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25 Once-Popular Sports Cars Auto Fans Forgot About

Cameron EittreimNovember 27, 2020

Isuzu Impulse
via: Isuzu

23: Isuzu Impulse RS

You’ve probably seen the Geo Storm at a college campus near you, but did you know that there was another lesser-known model as well? The Impulse RS was the corporate clone of the more popular storm, but this one was sold by Isuzu. The company that famously made the most rollover prone SUV of the nineties. The Impulse was not a bad sports car, especially if you could get the rare turbo version.

Isuzu Impulse
via: Car and Driver

There are a few stylistic things that separate the Impulse from the Storm, such as the more aggressive front fascia. The car had a lot going for it, and while sales were abysmal at best, the Impulse still managed to carve a cult following. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of these, you’ll be in for a pretty cool ride.

2011 Scion tC - 2012 Scion tC
via: Toyota

22: Scion TC

There were high hopes for the scion brand during the 2000s, and the TC was the spiritual successor to the Toyota Celica. The TC had everything going for it at the time including a cheap price, sharp styling, and fun driving characteristics. Sadly, the car hit a roadblock that we all known as the 2008 recession. After that period of time Scion seemed to lose its mojo, and the TC became an afterthought in a crowded marketplace.

Scion TC
via: Scion

Still, for what the TC was bringing to the table, you couldn’t go wrong. This was a lightweight sports car that had Toyota engineering coupled with a sharp design. The TC might have been forgotten, but this car will go down as a reputable sports car. In a lot of aspects, the TC is the next generation of the Toyota Celica.

Toyota Celica All-Trac
via: Toyota

21: Toyota Celica

Speaking of the Celica, this was a car that was forgotten in its final years. Toyota had been making the compact sports car for decades, but consumer tastes were shifting. The Celica had a lot going for it, with a unique design and a one-of-a-kind look. The final generation of the Celica was perhaps the most extreme in terms of styling. Toyota was attempting to target a younger demographic, but instead, the car fell on deaf ears.

Sports car - Toyota Celica GT-Four
via: Toyota

People just weren’t into sports cars around this time, and sadly, the Celica fell by the wayside. The performance of the final generation was spirited, and the design was ahead of its time in a lot of aspects. Few cars have managed to captivate as the Celica did during its initial run, and we have to wonder if Toyota will bring it back one day.

Mercury Cougar
via: Car Domain

20: Mercury Cougar

Mercury was on the verge of obscurity by the dawn of the new millennium, and Ford execs were attempting to rebrand the company. The new Mercury was going to target young professional women, and the company first started this campaign with the Cougar. The “Cat Eye” Cougar as it was called was a departure from the outgoing model. The car was part of Ford’s New Edge design philosophy and featured a lot of sharp lines and curves.

2000 Mercury Cougar
via: Ford

Performance was naturally aspirated as the car wasn’t marketed as a hardcore performance car. Nevertheless, it received a fair amount of praise from the automotive press for natural handling and a comfortable interior. Sadly, the Cougar is a relic of the early 2000s and you don’t see very many of these models on the road anymore.

Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
via: Car Domain

19: Mitsubishi Eclipse

There are few cars that became as iconic and faded as quickly as the Eclipse did. The small Mitsubishi was developed in a joint venture with Chrysler and was an icon in the late ’90s. This lightweight sports car offered turbo power and a blend of refinement that hadn’t been seen up to this point. By the new millennium, the Eclipse had lost its heart and the car had started to fade into obscurity.

Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
via: Mitsubishi

If you were lucky enough to own an original Eclipse, then you know just how special the car actually was. With the factory turbocharger and unique styling, the Eclipse was a car that could compete with the best sports cars on the market, all for a fraction of the price. The Eclipse might have been forgotten by the general public, but true sports car enthusiasts definitely remember this.

Shelby CSX
via: Car Domain

18: Dodge Shelby CSX-VNT

From the onset, the Shelby CSX looks like a Dodge Shadow, and you’d be correct in asserting that this is indeed a Dodge Shadow. But Carroll Shelby had forged a relationship with Chrysler during this time period and created quite a few special cars. The CSX was one of these special-edition sports cars, and performed beautifully. The exterior was not much to look at but you could tell that the car wasn’t your average Shadow.

