February 24, 2024
Toyota Mark II Drifting

Last Updated on November 7, 2022 by E. Lindgren

Most JDM cars are getting quite expensive, but these JDM tuner cars can still be had for a fair price.

The Japanese are notoriously known within the JDM community to have some of the world’s greatest tuning cars and engines.

And it comes as no surprise really. While we Westerners were given the blessings of high-displacement engines, The Japanese weren’t so lucky. Due to Japanese legislation, it became very ineffective and unprofitable to produce high displacement engines as the higher displacement engine meant higher a higher taxation bracket.

To work around this and to still achieve high performance the Japanese heavily utilized turbocharging. And with it a demand for tuner companies. Some of the world’s most recognized and revered tuning companies such as HKS, Blitz, and Mine were all founded in Japan.

Perhaps it is partly thanks to these tuning companies that the Toyota Supra or Skyline GT-R has become so worldly renowned.

Unfortunately, most highly esteemed tuner cars tend to be quite expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve compiled this list of affordable JDM tuner cars which despite being incredibly performance oriented can be had for a reasonable price.

7. Nissan 350Z

Darwin Pro BRY Nissan 350Z Widebody Kit

The Nissan 350Z is not only a great JDM beginner car, but it is also a tuners car. The 350Z already produces a respectable 300 hp which will take you quite far in terms of performance. Most of the time, like in the case of the 350Z it is more worth spending money on handling modifications such as suspension, weight reduction, and tires.

The aftermarket parts for the 350Z are also plentiful. There are many components available, and whether you want to alter your 350Z for the street, drifting, racing, or the drag strip, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

6. Nissan 240SX

Nissan 240SX

Now, the 240SX might not have been available with the glorious SR20DET as it came in the Japanese version, the 180SX. Nevertheless, the 240SX is certainly a great tuning candidate. The 240SX comes with a great chassis and lightweight components which makes it an optimal canvas for performance modifications.

While the performance of the KA24E engine is nothing to brag about you always have the opportunity to purchase an aftermarket turbo-kit. These have become quite affordable, and the 240SX is easy to work on. If you’re feeling really frisky an engine swap could be in order such as an SR20DET or LS-swap.

5. Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Probably one of the greatest all-rounder performance sedans in the world. The Subaru Impreza combines performance with usability. It performs equally well on a hot summer day as it does in the winter.

Not only is there a wide range of different aftermarket parts, the Impreza, especially the WRX or STi are both very tuner friendly in terms of engine and suspension modifications.

The Subaru Impreza is great in that it can be used for almost anything. It could be used for circuit racing, rallying, normal daily driving, or even on some occasions – drifting.

4. Honda Civic Type R (EP3)

Supercharged K20 EP3 Civic

The Civic Type R EP3 is equipped with perhaps one of the most recognized tuner engines of all time, the K20. Despite being introduced over 20 years ago, it is still in production to this day.

The EP3 Type R weighs in just under 1,200 kg (2,635 lbs) and produces about 200 hp and can rev all the way up to 8,300 RPM. Some would say this car is superb already in stock form, but many enthusiasts have taken a few steps further.

The EP3 Type R is available with an abundance of various suspension and engine modifications. They are notoriously known for being a great turbo candidate. And despite being FWD the EP3 with a pair of grippy tires can certainly hang with most sports cars.

3. Toyota GR86 / Subaru BRZ

Toyota GR86

The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are often overlooked by the more powerful Toyota Supra and Subaru WRX STi. People seem to forget just how good this car actually is. The 86 has its roots tied to the legendary AE86, and you can see the recipe mostly remains as the Toyota 86 is about 200 lbs lighter than a Supra. In terms of handling and cornering the 86 is clearly superior to the Toyota Supra.

For a modern-day sports car with various comfort features the 86 is surprisingly affordable with a base price of about $28,000. For that, you get a rear-wheel-drive sports car with about 230 hp and a 6-speed manual transmission. 

The GR86 / BRZ is no stranger to aftermarket modifications and a new set of tires and coilover/suspension will completely transform the way the GR86/BRZ performs.

2. Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2 with TE37s

The MR2 is quite an understated car, it is quite often mistaken for a death trap due to its tendency for ‘snap-oversteer’. But once you get to know the MR2’s boundaries it becomes an incredible platform to build your JDM tuner dream car upon.

Generally, it doesn’t matter what generation MR2 you go for, but we’d consider the turbo version which is powered by the legendary 2.0L I4 (3S-GTE) which was the engine found in the rally version.

The MR2 is available with regular performance parts, but also a great variety of racing parts as the MR2 happen to be a very popular car to bring to the track.

It’s quite hard to deny the attractiveness of the MR2, its very affordable, has splendid performance, sounds great, and is mid-engine – what else could you want?

1. Mazda Miata (MX-5)

Mazda Miata

The Mazda MX-5 is beloved by many generations. Often referred to as the greatest sports cars of all time. The thing with the MX-5 is that it proved you could have fun without spending your life savings. At a very reasonable price, the MX-5 combined lightweight and amazing handling with a naturally aspirated RWD roadster.

Despite having increased in price, it is still hard to find a car that brings an equal amount of driver pleasure as the Miata does, and that is even before any modifications.

The Miata can be transformed for almost any purpose. You can use it for hill climbing, drifting, circuit racing, drag racing, and weekend driving. There is an endless supply of aftermarket parts, and various setup guides which will help you modify your Miata in order to have in turn out exactly the way you want it to.

Every car enthusiast should make it their purpose to at least drive a Miata once in their lives, it changes your perspective of ‘fun’ we promise.

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