Japanese Sports Cars Ruled Early 2000s; Here Are Eight Of Our Favorites

Nowadays, Japanese sports cars are out numbered by their rivals from Germany and the United States. In the early 2000s, however, they reigned supreme.

By the 1990s, seemingly every automaker from Japan was churning out performance vehicles of all shapes and sizes, from all-wheel-drive sedans, to rear-wheel-drive coupes. And once the new millennium rolled around, they all had multiple generations to refine their creations, resulting in some iconic sports cars.

Here are eight of our favorite Japanese sports cars from the early 2000s:

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 NB

Photo via Mazda

You might mock the Miata for its lack of power, but there’s no denying every iteration of the MX-5 have been some of the best-handling small roadsters on the market. Even though the second-generation didn’t have the popup headlights of its predecessor, it still managed to look more similar to the iconic RX-7 thanks to its lines.

Toyota MR2 Spyder

2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder

Photo via Toyota

Before it earned a reputation for making boring family vehicles that can easily surpass 100,000 miles, Toyota was well-known for its sportier models. The MR2 is one of the most unique, as it was the only mid-engine car the company made. Thankfully, we’re beginning to hear rumors Toyota is planning to resurrect the MR2.

Honda S2000

2004 Honda S2000

Photo via Honda

If you wanted a two-seater roadster with a bit more power than the MX-5, the S2000 was likely your go-to. And, despite the Miata’s resemblance to the RX-7, the S2000 arguably was even better looking.

Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 M-Spec

Photo via Nissan

Although it was never sold in the U.S., we’d be remiss if we excluded the GT-R R34 from this list. The Skyline was, and still is hugely popular among American JDM fans, partly due to its inclusion in “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Gran Turismo” and “Forza.” Even though the R34 is nearing its 20th birthday, it still looks good, even by today’s standards.

Acura Integra Type R

2000 Acura Integra Type R

Photo via Honda

The new Nurburgring record-holding Civic might be the first Type R sold in the U.S. with a Honda badge, but Type R debuted stateside with the Integra. In its day, the Integra Type R was considered one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars you could buy. That’s why some of these have been selling for more than $40,000 at auction lately.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII

2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Photo via Mitsubishii

The Evolution didn’t change much from the eighth to the ninth-generation, which was fine by us, because Mitsubishi nailed the styling with the Evo VIII. And, much like the Evolutions before it, it was a true rally-bred sports sedan. It’s a shame Mitsubishi decided to pull the plug on the Evo after 2015.

Subaru WRX STI

2004 Subaru WRX STI

Photo via Subaru

Hard-core Subaru fans might prefer the first-generation STI because it was the start of an iconic performance model, but we prefer the second-generation — more specifically, the face-lifted version of the second generation. This was the first iteration of the STI that ditched the round bug eyes of Imprezas from yesteryear, giving it a more attractive, and more purposeful-looking front-end. Although the current STI is markedly faster, we love the one from the early 2000s because more people bought it in the proper Subaru World Rally Championship color scheme: blue with gold wheels.

Mazda RX-8

2009 Mazda RX-8

Photo via Mazda

It might not have the same level of notoriety as the RX-7 before it, but the RX-8 is just as cool. It featured a sporty exterior, unique suicide door design and, most importantly, a wankel engine. We only wish Mazda would come out with another rear-wheel-drive coupe to follow up this beauty.

Thumbnail photo via Subaru

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