual is $34,125, the WRX Premium SPT is $36,175, the WRX Limited 6-speed manual is $38,515, WRX Limited SPT is $40,765, and WRX GT is $44,415. Pricing includes destination and delivery fees ($1,020).

Our take:

The Subaru WRX comes with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system making it an all-weather, all-climate sports car. The WRX plays in the snow when other sports cars sit in the garage all winter. Performance enthusiasts can drive it all year, and with a set of winter-rated tires, you'll be having fun when others are sitting inside waiting for warm weather.

The U.S. News Best Sports Cars Under $40,000 includes the 2023 Subaru WRX, but it's still not the top pick. Instead, it gets trumped by its little brother, the 2023 Subaru BRZ.

Would you choose the 2023 Subaru WRX or the 2023 Subaru BRZ if you bought a sports car this year? Let us know why in the comments below.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: main image Subaru Sherman Oaks


NMK (not verified)    April 26, 2023 - 6:11PM

IMO the wrx doesn't even qualify as a sports car anymore. Its just a dorky looking, too tall, too heavy, averagely powered sedan. If that is a sports car a toyota camry making 30 more HP must be a supercar and a mustang is a hyper car.

T-Mills (not verified)    April 26, 2023 - 11:25PM

This list is stupid. The 2023 Ford Mustang GT is $51k. Not sure what what Mustang was spec’d for 27k. Pretty sure that it doesn’t qualify as a sports car. Just a dumb basic rental spec I’m sure.

Aaron (not verified)    April 27, 2023 - 5:13AM

I own a 2022 WRX with CVT and I can say it's the best auto I've ever owned. It goes from pussy cat to raging animal with a click of the mode button. Sticks like baby poo to a blanket in the wet. Has all the tech to rival the most expensive cars on the market. A genuine thrill to drive. It's grown up very refined and attractive. Has that menacing look both from front and rear. It's had bad press from its release but mainly from those who have not driven one.

Remy (not verified)    April 28, 2023 - 3:31PM

The new WRX is not a WRX anymore. Subaru axed STI from their lineup and flopped on the WRX hard! Too much Toyota Kool-Aid killed Subaru's personality. The "new wrx" is a Crosstrek sedan for all the people that complain about Crosstrek being stupid slow(it is). So instead of giving us an awesome looking WRX hatch, we get a fugly looking Crosstrek sedan. The BRZ at least gave Subaru some credit since it actually looks better.