The 10 contenders of MOTOR’s Sports Car of the Year 2022

Remember Bang For Your Bucks, MOTOR’s beloved award for the best affordable driver’s car on sale? Well we’ve heard your cries and, while it’s been forced on hiatus for the past few years in the wake of the global pandemic, it’s back – but not as you know it.

When we got the green light for 2022’s running of Performance Car of the Year, we were told to make it bigger and better than ever. As a result, we jumped at the chance to dust off the BFYB formula, gave it a nut-and-bolt rebuild in the process, and incorporated it into our mammoth Performance Car of the Year testing week.

That means there are now two ENGINE awards, with the new Sports Car of the Year title aimed at accessible champions priced up to $ 100k, while Performance Car of the Year continues to fuel dreams with more expensive (and more powerful) showstoppers.

Keep your eyes peeled for the winners’ announcement taking place on Tuesday, March 29.

Until then, meet your competitors for the inaugural sub- $ 100k Sports Car of the Year competition, and leave your pre-event favorites in the comments below!

BMW 128ti

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BMW takes its first swing at the front-drive performance hatch segment with its gutsy 128ti. Powered by a GTI-matching 180kW turbo-four, the premium hatch has one car in particular in its sights. There’s little precedence inside the halls of Munich, but BMW has plenty of experience in creating great sports cars. A big curiousity surrounds this little hatch, let’s see how it fares.

Specs: 1998cc inline-4; 180kW; 380Nm; 8-speed automatic; $ 56,900

Ford Focus ST

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Often overshadowed by the previous-generation RS halo, the recently-updated Focus ST is a hugely underrated package. With a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four, lifted and de-tuned from the Mustang, the muscular hatch swings in with 206kW and 420Nm. Does it have the composure to match its playful character? It will have to order to make a mark against such tight competition.

Specs: 2261cc inline-4; 206kW; 420Nm; 6-speed manual; $ 44,890

VW Golf GTI

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The reigning king of the hot hatch segment debuts a new generation and relies heavier on increased tech rather than increased power outputs to elevate its dynamics. Our prior first drive experience left us impressed, but can the grown-up new Golf GTI hold its own against nine worthy peers?

Specs: 1984cc inline-4; 180kW; 370Nm; 7-speed dual-clutch; $ 53,300

Hyundai i20 N

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The most affordable offering in our whole competition, and the hot hatch of the moment. The i20 N instills N Division’s dynamic prowess into Hyundai’s smallest local package. With clever tech and bespoke engineering, expect the tiny-tot to punch well above its weight on the road, but will it be out-muscled on track?

Specs: 1591cc inline-4; 150kW; 275Nm; 6-speed manual; $ 32,490

Hyundai i30 Sedan N

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N Division’s newest offering, the i30 Sedan N, comes based atop a newer, lighter platform and makes a compelling case as a sub- $ 50k sports sedan by offering performance and practicality in impressive measures. The 206kW / 392Nm powertrain is familiar, proven and effective, but does it retain the i30 N Hatch’s infectious personality?

Specs: 1998cc ilnine-4; 206kW; 392Nm; 8-speed dual-clutch; $ 49,000

Mazda MX-5 GT RS

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A fitter, firmer version of Mazda’s back-to-basics roadster. The MX-5 GT RS‘modest 135kW aspirated power output may pale in comparison to younger competition, but its rear-drive, six-speed manual layout promises an evergreen driving experience. How far can its winning personality carry it in the final scoring?

Specs: 1998cc inline-4; 135kW; 205Nm; 6-speed manual; $ 47,020

Ford Mustang Mach 1

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If power for pennies is the name of your game, the Mustang Mach 1 is the player to watch. It’s the only V8 in the SCOTY field and, with 345kW / 556Nm at the ready, is powerful enough to rub shoulders within the premium PCOTY field, yet its price sees it competing in the junior division. Power is one thing though, can it keep its cool throughout track testing? If it can, it’ll be the first Mustang in ENGINE history to survive the grueling circuit test.

Specs: 5038cc V8; 345kW; 556Nm; six-speed manual; $ 83,241

Skoda Octavia RS

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Skoda’s Octavia RS taps a tried and tested formula with many shared components with the Golf GTI, and delivers an identical output of 180kW / 370Nm through its front-driven wheels. The cheeky Czech dials up the liveability factor with a practical wagon body and under-the-radar panache. Does it have the tough streak we’re looking for, though?

Specs: 1984cc inline-4: 180kW; 370Nm; 7-speed dual-clutch; $ 48,290

Subaru BRZ

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The second generation of Subaru’s BRZ sports coupe is here to answer for the shortcomings of its breakout predecessor. The attractive price remains, but has it lost its character? More importantly, does the extra 22kW and 38Nm from that new 2.4-liter engine make a meaningful difference?

Specs: 2387cc; 174kW; 250Nm; 6-speed manual; $ 38,990

Toyota GR Yaris Rallye

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The basic GR Yaris rode a wave of hype into last year’s PCOTY proceedings, but was barrelled by crucial missing kit – namely Torsen differentials and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires – and washed ashore in eighth place. The full-whack GR Yaris Rallye is here for redemption, but can the rally-honed hatch, and the sole AWD offering of the SCOTY field, improve on the result of its more affordable counterpart?

Specs: 1618cc inline-3; 200kW; 370Nm; 6-speed manual; $ 54,500

Who missed out?

It’s a big strong sub- $ 100k field but there are a few players that couldn’t make a game day. BMW missed the cut with a couple of contenders. We suspect the new M240i would have done well and the M2 CS’s price would have seen it teetering on the cusp of the two categories. Audi’s new S3 also just missed out timewise, as did the Cupra Leon so look for ’em in next year’s running.

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