Shelby CSX
via: Hagerty

The CSX benefitted from the fact that the Shadow had a good basic platform to build on. The lightweight compact car was one of the most popular variations of the K-Car platform and Chrysler managed to advertise it well. Nevertheless, the Shelby CSX has become a forgotten relic of the ’90s.

Mitsubishi Starion - Mitsubishi Motors
via: Mitsubishi

17: Mitsubishi Starion

When Mitsubishi arrived on the scene in America, the Starion was one of the first models. Two-door sports cars were coming to fruition after the Datsun Z, but the Starion was something that was uniquely refreshing. The clean body lines and its aggressive styling gave the Starion a different look than the sports cars that fans had seen prior. A digital dashboard and leather seating gave the car an upscale interior.

Mitsubishi Starion - Mitsubishi Motors
via: Mitsubishi

But the Starion didn’t have the marketing blitz or budget behind it to become a serious contender. The car was forgotten shortly after the ’90s as there was a great amount of competition, including rebadged Mitsubishi models sold by Chrysler. Still, for sheer driving bones, the Starion was a stellar sports car.

Mazda 323
via: We Buy Cars

16: Mazda 323 GT-X

Cheap and quick are two words that described Mazda during the ’80s and ’90s. The 323 was a compact car that was affordable and well-designed. When you factored in the standard features and the design of the car, you couldn’t go wrong. The GT-X was a special edition of the 323 that competed with other hot hatches that were on the market around this time. If you couldn’t get an RX-7 this was the next best affordable sports car to have.

via: We Buy Cars

The problem is that Mazda commanded a fraction of the market share during this period of time and most of the Mazda compact cars have become forgotten relics. The 323 GT-X was a fantastic driving experience, especially when you compared it to other cars that were competing in the segment.

Nissan NX2000
via: Nissan

15: Nissan NX2000

The whirlwind of emotion that was Nissan around this time period created some of the most memorable cars around. The NX2000 was an underutilized car, with a steady platform that offered plenty of room to build on. The short wheelbase made the car zip around corners as a much more expensive sports car would. The T-Tops in the roof gave the NX2000 a very unique look that you didn’t see on a lot of compact sports cars at the time.

NX2000
via: Car Domain

Perhaps the off-putting design is part of the reason that the car didn’t sell very well. Nevertheless, the NX2000 is a unique sports car that most enthusiasts have forgotten about. The design was one of the most interesting conceptions to come out of the decade, and there hasn’t been a car like it since.

Audi Coupe
via: Audi

14: Audi Coupe Quattro

The Quattro Coupe is often the forgotten Audi sports car of the 1990s, but it deserves recognition. The car had a unique design that wasn’t copied by any other car on the road and the driving characteristics were top-notch. In addition to the precision design of the car, you also had the fact that there was a powerful engine under the hood. The Quattro Coupe is very underrated and that bolds well for its resale value.

via: Audi

Although most mainstream enthusiasts have forgotten about this car it is a hidden jewel. There is so much to offer potential buyers, even with all of the modern vehicles on the market. You can find these in great condition and there are more than a few mods that you can get on the aftermarket.

Alex Camsteed
via: Alex Camsteed

13: Suzuki Swift GTi

The Geo Metro’s “lesser-known” little brother was a beast when it came to the streets. The Swift GTi was the original hot hatch to come from Japan, and it was affordably priced. Traditionally the three-cylinder engine was in dire straights, but its performance was better than you’d expect for a car of this size. The Swift GTi had a lot of features that you didn’t find on the Metro, and design was quite exceptional.

Swift GTI
via: Car Domain

The interior was a lot more upmarket than a car in this price range should offer. The styling was also much updated from the Metro, with a cleaner looking front fascia and a handsome rear. The Swift didn’t get the kind of attention as the Metro and that is alright because these are rare and fun to drive.

