Best fast cars for young drivers

Fast cars aren’t only for rich, older drivers. Young drivers can get in on the action, too - with the right car. Here are some of the best

James Wilson
Dec 19, 2021

Young drivers keen to drive a fast car generally have to spend a year or two driving something a little less exotic while they wait for their insurance premiums to drop to a reasonable level. If that's you, we'd say you probably deserve a fast car after all that time waiting patiently - or not so patiently as the case may be. But fast cars don't need to be expensive for young drivers, some of the options we've picked out below will still prove affordable to run.

Getting insured on something more powerful should become more achievable once you've racked up a decent spell of accident-free driving - here are some of the best first cars to earn your driving stripes - with increasing amounts of driving excitement on offer the more experience you gain.

Below is a selection of the best fast cars for young drivers. There are speedy cars for those who like nothing more than to blast down a country road, rapid machines for those who want understated and subtle performance and speedy models for those that want pace and practicality.

The only criteria is that they are fast, suitable for young drivers and available on BuyaCar for less than £20,000 second hand. Those with considerably less money to play with, don't panic; many of our suggestions are available at a considerably lower price. And if you opt to pay with PCP finance, monthly payments could start from well under £200 per month.

Best fast cars for young drivers

1. Ford Fiesta ST

Used deals from £9,150
Monthly finance from £0*
Torque 290Nm
0 to 62mph 6.5 seconds

While many young drivers will be looking to move away from a Fiesta for their next car, the simple fact of the matter is you don't have to, as Ford’s latest Fiesta ST is phenomenal fun. A bold claim, but completely justified.

The latest Fiesta ST models come with around 200hp and a 0 to 62mph time of 6.5 seconds thanks to a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Underneath the bodywork, Ford’s engineers have included some pretty trick stuff - including rather impressive suspension and cylinder deactivation technology (which actually boosts economy).

Also, on ST-2 and ST-3 models, there is the possibility of a limited-slip differential which helps boost grip when accelerating or cornering hard. The cherry on top is that the interior is far more stylish and high quality than in previous Fiesta models.


2. Volkswagen Golf GTI

Used deals from £16,000
Monthly finance from £0*
Torque 370Nm
0 to 62mph 6.2 seconds

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is quick and fun but not too in your face about it. The generation of GTI we are talking about here was launched in 2012 and is now no longer being produced, but that doesn’t stop it being a great choice. Especially as the cost of entry is going down every day.

All models use a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine although there are a couple of different versions available which produce various amounts of power. The one to get is the most powerful which pumps out 245hp and 370Nm of torque. There is no four-wheel-drive option but those who like driving without a clutch pedal can opt for an slick automatic with one of VW’s impressive 'DSG' gearboxes.

Sitting inside a Golf GTI may not set your world on fire, but the buttons and knobs will no doubt outlast many alternative fast hatchbacks. Standard kit is impressive, too, with full-LED lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and sat-nav all present and correct.


3. BMW 4 Series

Used deals from £14,590
Monthly finance from £294*
Torque 560Nm
0 to 62mph 5.6 seconds

The performance stats above aren’t for a hunking great V8 petrol 4 Series, they are for a six-cylinder diesel 4 Series - specifically the 430d. This might sound like a strange choice, but positives of driving a 430d include a great ride, handling, styling and a fantastic mix of power and fuel economy. There is one downside though, as there is no manual gearbox option, but the standad automatic is enjoyable nonetheless.

It isn’t just the fun stuff that the 4 Series does well; adults can use the rear seats without having to be a member of the UK Contortionists Society and there is a reasonably-sized boot. BMW also makes a four-door version for those who need even more practicality. Should you have a hankering for maximum traction xDrive models are worth considering - with xDrive being BMW-speak for four-wheel-drive.


4. Toyota GT86

Used deals Limited stock
Torque 205Nm
0 to 62mph 7.6 seconds

There really isn’t anything else like the Toyota GT86 on the market. It's a small, lightweight, fun, back-to-basics rear-wheel-drive coupe. At the same time, it's capable as an everyday car (not all sports cars are) and when driven carefully it can return reasonable fuel economy. Then again, if driving gingerly is your main concern, maybe a GT86 isn’t the best car to go for.

The secret to the GT86’s success are its lightweight body, skinny tyres and an engine that enjoys being worked hard but isn't hugely powerful. This means that instead of the GT86 being super-fast and offering limitless grip around corners, it has been engineered to feel exciting well within the speed limit - that means that it's possible to slide the back of the car at low speeds, making it feel like you're in charge of a go kart, rather than a big, heavy modern car.

It’s best to describe the interior is functional rather than fancy but there is still an awful lot of equipment included as standard; climate control, cruise control, keyless entry and a touchscreen media system are examples.


