Affordable Fast Cars

Looking for driving fun on a budget? From two-seater sports cars to hot hatches there are many big performance options for a small price

Chris Rosamond
Aug 27, 2020

There aren’t many people who can easily lay hands on a bundle of used notes for a £20,000 sports car. Even if you could, turning up at a dealer with a briefcase of cash in the 2020s would probably raise suspicions that you’re money-laundering for the mob.

Fortunately, the modern way to purchase a used car is via PCP finance - also known as Personal Contract Purchase - which means more people than ever get to drive the used car of their dreams with affordable monthly payments, rather than having to save up year after year.

The key to getting behind the wheel is ‘affordability’, or more specifically the monthly cost of financing those dream wheels. Saving up £20,000 may be a struggle, but a monthly payment of £200 or £300 is a different kettle of fish. Suddenly, there’s a world of exciting options on offer, for drivers looking for all sorts of cars, whether they’re after practicality, prestige or performance.

It’s especially exciting for car enthusiasts when a PCP deal opens doors to a range of cars that may otherwise be out of reach. That’s why we’ve put together this selection of affordable fast cars - including out-and-out sports cars and a bunch of hot hatches - speedy hatchbacks that all cost under £20,000 outright, and less than £300 if you’re on a monthly budget.

We’ve found a range fantastic sporty models from Abarth to Volkswagen, all offering thrilling performance and handling, as well as looking the part. We reckon our selection proves enthusiastic drivers looking for affordable fun are genuinely spoiled for choice. If you don’t like the cars we’ve highlighted, then simply adjust the search buttons and find your own dream wheels with your own maximum monthly payment.

Your next fast car could be more affordable than you think!

Affordable fast cars

1. Abarth 595

Used deals from £8,798
Monthly finance from £132

Pocket rockets don’t come much dinkier than the Fiat 500-based Abarth 595, but what the Scorpion-badged Italian hot hatch lacks in size it definitely makes up for in charisma.

That’s especially true if you pick the punchy 1.4 T-Jet Competizione model, which comes with uprated Brembo brakes visible behind its sporty alloy wheels, and a rortier exhaust to make sure that you get noticed. 0-62mph time is quoted at 6.7 seconds, while a top speed nudging 140mph is hardly typical city car pace. This may be a tiny car, but it's a quick one, too.

A firm ride and notchy gearchange mean the 595 lacks the sophistication of some more well-rounded hot hatches, but the Fiat 500’s compact size means the Abarth is ideal for tearing around town - responsibly, of course - while remaining affordable to buy and run.

There are three models available, starting with the standard 595 Abarth recognisable by its 16-inch alloys. It also comes with air-conditioning, a Bluetooth touchscreen media system and leather steering wheel. The 595 Turismo has suspension upgrades and 17-inch alloys, plus dual-zone climate control, electric mirrors and parking sensors, while the Competizione boasts xenon headlamps, and interior trim upgrades.

ABARTH 595 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Audi TT

Used deals from £11,199
Monthly finance from £204

Performance and handling that steps on the toes of the exotic Porsche Cayman, plus undeniably sophisticated styling inside and out, means there’s not much to touch this sporty Audi coupe for the money. It looks good and it's quick, too.

Affordability is relative and of course you can spend a tidy fortune on a top-of-the-range TT, but set the BuyaCar search parameters to ‘£20,000 max’ or for monthly payments below £300 and there’s a tantalising array of used Audi TTs within budget.

You’ll expect strong performance from such a sporty looking model, and all TTs will reach 150mph or more with similarly speedy 0-62mph times. There’s no diesel in the new TT line-up these days, but grab a used diesel version and you’ll get the benefit of over 60mpg if you drive it carefully. That means low fuel bills to go with your affordable fast car.

As well as petrol and diesel options, used TT buyers also get the choice of two-wheel drive or Audi’s iconic quattro all-wheel drive system - the latter offering significant reassurance for drivers of not only the fastest models. No matter how hard you accelerate you should have very little - if any - wheelspin with quattro, as the car spreads power across all four wheels.

Look out also for the TT’s Virtual Cockpit digital dials, which provides the driver with a customisable digital dashboard in one of the best driver-focused interiors around. It was a show-stopper when launched in 2014, and still looks fabulous today.

AUDI TT BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Ford Fiesta ST

Used deals from £8,289
Monthly finance from £158

Ford has a glorious history of affordable fast cars, and the firm’s offerings have often been at the forefront of the hot hatch pack. A case in point is the latest version of the Fiesta ST which was launched in 2018 and went straight to the top of the class.

The ST comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged motor that offers terrific acceleration and it provides deliciously sporty handling as well as impressive economy when you’re off the boil. There’s also a desirable Performance Pack option, which gives the ST a launch control system for firing away from a standstill quickly plus a clever 'limited slip differential' - which boosts the front tyres' grip when accelerating - with 'torque vectoring' for more precise high speed cornering.

A £20,000 budget is enough to scoop a nearly-new Fiesta in range-topping ST-3 guise with the Performance Pack, meaning you could be enjoying Ford’s finest for a little over £300 per month. Rein the budget in a bit, and a two-year old Fiesta ST-2 with low miles can be yours for not much more than £200 per month.

