With everyone talking about making hard choices and sacrifices, it's enough to make even the most hard-core recessionista cry into their brown-bag lunch. While conspicuous consumption may be out, it's natural to still want to have some fun, especially when it comes to a new car.
It turns out you can have your cake and eat it too -- and you don't even need to work for AIG. While there are plenty of great-performing cars out there, and a lot of discounts, we put the two together to help you find a fun ride that's a little more affordable than usual. We've taken cars that lead the pack when it comes to performance in U.S. News' Car Rankings, and scoured manufacturers deals and incentives. The result is a list that combines great rides with great deals.
2008 Nissan 350Z Coupe
Base MSRP: $28,510
Yes, Nissan has redesigned its Z coupe, morphing it from the 350Z to the 370Z. But, while the 370Z is amazing, the 350Z isn't anything to sneeze at -- and there are plenty of them left on dealer lots. To clear out the inventory, Nissan is offering $2,500 cash back or 1.6% APR for up to 60 months for qualified buyers. In the U.S. News Rankings, the 350z earned a 9.0 performance score out of a possible 10. While the 370Z earned a 9.1 performance score, we think that saving some cash may help you overlook the slight difference.
2009 Pontiac G8
Base MSRP: $28,250
The Pontiac G8 may be the ultimate recession car. It's roomy and practical enough to be a comfortable family hauler but packs performance that comes close to rivaling the BMW 5-Series, all with a starting price under $30,000. That's some inconspicuous consumption. Right now, Pontiac is offering the G8 GXP with zero percent financing, making the G8 an even better deal than it usually is.
Base MSRP: $14,690
The Mazda3 is recognized as one of the best-performing small cars available, and is proof that an affordable car doesn't have to be a boring one. It's one of the top three performers in the affordable small car class, and misses being the number one performer by a mere tenth of a point in the U.S. News Rankings. Right now, Mazda is offering incredible lease and buy deals on the 2009 Mazda3, including zero percent APR for up to 36 months, $1,000 customer cash and no payments for 90 days.
2009 Subaru Legacy
Base MSRP: $20,795
When it comes to looks, the Subaru Legacy might not be your first choice among affordable midsize cars, but when it comes to performance, this back-road burner turned family hauler has few equals. Right now, Subaru is offering 2.9 percent financing on all Legacy models, or if you prefer to lease, a Legacy can be had for only $225 a month. Both offers expire March 31, so if you're looking for a family sedan that's actually exciting, you'd better hurry.
2008 and 2009 Infiniti G
Base MSRP: $32,350
It took years of trying, but someone finally did it -- when it comes to upscale midsize cars, the BMW 3-Series is no longer the undisputed performance king. In the U.S. News rankings, the Infiniti G37 not only leads the class overall, it also earns the highest performance score. The G, available as either sedan or coupe, is also priced lower than the 3-Series. That makes the incentives Infiniti is currently offering all the sweeter. On the both the 2009 G coupe or sedan, qualified buyers can get 1.9 percent financing from Infiniti. If you opt for the 2008 model, the financing rate drops to .9 percent.
2008 Chevrolet Corvette
Base MSRP: $46,100
The Chevrolet Corvette has long been a class leader in the U.S. News luxury sports car rankings. Though most critics agree that the Lotus Elise and Porsche Cayman narrowly outperform the Corvette, odds are you won't be getting any deals on those two. But until March 31, Chevrolet is offering 0 percent APR for up to 60 months on 2008 Corvettes -- something GM says could save buyers upwards of $9,000 over the life of the loan.