FX-16
via: Toyota

12: Toyota Corolla FX-16

Another uncommon contender in the cheap and fun category was the Toyota FX-16. The high-powered hot hatch to come out of Toyota took everything that was great about the Corolla and made it less boring. The design was egg-shaped with sharp lines and the interior was all business when you got behind the wheel. The performance was better than you’d expect and the car came with signature Toyota reliability. The FX-16 is a prize to drive no matter which way you look at it, and resale value is decent as well.

Corolla-FX16
via: Toyota

These cars have developed an unusual following because you don’t see them on the road very often. Much like the Mazda 323, these were affordable and fun to drive hatchback that offered a reasonable amount of value for the price. Toyota hasn’t made the Corolla this fun to drive since the FX-16.

Saturn Ion Redline
via: Saturn

11: Saturn Ion Redline

The Saturn brand was always one of the most unique nameplates in the GM portfolio, and the Ion was a next-generation compact. Although consumers weren’t too fond of the sharp lines and contrasting appearance, the Redline was a special edition of the car that caught on. The sport edition package featured a supercharged engine, spoiler, and appearance add-ons. For what it was, the Saturn Ion Redline was a unique package.

Saturn isn’t the first brand that comes to mind when you think of performance, but the Redline proved a lot of people wrong. The cheap price tag and satisfying road manners have garnered the Redline a cult-like following. You can still find these sports cars for a reasonable price tag and many of them have been kept in excellent shape.

Volkswagen Corrado - Volkswagen
via: Corrado

10: Volkswagen Corrado

Whenever you see a Corrado on the road, you know that you’re in for something special. The unique design of the car is only one part of what made it great. The Corrado had Audi engineering which gave the car an added edge. You were getting a premium sports car for a fraction of the price tag. The Corrado was different than just about every other car in the VW lineup, and that’s alright.

1993 Volkswagen Corrado SLC - Volkswagen
via: VW

This was one of the purest sports cars that you could get at the time, and it stood out from the crowd for obvious reasons. The Corrado was unique in the sense that it lacked any of the pizzazz of other sports cars at the time. But the performance was among the best, almost like you were getting into a full-fledged Audi.

Ford Probe 24V
via: Ford

9: Ford Probe

What was supposed to be the replacement for the Mustang ended up being an undersold model. But the Probe still had a lot going for it, especially in later years. Aside from the rather weird choice of a nameplate, the Probe was unlike anything else on the road. The 24V edition of the car provided a reasonable amount of performance for the price point.

Ford Probe 24V
via: Ford

In addition to the stellar performance, the Probe was also handsome to look at, which made it more appealing. Sadly the market was saturated around this period of time, and thus the Probe never stood a chance in the marketplace. Nevertheless, the Probe was a stellar sports car that can make a great project.

Eagle Talon
via: Car and Driver

8: Eagle Talon

Why mention the Eagle Talon? Well, this corporate clone of the Mistubishi Eclipse had its own set of unique features that are worth mentioning. First and foremost, the Talon did a great job of giving drivers excitement. With the AWD configuration and the factory turbocharger, this sports car was a lot faster than more expensive models. The subtle styling and the addition of some luxury features made the Talon a compact worth considering.

Eagle Talon TSi
via: Eagle

Even as the Eagle brand was winding down the Talon managed to get a fair amount of love from the automotive press. The car had everything that you’d expect from a sports car for a fraction of the price. Very few sports cars have come close to offering what the Talon was able to offer in its final years.

2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse - Mitsubishi
via: Mitsubishi

7: Mitsubishi Eclipse (Final Generation)

The final generation of the Eclipse is perhaps the most underrated as it was the right car released at the wrong time. The styling was ahead of the curve but with a global recession hitting the car just didn’t sell well. The marketplace for compact sports cars had also shrunk by this time, and the Eclipse had some stiff competition. This is still one of the best pure sports cars that have ever hit the market.

2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse
via: Mitsubishi

The styling and the features were well ahead of what you’d expect for the price tag. Then you had the addition of the Spyder model which was one of the last convertible sports cars in the segment. For a classic driving experience that still excites to this day the final generation of the Eclipse is it.

Dodge Stealth
via: Chrysler

6: Dodge Stealth

Mitsubishi and Chrysler made a lot of cars together during the 1980s and ’90s, but one stands out the most. The Stealth was based on the 3000GT, which was a stellar sports car in every sense of the word. The twin-turbo powered motor was only one aspect of the car that made it drive amazingly. Mitsubishi put a lot of work into the car and it only helped to bolster what the car could offer.

