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Revhead Ramblings: Enjoy Your Cheap Performance Car While You Can

If you open a new tab now, open up Auto Trader and search for a sports car, you’ll be met by countless different options at drastically different price points.

Enjoy them while you can, because the affordable sports car is a dying breed. Emissions regulations are making these cars increasingly harder to produce at a price point that keeps us happy; it seems that the Toyota GT-86 is a sign of things to come.

Pesky Regulators

Not that the Toyota is a bad car by any means, it doesn’t need endless power, it instead lives by the mantra ‘slow car fast’. Of course, no one needs sub six second 0-60 times or blisteringly fast Nürburgring laps, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want it! The biggest issue for this type of car are the regulators, they don’t care about fun, they’re there to protect the little penguins on their rapidly shrinking ice block.

While they may not be out to get rid of affordable performance cars, the problem comes when manufacturers simply can’t make a fast, low-emission car that caters to a more modest budget.

Aston’s Trick

Can you remember when Aston Martin sold a rebadged Toyota IQ? It wasn’t to make a bold move on the compact market, the car was simply there to lower their average CO2 production across their range. These stricter rules won’t have too much of an effect on our marquee performance brands, the regulators are kind enough to offer different bands for emissions depending on your yearly output of cars.

So, for companies like Ford or BMW who produce a vast number of cars per year, they have to work even harder to keep their average CO2 production under a certain level to avoid huge fines and further sanctions.

Times Are Changing

Previously, if any of the big car makers wanted to make a fast, relatively affordable car, they’d generally just stick a big engine in it. Suddenly, that method comes with a huge list of issues, it’s hard enough to get your regular range of vehicles down to the 95g/km average without sending a group of enthusiastic engineers off to install a fire-breathing motor into something, thus pulling the average up again.

Not only would these kinds of cars have to cover their own development costs, but they’d have to sell in great volumes or at a much higher price, to cover the extra engineering costs of making the rest of the range less pollutive.

Electrification

You may then point out that this is where part electrification can come in. But looking at cars out there with mild hybrid systems, they’re not cheap. Add in the additional costs of the other performance bits and you’ve no longer got an affordable performance car. A slower car would solve all of these problems but is that really where we want to go? I care about those polar bears as much as the next person but if it means sacrificing fast cars then they need a new home!

We’re Already Too Late

If your next plan after reading this was to pick up your pitchfork and attack those regulators don’t bother. The change is upon us, the GT-86 and BRZ have a mild engine, the Alpine A110 weighs less than my phone and is out of reach for most and the Honda NSX has three electric motors to keep up with the competition. These regulations have created some interesting cars, that doesn’t always translate to fun unfortunately.

To ensure you don’t miss out on any of Alex’s ‘Revhead Ramblings‘ be sure to follow him on Twitter at @AlexClickDealer!

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