Cheapest fun cars

If you’re bored with run-of-the-mill motoring but don't have bucketloads of cash to splash, check out these affordable funsters

Chris Rosamond
Sep 29, 2021

Driving is meant to be fun isn’t it? If you’re one of the many motorists who’d agree with that claim, you’ll appreciate the need to find an entertaining set of wheels - however big or small your budget. Not for you the mind-numbing mediocrity of an average family hatchback or saloon, because you want the journey to be special.

Never mind the cynics pointing to jams, pollution and roadworks, parking problems and the cost of fuel. After all, to travel is better than to arrive as somebody once said, and even if you spend too much time bogged down in traffic, you want to relish those moments when the road opens up ahead and freedom beckons.

This is all very well if you have pots of cash to blow on a fast or luxurious car, but what about those fun-seekers looking to indulge their motoring dreams on a tighter budget? Well BuyaCar is here to help, and we’ve rounded up a bunch of cars for fun-loving drivers who want to maximise the enjoyment and not just the practicality.

We’ve set a limit of £20,000 to keep as many drivers in the loop as possible - with a number of models that are available for much less than this - and picked a range of cars from genuine sports machines to fun city runabouts that are all guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Cheap fun cars

1. Mini Cooper

Used deals from £7,965
Monthly finance from £161*

If you like Minis, the Cooper has long been right in the sweet spot, offering a good value mix of driving thrills and hatchback practicality. A new 1.5-litre three-cylinder Cooper version was introduced in 2015 with 136hp - making it pretty nippy for a car of this size but still economical - and for used car buyers it’s one of our favourite ways to have fun on a budget.

It's difficult not to enjoy the classic Mini style outside and in, with a low-slung cabin stuffed with sporty retro styling cues, and driving characteristics that make every journey a hoot if you want it to be.

Sharp, responsive steering and a well judged suspension setup mean that you can really feel the Cooper working with you as you punt it through corners, and although not super-quick, the car has an eager feel that encourages you to drive it quickly.

MINI HATCHBACK BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Suzuki Swift Sport

Used deals from £8,324
Monthly finance from £188*

The Suzuki Swift is not a particularly well-known car, and the Swift Sport even less so, but people in the know appreciate how this little Suzuki hatch offers lots of fun for drivers on smaller budgets.

Since 2018 the model has come with a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that offers 140hp, which is good for a reasonably speedy 8.1-second 0-62mph time. Meanwhile, 17-inch alloy wheels, twin exhausts and side skirts give the feisty little Suzuki the looks to back up its sporty feel, and it's best enjoyed on a twisty back road where the precise steering, slick gearchange and punchy acceleration make the car very enjoyable to drive.

Inside the cabin you get bucket seats, a grippy steering wheel and sporty red design accents, so you know you’re having fun even when stuck in traffic. Be aware that newer models come with mild hybrid tech that is good for boosting fuel economy but makes the car a little slower, with a lower 129hp output, so if you want the most fun, stick with faster, older versions.

SUZUKI SWIFT BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Volkswagen Up GTI

Used deals from £13,490
Monthly finance from £243*

The Up from VW is first and foremost a city car, which thanks to several decades of cars getting bigger and bigger, means it’s roughly equivalent in size to the original VW Golf that was launched in the 1970s. So if you think of the Up GTI as a modern interpretation of the classic compact, fast and great fun VW Golf GTI, you won’t be far wrong.

It only has a little 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine but this is turbocharged which gives it more than enough punch, and as ever, outright power and acceleration aren’t the most important elements for driving fun - especially when you’re shopping on a budget. For the money, the 115hp sporty version of the Up offers nippy performance with a rorty soundtrack that should put a smile on any driver’s face.

The Up GTI also looks the part, with aggressive looking alloy wheels and tartan seats just like its bigger Golf GTI siblings, and you also get essential kit like a five-inch media system and Bluetooth.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Mazda MX-5

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

The iconic Mazda MX-5 has been entertaining drivers for more than 30 years in its various incarnations. Over the generations it has added more tech and creature comforts and developed sharper styling, but the MX-5 has always stuck religiously to its original recipe by offering affordable open-top driving thrills to the masses.

The current fourth-generation MX-5 is now available with either a 1.5-litre or 2.0-litre petrol engine. The latter received a power upgrade from 160hp to 184hp in 2018 which makes the newer version far more appealing. The earlier 160hp models are quick and agile, but the engine isn't as smooth or strong as the 184hp version. That makes it a good choice if you want your MX-5 to be quick, as it whizzes from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds and also makes the MX-5 a more relaxed motorway cruiser, although it's more at home on twisty country roads.