You may not get all the bells and whistles of the ST-3, but the standard ST-2 spec is pretty lavish in its own right - sports suspension, an eight-inch 'SYNC 3' touchscreen media system, cruise control and climate control are all on the menu.

FORD FIESTA ST BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Mazda MX-5

Used deals from £10,398
Monthly finance from £196

The upstart Mazda MX-5 has been fulfilling the role vacated by British sports car icons of the last century for so long now that older versions are classics in their own right. The latest versions continue to provide open air thrills, and while performance is hardly extreme, the MX-5 offers sporty driving fun for much less cash than more exotic sports car rivals.

You get the choice of 1.5 and 2.0-litre engines, with the latter knocking off 0-62mph in a rapid 6.5 seconds, and feeling even faster with the wind tugging at your hair. The MX-5 is affordable to buy and run too, with an excellent reliability record and both current engines returning over 40mpg in official figures. This means low fuel bills.

The MX-5 is less practical than a hot hatch with no hatchback and a small boot volume. And if you can cope with just two seats and limited luggage room, it’s surprisingly easy to live with. While it's not as quick as many - in 1.5-litre form, at least - it's fabulous fun to drive.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Mini Cooper S

Used deals from £8,990
Monthly finance from £147

The Mini hatchback is a fun drive in any guise, thanks to its punchy engines and agile chassis honed by BMW’s expert engineers - since Mini is owned by BMW. Pick the hot Mini Cooper S, though, and you’re entering a higher realm of enjoyment. As well as being very quick off the mark thanks to either a 192hp 2.0-litre petrol engine or 170hp 2.0-litre diesel, it’s fantastically rewarding on a twisty road.

It’s a package that’s hard to beat among other small hatchbacks for driver engagement, with direct and responsive steering, high levels of grip, and compact dimensions giving a great sense of ‘chuckability’ through the bends. That iconic Mini styling arguably looks at its best with the Cooper S’s chunky alloy wheels, roof spoiler and twin exhaust pipes, while a sporty cabin with figure-hugging seats and a grippy leather wheel reinforce its character inside.

Purist driving enthusiasts will probably favour the petrol engine over the diesel, which is no longer available new. All Minis are affordable to run, but pick up a 2017 diesel and careful driving could see you stretch a gallon out to 70-odd miles according to the official figures. For maximum fun and speed, however, go for the petrol.

MINI COOPER S BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Suzuki Swift Sport

Used deals from £6,499
Monthly finance from £127

This engaging sporty hatchback is relative rarity as Suzuki doesn't sell a huge number of cars, but that works in the favour of canny buyers on the lookout for a performance bargain.

the latest version features a punchy turbocharged 1.4-litre 'Boosterjet' engine which, thanks to the Swift’s relatively low-weight and compact size, offers plenty of acceleration. Nicely weighted steering and a competent chassis make it fun around corners too, and while it’s not the hottest hatch on the block it’s definitely got the performance chops to satisfy sporty drivers looking for affordable options.

Adding to the appeal is a high spec list meaning owners won’t feel short of toys. LED headlamps, sat-nav and adaptive cruise control are all on the Swift Sport spec sheet - not bad for such a small and affordable car.

As well as relatively low prices compared to more mainstream hot hatches, the Swift Sport is a winner at the pumps too. Official figures suggest over 45mpg fuel economy is a realistic possibility, if you take it easy.

SUZUKI SWIFT BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Used deals from £7,500
Monthly finance from £143

The latest Vauxhall Corsa is based on the engineering platform of the Peugeot 208, giving rise to speculation that a new Corsa VXR could arrive in a couple of years sharing go-faster tech with a new 208 GTI. The previous Corsa, however, had a hard-hitting performance version of its own, though.

This means that for the moment, fans of fast Vauxhall superminis must look to the used car market and the previous-generation Corsa VXR for thrills. No bad thing, as the 205hp Corsa VXR on sale from 2015-18 was one of the fastest and most fun hatchbacks money could buy. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine gave the VXR a 6.5-second 0-62mph time leaving the Fiesta ST well beaten, and the Corsa has handling to match its muscle - high grip and responsive steering make it a hoot on country roads.

2015 cars with a relatively low mileage are in easy reach of most pockets, and insurance aside should be cheap to maintain and run. Even the latest 2018 models should be available for under a couple of hundred pounds per month on PCP finance, which - pound for pound - is hard to beat.

VAUXHALL CORSA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Polo GTI

Used deals from £11,695
Monthly finance from £188

The Vauxhall Corsa VXR (above), and the Volkswagen Polo GTI are like chalk and cheese. The former is a rumbustious extrovert, while the Polo GTI plays to VW’s more conservative strengths - or as some would say, it feels a lot more grown up.

There’s no arguing with the appeal of VW’s approach, especially as the latest Polo GTI has a muscular 2.0-litre petrol engine that offers brilliant everyday driveability, without the need to rev to the redline like some highly-strung hot hatch rivals with smaller engines. In fact, it’s fair to say the latest Polo GTI feels more like its bigger brother, the Golf GTI, than ever, which has to make it great value for money. Oh, and it’s quicker than the Fiesta ST to 62mph by nearly half a second.

You can drive away in a virtually new Polo GTI with a couple of thousand miles on the clock for five or six hundred pounds less than our £20,000 price limit. That adds up to around £275 per month, which given the quality feel of the Polo to sit in and drive, looks great value to us.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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