Best rear-wheel-drive cars

Fancy sporty handling and precise steering? Check out eight of the best rear-wheel-drive cars, from superminis to sports cars

Sam Naylor
Sep 30, 2021

The vast majority of the cars on UK roads are front-wheel-drive, meaning that the engine only turns the front two wheels to move the car forwards. There are some models that buck this trend, though, and there are some benefits - so we’ve picked out eight of the best rear-wheel-drive cars you can get.

There are a few reasons to choose a rear-wheel-drive car, and the models we’ve picked out below are some great examples. A rear-wheel-drive car is any model where the power from the engine or electric motor is used to turn the rear wheels only.

The reason most cars are front-wheel-drive is because it means there’s typically more room in the cabin, since there's no need to link the engine and the rear wheels, with the motor and front wheels linked under the bonnet. It’s also cheaper for car makers to produce cars like this.

Yet with modern electric cars, rear-wheel-drive is becoming more common in ordinary cars. This is because the motors are small and can fit on the rear wheels without sacrificing interior space.

This helps with one of the big benefits of rear-wheel-drive, which is that it can help to make a car more balanced in terms of where the weight is placed in the car. If all the weight is at the front, it can affect a car's roadholding and make it more likely for the front to run wide when cornering. Additionally, in small cars, rear-wheel-drive is useful because it means the front wheels can turn more into the body of the car - as no mechanical link is needed between the engine and front wheels - so the car’s turning circle can be tighter.

Sports cars are traditionally rear-wheel-drive partly because of this balance benefit, and partly because the engines they use simply wouldn’t suit a front-wheel-drive format. A powerful engine driving the front wheels can make a car feel unruly and unpleasant when driven hard - and the car is more likely to spin the wheels when accelerating - but the same engine driving the rear wheels can be a delight. This is because the wheels don’t have to take on two tasks at once - steering and driving.

Meanwhile, with rear-wheel-drive, traction when accelerating is stronger as when a car accelerates, more weight transfers onto the rear wheels, pushing them into the road harder. In our list of the best rear-wheel-drive cars below, we’ve picked out some examples from many areas of the market, so there’s bound to be a model that suits you here.

Best cars with rear-wheel drive

1. Honda e

Best for city life

Used deals from £26,995
Monthly finance from £405*

The Honda e is a stylish city car that’s great to drive, easy to live with and packed with high-tech kit. It has a fantastic, upmarket interior that makes it feel very modern inside, and it’s comfortable too.

It’s an electric car, and in this case that means it has a small motor driving the rear wheels. As a result, the e has a tight turning circle and is easy to drive in the city - and best of all, it’s ultra-quiet and smooth thanks to the electric motor.

It has a range of around 140 miles per charge, which should be more than enough for those living in the city or who do short trips around town. It’s small and easy to park, too. The e is not the most affordable model here because it’s still so new, but it’s a great option if you’re looking to try an electric car next.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HONDA E

2. Renault Twingo

Best for parking

Used deals from £5,971
Monthly finance from £140*

If you like the sound of the Honda e above but can’t stretch your budget that far, you could consider the most recent Renault Twingo. It’s not an electric car but it is rear-wheel-drive, with a small petrol engine under the boot floor that drives the rear wheels.

This means the boot is a bit high up and not very spacious compared with some other city cars but the Twingo works really well as a small city car. The turning circle is very tight and makes the Renault easy to park and nip around through traffic.

It’s also very affordable as a used car and well equipped. It’s not the most exciting car to drive, and the engine is a little noisy, but the Twingo is stylish, comfortable and easy to live with. There’s also a GT model that’s a bit sportier, but we prefer the normal version, as it works better as a city car.

RENAULT TWINGO BUYERS' GUIDE

3. BMW 3 Series

Best all-rounder

Used deals from £12,350
Monthly finance from £233*

If you aren’t sure what you need then the BMW 3 Series is the ultimate all-round choice of rear-wheel-drive car. It’s good at just about everything, and there are saloon and more practical estate versions (known as Touring) depending on how much boot space you need.

The 3 Series benefits from rear-wheel-drive by being brilliant to drive - the handling around corners is excellent, yet thanks to clever engineering, it’s also comfortable and quiet when you’re just driving to work. This is helped by a set of quiet, smooth and efficient engines no matter whether you choose petrol or diesel power.

There’s even a plug-in hybrid version called the 330e if you want to step into a petrol-electric model. No matter which model you pick, the 3 Series is well equipped, practical, high quality and pretty affordable as a used car. The powerful high-performance BMW M3 is a favourite with driving enthusiasts too, though even the basic 3 Series models are sporty in feel and fun to drive.