Meanwhile, the smaller 1.5-litre makes 132hp, and while its 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds is hardly earth-shattering, this engine is smooth and eager, producing an extra dose of power if you work it hard in higher revs, making it very satisfying to drive. it’s the sweet agility that the suspension and steering provide, and the slick nature of the gearbox that helps make driving even a low-power MX-5 such a joy.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Toyota GT86

Used deals from £19,291
Monthly finance from £353*

Having spent so long perfecting their hybrid technology and rolling it out across the world, Toyota execs in the noughties began to fret about the lack of an affordable fun car in their line-up.

The result was the GT86, co-developed with Subaru, and serving as a throwback to several lightweight historic sports cars that have attained cult status in Japan. The model arrived with a 2.0-litre engine that thrives on being worked hard and powers the rear wheels - as is the case with most classic sports cars. As a result, it's fantastic fun to drive and has won all sorts of awards.

The GT86 has always been a relatively basic proposition, and early cars lack some of the cabin tech you’d find in more upmarket coupes like the Audi TT - but the Toyota is much more affordable as a result. It's extremely engaging to drive, though, with loads of feel and feedback from steering, brakes and suspension which should delight most driving enthusiasts.

TOYOTA GT86 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Smart ForTwo Cabrio

Used deals from £8,300
Monthly finance from £151*

It’s the UK’s smallest open-topped car, and whilst it’s no sports car, the Smart ForTwo Cabrio has a cartoony character coupled with a level of manoeuvrability that’s sure to make you grin while dodging city traffic.

Sun-baked city streets are the ForTwo Cabrio’s natural home, but the little two-seat city car convertible works in the UK too, thanks to a snug fabric soft-top that opens and closes in 12 seconds when driving at any speed. You can also take the bars off above the doors and stash them in the surprisingly spacious boot if you’re confident the weather’s going to hold.

Either way, there’s a lot to be said for experiencing the sights and sounds of towering urban streets in a topless car, especially when the city tours are this cheap.

SMART FORTWO BUYERS' GUIDE

7. BMW i3

Used deals from £17,990
Monthly finance from £274*

It may have been around a few years now, but the BMW i3 still has a futuristic look and feel that turns heads, and while its primary aim is to offer stylish zero-emission transport, it’s still great fun to own and drive.

When introduced in 2013 as part of BMW’s ‘i’ electric division, the radical carbon-fibre electric hatchback scooped multiple awards. Judges were knocked out by an eco car that wasn’t just worthy and boring, but proved that going electric could be cool. Earlier electric vehicles had all too often been leaden and dull to drive, but with the i3 BMW made sure its trademark fun factor was part of the package. So, the i3 is a fun car for both drivers and passengers too, especially kids who will love the rear-hinged doors as they climb into the roomy back seats.

Range per charge for the early cars with 60Ah batteries was quoted at 80 to 100 miles, but bigger 94Ah batteries arrived in 2017 and offer a much greater claimed range per charge, so if you plan to do many long journeys, it's well worth going for one of these. Many i3s also come with a ‘range-extender’ option - a small petrol scooter engine which fires up to keep the electric motor going if the batteries run out of charge, increasing how far you can travel per charge.

BMW I3 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet

Used deals from £14,500
Monthly finance from £267*

It may not be as agile through the bends as a Mini Convertible, but the VW Beetle Cabriolet offers fun by the bucketload for top-down drivers who appreciate the chance to admire the scenery rather than hurtle past it. The electric soft-top hood retracts in a rapid nine seconds, bit it's well-insulated and as quiet as a metal-roofed Beetle when raised, there aren’t any major compromises when the weather turns against you, either.

Alongside lashings of retro character and charm, the Beetle is also more practical than the Mini as its hood doesn’t eat up boot space when folded away. That means more room for buckets and spades and a picnic when you take the kids to the seaside, and not having to pack so tightly for touring holidays to the British countryside or beyond.

The Beetle Cabrio comes with many of the petrol and diesel engine options you’ll find in a Golf, so it’s economical and cheap to run. That said, the 220hp 2.0 TSI version will keep up with a Golf GTi high-performance hatchback at the traffic light grand prix, so there’s no shortage of power if that’s your thing.

VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE 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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