Mitsubishi GTO - Dodge
via: Chrysler

A unique exterior style made the Stealth stand out from the crowd, and the R/T version of the car added the usual Mopar flare. The Stealth is a unique car in the aspect that it was only made for a short period of time. These sports cars are quite rare and you can expect to pay a decent price for a clean one.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
via: Hot Rod

5: 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

This car hit the market right at the end of the Monte Carlos lifespan, and it was the wrong time. Sure, the car offered a fair amount of value for what you got, but it just didn’t click with consumers. The modern V8 engine is worth noting and it gave the Monte Carlo the modern powerplant that it should have had all along. It also helped out that the car was handsome to look at as well.

Monte Carlo SS
via: Chevrolet

Since this generation of the Monte Carlo didn’t manage to sell very well, you don’t see many of them on the market anymore. But if you can get your hands on one of these, you’ll be in store for a stellar car that offers a great deal of value. The modern V8 engine and subtle styling make this a true sleeper.

2000 Dodge Neon - Dodge Neon SRT-4
via: Chrysler

4: Neon SRT-4

There was a time when the Neon SRT-4 was one of the surprise hits of the decade. The car was a barebones sports car with extreme performance, and it did just what enthusiasts wanted. This was a poor man’s Lancer Evo, and that’s okay because the SRT-4 was different. Even today this car performs among the best in its class. The engine is easy to work on and the interior had a no-frills design that was easy to maintain.

2000 Dodge Neon - 2001 Dodge Neon
via: Chrysler

The SRT-4 is perhaps one of the most interesting cars on the market for a number of reasons. These Dodge models were quite unique at the time and there were only a few exterior colors to choose from. Either way, the SRT-4 is definitely one of the most unique tuner cars for the new millennium.

via: Chrysler

3: PT Cruiser GT

Even the PT Cruiser had an exciting model during the early 2000s, and it had a turbocharged engine. While the PT Cruiser might not be the first car that you pull up to a stoplight race in, the car was fun to drive. The styling was a bit different from your run-of-the-mill PT Cruiser and there were a lot of interesting features. Another standout feature about it was the rare convertible version.

2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser - 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser
via: Chrysler

Before you start to cry don’t fret, this was actually a great-looking car. Because the car sold poorly there are very few of them around, and if you find one you are in for a treat. The PT Cruiser GT was one of the most fun-to-drive cars from this decade and you’d never expect it to be.

2008 MazdaSpeed3 - 2007 MazdaSpeed3
via: Mazda

2: Mazda Speed 3

The Mazda Speed 3 is credited as being one of the cars that saved Mazda. The brand was on the verge of obscurity and the Mazda 3 just clicked with young buyers. The Speed 3 is noted by its bright red paint job and special edition upgrades. When you drive a Mazda, you expect excitement and this was provided it. The list of standard features was more than you got with a Civic or Corolla, and the manual transmission made this car fun to drive.

2008 MazdaSpeed3 - 2008 Mazda3
via: Mazda

Nevertheless, the Mazda Speed 3 is not your average sports car. This was a sedan and a five-door hatchback, and it wasn’t a true sports car. But if you wanted to have a fun driving experience that was still practical the Mazda Speed 3 is it.

2008 Chrysler Crossfire - 2004 Chrysler Crossfire
via: Chrysler

1: Chrysler Crossfire

The Crossfire never gets the credit that it deserves. To the day it is one of the rarest Chrysler sports cars around. The design was based on the SLK, which is also shared parts with. This was a good thing because you can get a Mercedes driving experience for thousands less, and this is what Chrysler was banking on. There was also a limited-edition SRT version of the Crossfire which is quite rare.

2007 Chrysler Crossfire - Chrysler
via: Chrysler

In addition to that, there is a limited production convertible version of the car as well. Most in the automotive community couldn’t get over the oval styling of the car. But if you can get over that, the Crossfire is one of the most surprisingly fun to drive sports cars on the road. You also can’t go wrong with the added luxury features.

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