2019-PRESENT BMW 3 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

2012-2019 BMW 3 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Ford Mustang

Best for performance per pound

Used deals from £27,546
Monthly finance from £339*

The Ford Mustang is a well-known name in the world of rear-wheel-drive cars - it’s an iconic name from the 1960s heyday of American muscle cars. The modern version is much more than that, as it’s a great sports car in its own right, and features a brilliant supersized 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine. There’s also a four-cylinder model, which offers less power but is more economical, though this is rarer.

The V8 engine is definitely the one to go for though, thanks to its hefty power output of 410hp (444hp in later versions) and the dramatic engine note it produces when worked hard. There are very few cars on sale that offer this kind of power, yet the Mustang costs around the same as some family hatchbacks, which means we rate it highly for performance per pound.

The Mustang’s rear-wheel-drive layout means that it’s fun to drive and the powerful engine really suits it. Impressively, the Mustang is also comfortable and easy to drive day-to-day, although you’d have to be brave to put up with the fuel bills from that large engine up front if you cover high annual mileages.

FORD MUSTANG BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen ID.3

Best for electric power

Used deals from £31,980
Monthly finance from £447*

Here’s another electric car with rear-wheel-drive - but the ID.3 is bigger than the Honda e and more practical as a family car. There’s loads of space in the cabin for passengers and a big boot - it’s about the size of a VW Golf on the outside, but bigger inside.

The ID.3 has an electric motor driving the rear wheels and a range of 216-340 miles depending on which version you choose. There are three battery sizes, with increasing sizes and range figures - though the 77kWh battery option is the most common on BuyaCar and offers the maximum range figure.

The ID.3 is comfortable, super quiet and smooth to drive, so it makes a great family car. It’s packed with the latest tech, with a central touchscreen media system and then a second display instead of dials behind the steering wheel. It’s a little pricey when new but another great option for potential electric car drivers.

READ MORE ABOUT THE VOLKSWAGEN ID.3

6. Lexus IS 300h

Best for running costs

Used deals from £16,300
Monthly finance from £299*

If you’re not quite ready for an electric car just yet, you could consider a hybrid rear-wheel-drive car like the Lexus IS. In 300h form, it uses a petrol engine combined with a small electric motor, and it’s really efficient and easy to drive. It drives using the electric motor at low speeds but uses the petrol engine once you’re up to speed.

The IS is smooth and really easy to drive, especially in stop-start traffic where you can make the most of the quiet running on electric power. The interior is also built to a high standard and you can feel confident in buying a used Lexus because the brand is known for producing really reliable cars.

The Lexus IS is a similar size and shape to a BMW 3 Series and both are rear-wheel-drive but the BMW is much more enjoyable and fun to drive on a twisty road. The IS is still good to drive but it’s not as sharp as the 3 Series, nor is it as comfortable. Its efficient engine and motor are appealing, though, if you normally cruise around, rather than enjoying faster driving.

LEXUS IS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Mazda MX-5

Best for affordable fun

Used deals from £12,500
Monthly finance from £232*

The Mazda MX-5 is the world’s best-selling two-seater convertible and it’s easy to see why if you’ve driven one. It’s about as much fun as it’s possible to have on four wheels, yet it’s eminently affordable - especially as a used car.

It’s rear-wheel-drive and this enhances the handling and joy of driving. Part of that is the placement of the sublime gearbox, which is brilliant fun to use as it's so slick and sits perfectly in the cabin. The MX-5 is a little cramped inside and the boot is small but if you want a fun car on a budget, the Mazda is a perfect choice.

It’s available in soft-top and hard-top forms, the latter being called the RF. It’s still a convertible, as the hard-top folds away above the boot, but we’d go for the cheaper standard model as the soft-top roof is durable and easy to use.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Mercedes E-Class

Best for luxury

Used deals from £13,999
Monthly finance from £294*

The Mercedes E-Class is the largest car on this list and it’s much more focused on luxury than on being fun to drive or easy to park. The rear-wheel-drive aspect of the E-Class isn’t core to its experience but the car wouldn't be as smooth and sophisticated without it.

The E-Class has a fantastic cabin that mixes traditional high-quality materials like wood with modern surfaces and loads of technology. It’s really comfortable to sit in, no matter whether you’re in the supportive front seats or the roomy rear seats.

It’s practical too, with a huge boot and lots of in-cabin storage. There’s also an estate model that’s one of the roomiest cars of its type, and there are plug-in hybrid versions if you want to dip your toe in the electric car waters - both diesel and petrol versions, too.

This is unique, as no other model offers plug-in hybrid power in both petrol and diesel forms, so you can choose the version that suits your life the most (diesel is good for long trips, and petrol best for staying local).

2016-PRESENT MERCEDES E-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

2009-2016 MERCEDES E-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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