Fast cars for less than £10,000

Looking for a fast car but not sure how much you can get for £10,000? Fear not; there are plenty of affordable high-performance options

James Wilson
Nov 12, 2020

Like the idea of having a speedy car, but can't afford to pay through the nose for one? £10,000 is more than enough to get you something quick and enjoyable to drive. ‘Fast fun’ doesn’t have to mean flying around a racetrack either, sometimes it is the way a car sounds, how easily it picks up speed - whether you're working the engine hard or not - or simply how fast it feels that is important.

Regardless of your motive for wanting a fast car, it pays to be careful when choosing one. Why? Well, quick cars are more likely to have been driven hard than less sporty ones, and as a result, it's more important that they've been well maintained to ensure they stay in good working order. Quite often, as cars get older the amount of time and/or money drivers spend on maintenance decreases, so make sure any fast car you consider has been serviced on time.

It is for this reason that to qualify for the fast car list below, all models have to be less than six years old. And of course, all the cars below have to be quick - or at least feel quick from behind the wheel. All the cars below accelerate from 0-62mph in less than nine seconds, with a number being much faster than that.

Fast cars come in all shapes and sizes, so there's more than one way to be classed as ‘fast’. Some cars are quick thanks to their lightweight construction and ability to take corners at speed, while others are fast thanks to having a powerful engine under the bonnet - or one that offers a very broad spread of power. Some have both. Read on to find out more about some of the best speed machines available for less than £10,000.

Fast cars under £10k

1. Abarth 595

Our pick Abarth 595 1.4-litre T-Jet
Used deals from £7,990
Monthly finance from £134

0-62mph 7.8 secondsTop speed 131mph
Power 145hpTorque 206Nm

 

Based on the incredibly popular Fiat 500, the Abarth 500 or 595 is a true pocket-rocket thanks to being roughly the same size as a Skittle and coming with a powerful turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine. Abarth is part of Fiat, but it isn’t just the engine which differentiates Abarth models from the standard Fiat 500.

These performance models get sporty styling, firmer suspension, bigger brakes and grippy tyres. Oh, and there is a rather naughty-sounding exhaust as well. Combine these with the Abarth's tiny size and not only is the 595 quick, while the firm and slightly busy ride make it feel even quicker from behind the wheel, so you don't have to worry about speeding fines to have a good time.

One of the biggest challenges with going for an Abarth 500 or 595 is finding the right model for you as there have been countless revisions and special editions. Entry-level 500 Abarth models came with around 135hp while some 595 versions come with as much as 180hp, though it's worth bearing in mind that the most powerful special editions do forgo usability in the name of performance. As an all-rounder, the 145hp 595 model is a great option to go for.

ABARTH 595 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Ford Fiesta ST

Our pick Ford Fiesta ST-2
Used deals from £8,390
Monthly finance from £160

0-62mph 6.9 secondsTop speed 139mph
Power 182hpTorque 240Nm

 

The Ford previous-generation Ford Fiesta ST encapsulates the idea of a 'hot hatch' brilliantly. Firstly, its engine comes alive when driven quickly, offering a huge amount of power for a car of this size and weight. Secondly, its handling around corners is so good that it will leave significantly more powerful cars in its dust on a twisty road and finally, it's affordable too.

Ford kept things simple when it came to trims for the Fiesta ST - the range kicks off with the basic ST-1, moving on to more desirable ST-2 and ST-3 versions. Basically, the higher the number the better the spec. ST-2 models are the sweet spot when comparing equipment and price - they come with heated front sports seats, a digital radio and air-conditioning.

You may also want to track down a model with official Mountune performance modifications, as these are even more exciting to drive. Mountune offers aftermarket upgrades for certain cars and Ford itself approved a few for the Fiesta ST (some of which pushed the Fiesta’s power figure to beyond 200hp, making it truly rapid).

FORD FIESTA ST BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Peugeot 208 GTI

Our pick Peugeot 208 1.6 THP GTI
Used deals from £7,299
Monthly finance from £122

0-62mph 6.8 secondsTop speed 143mph
Power 200hpTorque 275Nm

 

Peugeot made a number of seriously exciting speedy hatchbacks in the 20th century, but seemed to have lost its way going into the 21st century. Thankfully, the 208 GTI changed that. Here is a car that features a powerful 1.6-litre petrol engine under the bonnet and offers nimble handling around corners - with well set up suspension that makes it more than capable of dealing with the many imperfections found on UK roads. In fact, the GTI is so good that some drivers argue that it's better than the Fiesta ST above - high praise indeed.

Believe it or not, one of the things that makes the 208 feel fast is its tiny steering wheel. Being so small it translates to very responsive steering which can give an impression of added urgency. While GTI versions sit at the top of the 208 performance tree, there are a handful of slightly less powerful models which are almost as quick. Examples include GT Line and XY models with the 1.6-litre 'THP' petrol engine, both of which offer 165hp - more than enough to make it speedy enough for most drivers.

PEUGEOT 208 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Seat Ibiza FR

Our pick Seat Ibiza 1.4 EcoTSI 150 FR Technology
Used deals Limited stock

0-62mph 7.6 secondsTop speed 137mph
Power 150hpTorque 250Nm

 

The sporty Seat Ibiza models are hidden gems - partly thanks to their subtle rather than in-your-face styling. Look closely, though, and those familiar with the standard Ibiza will notice a lower ride height, twin exhaust tips poking out of the rear bumper and 16-inch alloy wheels. These make the already sharp looking Ibiza even sharper.

