2019 honda civic type r
for years, we pined after the forbidden fruit of the honda line — the epic civic type r, the hottest of the hot hatches, available to our european cousins but not for sale here in the new world. when honda finally brought the new type r to the u.s., our world was made right. the 306-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder used engine is a screamer, right up to its lofty redline. you get there only by rowing your own gears through a super-slick, lightweight, amazingly satisfying six-speed manual transmission. it's a front-wheel-drive car but features some of the most amazing balance and chassis tuning we've ever experienced. purists may say you need rear-wheel drive for a proper sports car, but then purists will also lament the civic type r's four doors and trunk, so we say purity is overrated.
there's nothing pure about the styling, that's for sure — it's boy-racer chic here, with fender flares, silly fake black plastic vents in the front bumper, plus a huge wing bolted to the trunk lid. the type r's amazing performance characteristics combine with an interior that's exciting and bold, if not exactly tasteful. grippy, heavily bolstered sport seats keep you in place, racy red trim is everywhere, and there's room to bring along a couple of friends on your blast through your favorite canyon route. don't have a favorite canyon route? go get a civic type r and find one. it's made for such shenanigans, and will deliver more smiles per mile than anything short of a ducati 1199 panigale.
2019 jeep wrangler
there are different kinds of "fun-to-drive" vehicles, and fun is a very subjective term. you wouldn't take a jeep wrangler on a racetrack, but you might enjoy driving it through a muddy, rain-soaked infield. the iconic jeep suv provides a type of off-road fun that's almost unmatched on anything but an all-terrain vehicle. every wrangler has standard four-wheel drive, but there are at least three types to choose from depending on trim level. bigger wheels and tires are available, higher ride heights come standard on rubicon models, and special easter eggs surprise and delight throughout the wrangler's design. massive improvements have been made to the latest "jl" model, from easy-to-use soft-tops that eliminate zippers to a fully modern multimedia system, all while retaining the wrangler's unrivaled go-anywhere abilities. despite the fact that the wrangler has two solid axles, it now has the ride and handling of a much more modern vehicle, and it's able to handle around-town, on-road duty with much more civility. it's powered by a standard 3.6-liter v-6 used engine or optional 2.0-liter mild-hybrid four-cylinder mated to either a six-speed manual (v-6 only) or eight-speed automatic (v-6 or four-cylinder).
as before, you can get one in a two- or four-door configuration, with various trim levels that can either point you toward the mountains for some serious rock crawling or to the suburbs for some hardcore mall crawling. it makes every trip to the grocery store feel like a safari, while actual safaris can be accomplished with ease in unprecedented comfort and convenience.
2019 mazda mx-5 miata
ok, maybe the purists really are on to something after all, because the third of our most fun-to-drive cars of 2019 is one of the most traditional types of sports cars you can buy. the mazda mx-5 miata is a modern interpretation of the classic 1960s british minimalist roadster but with the reliability, safety features, comfort and convenience of a modern vehicle. the miata was updated for 2019 with something it either desperately needs or that doesn't really matter, depending upon who you ask: more power. mazda used engine ers breathed heavily on the 2.0-liter skyactiv used engine , boosting figures to 181 hp and 151 pounds-feet of torque. that's given the little roadster some newfound punch but allowed it to retain its brilliant handling characteristics by keeping the weight down (to less than 2,400 pounds) and maintaining its amazing balance.
open-air motoring is never more than a quick flip of the top away, something easily accomplished while still sitting in the driver's seat — or if you want a little more security and convenience, the retractable hardtop (really more of a powered porsche 911 targa-style top) is available, as well. add a steering wheel that now telescopes for the first time as well as tilts, and mazda's solved two major issues with the miata in one fell swoop, resulting in a car that's just as true to its fun-to-drive purpose as it's ever been while getting just a little bit better.