The next generation and more advanced of the M3 still offers bang for the buck. The E46 is the next generation of the M3 sports car. Also fairly affordable in price, you can find the E46 M3 on the used market easily. Depending on the year and model you want, the price will fluctuate. The E46 BMW was one of the most popular models. There was a pleasant mixture of modern technology and comfort in the E46 (via Spanner Rash).
You can drive one of these today and not feel like you are driving something out of date. The M3 E46 is different than other sport sedans from this era. The naturally aspirated engine has stood the test of time. The E46 M3 had a unique blend of luxury and performance that still holds true today.
The Mazda RX-8 was a sports car Mazda sold during the mid-2000s. It was released as the unofficial successor to the RX-7. There was a lot to like about the RX-8, most notably the unique styling and rotary engine. The RX-8 is the only sports car you can get with a rotary engine for an affordable price (via Car & Driver).
If you can’t afford an original RX-7, the RX-8 is an outstanding alternative. The hidden third passenger door makes access to the rear seating a breeze. Cargo space is also a lot better in the RX-8 than many other sports cars. There are few sports cars that can perform at the level that the RX-8 does.
If you can’t afford a new Porsche 911, why not go for an older model? The 2000 model is exactly as classy and fun to drive as a new one. The blistering performance of the 996 will put most cars, including a Nissan Z, to shame. You can find a Porsche 911 from this generation for a fairly cheap price tag (via New Car Test Drive).
Generally speaking, these Porsche models have been well maintained over their life. You can find one with low mileage, and you still won’t break the bank. The timeless styling is quintessential Porsche, and it has aged well. The 911 was one of the best Porsche models ever to grace the roadways.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse is one of the best compact sports cars you can get. For next to nothing, you can get an Eclipse with a turbocharged engine. The Eclipse competes with the Nissan Z nicely and offers a tremendous amount of bang for the buck. There were multiple models of the Eclipse that were sold, which included the Plymouth Laser (via Car Gurus).
With an all-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine, the Eclipse is a stellar deal. You can find a used Eclipse for far less than $5,000, and it will compete with the Nissan Z. There is also an enthusiast community behind the Mitsubishi Eclipse. With plenty of pep for the price and a modern style, the Eclipse is an excellent bargain for the price.