The Best Manual Sports Cars Under $50k

Published: June 17, 2022
Last updated: February 21, 2024

Did you ever wonder why manual transmission cars are becoming rarer and rarer each year? There is no doubt that manual transmissions have become obsolete and inconvenient for city cruisers nowadays. There is, of course, the question of why manufacturers are switching from conventional to automatic transmissions in sports cars. Would it be possible to find true sports cars for daily drivers with a manual transmission, incredible performance, and a 50k price range that can be the perfect balance between a smooth ride and exhilarating performance?

Many sports cars, especially cars with muscle body styles, have a great center of gravity, standard all-wheel drive, adaptive suspension, and are driven with a manual transmission. Automatic transmissions may appear to provide maximum comfort and reduce the worry about having to change gears. Still, they take away the very important part of driving a car. However, when you use a manual transmission, you have complete control over your car - rev it as much as you want, modify the engine's RPM as much as you want, and so on. A manual transmission can also help you accelerate faster than an automatic one.

Having said that, if you want to choose a great sports car with swift acceleration, that comes with a manual transmission and a price range of under $50k, what do you choose? In the list below, we have compiled the best manual sports cars with price tags of under 50k.

1995 Dodge Viper – $30,000

The name "Viper" describes perfectly the nature of this unpredictable creature. Dodge Viper, from the very beginning, was a popular style and was branded as probably the bare-bones sports car your money can buy primarily because it doesn't have anything like ABS or traction control, a powerful engine under the hood, manual transmission, and large tires to provide it with as much grip as possible.

However, it must be noted that with an 8.0-liter V10 engine producing 400 horsepower in a 1.5-ton car, only very special drag tires could provide the grip to cope with the enormous amount of power released.

2022 Subaru BRZ – $32,000

Subaru ended production of the BRZ just recently. The manufacturer has announced that a new, redesigned model will be offered next year. The BRZ is a popular style of manual sports car under 50k despite a few drawbacks, such as a naturally aspirated, 4-cylinder engine that is a little too weak and a low-quality interior that is costly to replace. Although it has a great look, well-balanced handling, and is cheap, it is also very fun to drive for a smooth ride.

Most Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 cars available today come with a six-speed manual transmission. This is undoubtedly one of the best budget sports cars currently available.

2008 Nissan 350Z – $9,000

Nissan has kept the price for 350Z's base models high for years, but that's a nearly 20-year-old car. Therefore it cannot cost twenty-five thousand or thirty thousand dollars. Additionally, a newer version of this car, the 370Z, was introduced in 2009. These cars are almost identical, and the new 370Z is getting old and dated quickly.

With a base price of $9,000, the 350Z has a cleaner look which most people prefer. So, there you have it, a powerful rear-wheel-drive car from Japan with manual transmission for less than $10,000 - it's nothing short of spectacular!

2022 Dodge Challenger R/T – $38,680

The Dodge Challenger R/T is another popular style that offers more power than you will ever need. At the same time, the Dodge Challenger SXT is so horrible that you won't even consider it – with a starting price of $38,680, the 2022 Dodge Challenger R/T has both power and an affordable price. A HEMI V8 with a displacement of 5.7 liters provides you with 372 horsepower and swift acceleration if you get the R/T version.

In 5 seconds, it will be possible to reach a speed of 60 mph! You can easily find the car of your dreams for a $35-40 grand price range if you choose an older model with manual transmission due to the availability of many examples on the market.

2015 Porsche 987 Boxster – $42,000

Compared with the first Boxster, this newer model already has most problems fixed - the engines are more reliable, the interior is more luxurious, and the handling is much better. There is a choice of four engines, all of which are flat-6 engines.

Although these popular style models have automatic transmissions, they are somewhat slow, but we aren't interested in automatic transmissions anyway, are we? For example, the 987 with a 2.7-liter engine and automatic transmission can go from zero to sixty in 7.3 seconds, while the same powerful engine and manual transmission guarantee a 0-60 Mph time of 6.2 seconds.

2020 Audi TT RS – $48,500

There is no denying that the Audi TT RS performance model is one weird sports car and not a very popular style, and it has always been that way - either you love it, or you hate it. Despite this, the Audi TT RS, with a 2.5 liter, five-cylinder turbocharged engine is a compact, affordable, fun, and stylish luxury sports car. It is the high-performance package version of the Audi TT.

2017 Honda Civic Type R – $28,000

Despite being unattractive, this sporty sedan is so fast, handles so well, and performs well that it is hard not to buy it and drive it on the race track! There is only one transmission option available for this model, six-speed manual transmission.

Furthermore, it is powered by a 2,0 liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine producing a whopping 306 hp, while the car's weight is less than 1.4 tons. For a sports sedan of such a small weight, you would expect it to be fast, especially with a 4.9-second sprint to 60 mph.

2009 Mazda Miata MX-5 – $9,000

What do you think is the secret behind the immense popularity of Miatas among so many people? Essentially, if it had to be summed up in three words, it would be fun, affordable, and reliable. The reason why they are a popular style is that they're fun because they usually have a manual transmission, all the engines are punchy, and they're a roadster/convertible!

Nowadays, it is not hard to find a used one for a very low price. Furthermore, the best part of owning this car is that you need not take it apart weekly to maintain it, making it one of the best manual sports cars under 50k.

2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – $22,000

Despite not having a mechanical transmission, it still has a timeless design, a manual transmission, and a powerhouse of a 5.0-liter V8. The car is considered to be an overall better car when it comes to its exceptional performance and quality of construction than its predecessor.

There are better materials inside the vehicle, such as aluminum or soft leather. With its supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine pumping out 550 horsepower and quick acceleration, the GT500 ensures you get a smooth ride and never run out of power.

This legacy of power and performance can be traced back to its iconic predecessor, the 67 Shelby Mustang, which laid the foundation for this enduring line of high-performance sports cars, making it a true legend among enthusiasts.

2022 BMW Z4 – $49,900

With a base price of $49,900, the 2022 BMW Z4 is another popular style from Germany. Compared to the base models of older Z4s, this one is more enjoyable, faster, and more desirable. There is no doubt that BMW Z4 sports cars are known for their fun engines and outstanding handling. Knowing that BMW can make a large SUV handle like a sports car and make it look like a sports car, imagine what they can achieve with this car!

Because this car is a German-built automobile, you can expect plenty of cool German features such as regenerative braking, directional headlights, a start/stop system, a drive mode selector, swift acceleration, and the iDrive infotainment system.

Are you interested in learning more about cars and their maintenance? Head to the KeepDriving website and check out our blog post about the signs of a blown gasket.

Founder, Editor-in-Chief Carmelo Pickel is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Keep Driving, with almost 20 years of experience working in the industry. Before founding Keep Driving, Carmelo held leadership roles for over a decade on top automotive dealership corporations across North America, handling various leadership roles in Sales, Marketing, and Incentives.
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