Sometimes you just want a car that can tear up the track and still drive on public roads. Here’s a couple of the best track day cars you can own.
All around the world, drivers visit their local circuits for a public event known as track day. Track days are when you can truly experience your sports car in its natural environment. Banked turns, slaloms, highspeed straightaways, and some short-lived rivalries make driving your car on the track quite the experience. Of course, not every car is meant to carve through the turns on track days. You probably wouldn’t want to drive a minivan or full-size SUV on your local track. I mean you could, but you’d have much more fun in a car that’s spec’d for life in the fast lane.
We went ahead and compiled some of the best track day cars you can find new, used, or used with track car upgrades already added to them. Whether you’re looking for something that can run errands and be a fun car on track days or hoping to build a track star from the ground up, any of these options should be right for you.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata will always be a prime track day car whether it’s a NA, NB, NC, or ND. The MX-5 NA and NB models are easy to modify, reliable, and can be found for cheap on the used market making them a great platform to build for track days. The MX-5 NC and ND are also modifiable and reliable, but played more into the performance side of things straight from the factory with the Club trim. The MX-5 ND Club for example adds a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, bigger performance tires, Recaro racing seats, and some nice BBS wheels. This “hairdresser’s car” has slowly become a track day cult classic.
I’m not suggesting picking up a classic MINI from the ‘60s or ‘70s to use as a track day car (even though that would be an amusing little build). Instead, you should look at the more recent generation of 2-door MINI Cooper S models for a fun hot hatch. The quirky little front-wheel drive British car has a fully independent suspension, turbocharged engine, and disc brakes all around. You can find them for pretty cheap on the used market and there’s plenty of aftermarket parts available to further mold the MINI into a track day car. If you’re shopping new though, the John Cooper Works MINI is the one to buy with all of its high-performance parts, dyno-tuning, higher horsepower, and a full-body aero kit.
The BMW M3 and track days go hand in hand. Whether it’s an older modified M3 or a brand new one straight from the dealership lot, you’ll have a German sports sedan that want to hit the track. If you’re looking to find a nice base for a track build, a used BMW M3 E36 is going to be the cheapest iteration you can find. From there you can throw on a turbo to the straight-six engine, add some Sparco racing seats, install a roll cage for safety, bolt on a spoiler, and slap some stickers on to the old M3 for a price well under the cost of a brand new 2021 M3 Competition. If you can splurge for that new big mouthed version though, then by all means have some fun.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI started the whole hot hatch segment way back when we knew it as the Rabbit here in the USA, and it’s probably going to stand as the last selling hot hatch too. The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, sport tuned suspension, and compact design makes the Golf GTI a wonderful track day car that handles nimbly around corners. There’s plenty of parts available online to further tune and squeeze every ounce of performance out of the little hatchback. The Golf GTI also comes with that breathtaking plaid upholstery inside if you weren’t sold yet.
The Honda Civic has always made for a great track day car and the Type R models further prove that point. The 10th generation Honda Civic Type R offers a turbocharged I4 engine, only a six-speed manual (as it should be), weight reduction, and a stiffer tuned suspension keeping it stuck to the road even on the sharpest hairpin turns. Honda has made the torque steer issue that normally plagues front-wheel drive sports cars virtually nonexistent. The Civic Type R also comes with a ton of aerodynamic add-ons, a hood scoop, aluminum undertray, plenty of vents, and it’s all accented with red trim pieces. If you’re not into how aggressive the Type R’s design is right now, the all-new upcoming Civic model for 2022 may strike your fancy. It’ll come with all the performance we love to see, but with less of the accentuated exterior design.
The Veloster is a relative newcomer to the track day segment, but in N form it can run with the rest of them. The Hyundai Veloster N is a turbocharged 4-cylinder hatchback with a stiffer sport tuned electronically controlled suspension, a 6-speed manual, an electronic controlled limited-slip differential, larger wheels, and there’s an optional 8-speed dual clutch transmission available. You also gain a larger rear spoiler, rear diffuser, and red trim with the N logo badge scattered about to let people know it’s here to party. The Veloster N stands out as a great track day car and at its affordable price point really gives the Honda Civic Type R a run for its money in the hot hatch market.
If you’ve paid attention to the Japanese car world, you’ll know that the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 are virtually the same sports car with some slight design changes between them. Both cars are agile rear-wheel drive sports coupes that come standard with a 6-speed manual attached to a 2.0L 4-cylinder boxer engine that makes 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft or torque. You can’t really go wrong with either and choice will come down to availability and personal preference in brand or design. If you want to shop for these track day cars on the used market, keep in mind that the defunct Scion brand also sold this car as the FR-S.
The Toyota Supra is a cult classic JDM car, especially in its Mk4 form with the famous 2JZ engine. While not many people are willing to track day an early Supra, the all-new Toyota GR Supra will confidently take to the track. While the new Supra didn’t stay completely true to the Toyota brand by using a lot of BMW parts, it still makes for quite the track day option. The 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 engine makes over 385 horsepower for 2021 and Toyota went back and further improved the handling themselves. It may not be the Mk4, but as production ramps up, this new generation of the Supra will prove to be one of the best track day cars available.