If you want your Ibiza to have the power to back up the sporty looks, it's worth tracking one down with the punchy 1.4-litre petrol engine producing 150hp, as this punts the car to 62mph in a speedy 7.6 seconds. Be aware that 1.2-litre models producing just 100hp are much more common and these are a lot slower.

All models are two-wheel drive and most come with a manual gearbox - although automatic gearboxes (referred to as 'DSG') can be found with a bit of hunting. As the standard Ibiza is fundamentally quite a practical car, the FR is no different. Visibility is good, finding a good driving position is easy and boot capacity is a relatively large 266 litres. Equipment levels are strong, too, as the FR sits quite high in the Ibiza specification hierarchy.

SEAT IBIZA FR BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Vauxhall Corsa 1.4T

Our pick Vauxhall Corsa 1.4T Black Edition
Used deals from £6,929
Monthly finance from £112

0-62mph 8.9 secondsTop speed 130mph
Power 150hpTorque 220Nm

 

Common though this generation of the Vauxhall Corsa may be, they are not all born equal. Models with the 150hp turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine are arguably the pick of the range thanks to their impressive roadholding, ample speed and lower running costs than the top-of-the-range VXR high-performance models. They also come with softer suspension than VXR models, which helps smooth out some of the many imperfections on UK roads.

This Corsa is no rocket, being notably slower than the Ibiza above, despite having the same amount of power, though it is still more than nippy enough for most drivers. It is practical, too - with spacious rear seats and a decently large 285-litre boot - and it is well equipped as standard, with 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a heated windscreen and hill start assist all included. For those who need good access to the rear seats, there are five-door models available alongside three-door versions, so look out for these.

VAUXHALL CORSA BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Suzuki Swift Sport

Our pick Suzuki Swift 1.6 Sport Nav
Used deals from £6,499
Monthly finance from £127

0-62mph 8.7 secondsTop speed 121mph
Power 136hpTorque 160Nm

 

This generation of Suzuki Swift Sport has something of a cult following thanks to being outstanding value and outstanding to drive. By that we don’t mean a clinical machine designed to lap race tracks. We mean that it is great at putting a smile on your face, even if other cars will get you from A to B faster. Ignore the unimpressive 0-62mph time; this car feels so much faster than you expect as it involves you in the driving process much more than many bigger, heavier and more powerful hatchbacks.

All models are front-wheel drive and come with a manual gearbox, although there is a choice of three- and five-door body styles. Part of what makes the Swift Sport so great is its 1.6-litre petrol engine that just loves to be worked hard, with the amount of power increasing as the engine spins faster. Then there is handling around corners which makes the car feel agile and builds the driver's confidence when driving quickly.

The Swift Sport is by no means perfect, though. The cabin isn't the most upmarket, but then again, this does help keep weight down and this is an inexpensive car. Another problem is finding one, as there aren’t all that many for sale and when they do crop up they often sell very quickly. There are typically a handful available on BuyaCar, though. Just remember that if you see one you like, it's worth getting ready to pounce to make sure it's yours.

SUZUKI SWIFT BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Mini Cooper

Our pick Mini 1.5-litre Cooper 3dr
Used deals from £6,800
Monthly finance from £114

0-62mph  7.9 secondsTop speed 130mph
Power 136hpTorque 220Nm

 

The Mini Cooper is synonymous with fun motoring. It follows a simple recipe of taking a regular Mini and giving it a more powerful engine. Saying that, what makes Minis fast isn’t solely their engines. Small dimensions and light weight play a big part, helping the Mini Cooper to offer great handling and be able to fly around corners with enthusiasm, outpacing many bigger, more weighty cars.

Modern-day Minis are famous for coming with masses of optional extras, so pinpointing an exact car that appeals to you most can be hard. That said, there are a number of option packs which cars can come with - Chili, Tech and Yours are to name but three. These offer a set list of extras together, so it's worth seeing whether any of these are essential for you and then focusing on cars that have them.

Not only do Mini Coopers stand out in performance terms, being nippy and feeling fast from behind the wheel, with responsive steering, pedals and gearchange that all add to the driving experience, but they also have one of the most distinctive interiors on the market.

MINI HATCHBACK BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Skoda Octavia

Our pick Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI CR Elegance DSG
Used deals from £7,895
Monthly finance from £154

0-62mph 8.6 secondsTop speed 134mph
Power 150hpTorque 320Nm

 

An automatic diesel model included on a fast cars countdown? No, we haven’t gone mad. A punchy diesel engine like this one, plus Skoda’s excellent ‘DSG’ automatic gearbox - which can no doubt change gear quicker than you can - makes this a surprisingly speedy car. Some may look at the 150hp Octavia’s styling as boring, but if anything that makes it a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you want to surprise people with how quick your car is, while having an affordable and easy to live with vehicle, this is one way of doing it.

With the 2.0-litre 'TDI' diesel engine under the bonnet, the previous-generation Skoda Octavia will reach 62mph faster than the much sportier looking Suzuki Swift Sport highlighted above and not far behind many others on this list. It's also impressively economical, too, so you shouldn't have to fill it up often.

If diesel-power is a definite no-no for you, though, there is a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol model that also offers 150hp and pretty much identical performance figures. The only problem is that these aren’t as common for less than £10,000. This engine is particularly punchy and refined, though, so if you're able to spend a bit more, the 1.4 TSI Octavia is a surprisingly satisfying car to drive, considering how sensible it looks.

SKODA OCTAVIA BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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