5. Mini Clubman Cooper S

Used deals Limited stock
Torque 300Nm
0 to 62mph 7.2 seconds

Mini is known for making grin-inducing cars and even though the Clubman is more grown-up than many of its ancestors - with four doors, plus two at the back instead of a hatchback - in the right specification it can be fast and fun. When we say 'right specification' we mean a two-wheel-drive manual. Going down the four-wheel-drive and/or automatic gearbox route just detracts from the driving pleasure. Thankfully, two-wheel drive manual models should be the cheapest, too.

On a more sensible note, the Mini Clubman is reasonably practical, well-equipped and comes with an interior that stands out amongst a number of mundane rivals. For those thinking the Clubman Cooper S is a bit tame, there is a high-performance John Cooper Works version, however, these are only just starting to appear below the £20,000 mark and the one you want (the recently updated models which got a huge power hike) are closer to £30,000, so we'd stick to the Cooper S.


6. Skoda Superb 280

Used deals Limited stock
Torque 350Nm
0 to 62mph 5.8 seconds

Imagine, you pull up at the lights in an unassuming Skoda Superb. In the passenger seat is your better half. In the back are his/her parents. They have ample legroom. In the boot, there is all the luggage you and your passengers need for a week away. The radio bumbles along in the background. The Superb really is a superbly sensible car.

Find yourself at the lights on a different day, however, with a flashy fool revving their engine alongside you and the same outwardly sensible car could just surprise them, too. With a powerful turbocharged engine under the bonnet, plus all-wheel drive to make the most of the power with no wheelspin, this Superb accelerates far faster than most hot hatchbacks. And sports cars from a decade or two back.

On top of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing the Skoda Superb 280 comes well equipped and with a strong track record of reliability. Only a handful of trims are available with the 280hp engine required for sports car-matching performance and they are Sportline, Sportline Plus and Laurin + Klement.


7. Mazda MX-5

Used deals from £17,990
Monthly finance from £0*
Torque 200Nm
0 to 62mph 6.5 seconds

The Mazda MX-5 is popular for good reason - it is a great car - and when paired with the 181hp 2.0-litre petrol it will go from 0 to 62mph in 6.5 seconds, which is fast in anyone’s book. What makes the MX-5 so special, though, is once you finish accelerating in a straight line and come to a corner you don’t need to slow down to a snail's pace, you can take them at speed thanks to its light weight and superbly agile feel.

It is important to note that in 2018 Mazda increased the power output of the 2.0-litre petrol used in the MX-5 by over 20hp. Truth be told the engine didn't need the extra power - but if you want an MX-5 that feels rapid rather than just quick, it does make a different. If you cannot stretch to a post-2018 2.0-litre, however, you are best looking at the peppy 130hp 1.5-litre instead. It's not as fast, but the smaller engine spins rapidly making the car feel faster than it is.

All models are two-seaters and come with a good dollop of standard equipment - Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a digital radio and a seven-inch touchscreen media system are included from the get go.


8. Peugeot 308 GTi

Used deals Limited stock
Torque 340Nm
0 to 62mph 6.0 seconds

Peugeot has something of a checkered past when it comes to fast cars - many have been brilliant but there have been a couple of rotten eggs dotted in, too. Fortunately, the 308 GTi is one of the good ones.

Through the 308 GTi’s lifetime, there have been a number of subtle revisions for one reason or another (mostly due to tightening of emissions tests) with there now only one model available - to purchase new that is. It produces 260hp and is without a doubt one of the hidden gems of the modern fast car world.

On the used market, the 270hp version will be the most common and it is an equally excellent fast car choice. Originally a 250hp 308 GTi was offered but there is no reason to choose the slower model - not just for power/speed reasons but because you would miss out on some impressive mechanical kit that the more powerful models had under their body panels.


Alternative fast cars for young drivers

Sometimes great cars get forgotten about and can easily be overlooked. This is bad news for the company trying to sell them but great news for you, as you can track down a bargain on a second-hand version of an impressive machine.

Well, this section corrects that, below are some left-field options for young drivers looking for a fast car with a budget of no more than £20,000. If that's beyond your budget, remember that finance options can cut the cost into far more manageable chunks.

Lexus RC

Used deals Limited stock

A car which followed in the footsteps of the sensational Lexus LFA supercar was always going to struggle and the RC did - not surprising when the LFA cost roughly six and a half times more than the RC when new… Ignoring its bigger brother, the Lexus RC is a lot of car for the money and looks very striking. No, it's not the fastest car in the world, but it is available as a hybrid.


Nissan 370Z

Used deals Limited stock

Nissan’s 370Z is like a more powerful version of the Toyota GT86 above. It offers no-nonsense rear-wheel-drive motoring with a whopping great 3.7-litre V6 engine under the bonnet (producing no less than 324hp). If Porsche’s Cayman is a precision tool, the 370Z is a sledgehammer. Such brute force is not to everyone's taste, though.


Subaru WRX STI

Used deals Limited stock

Thanks to a beefy 2.5-litre engine, four-wheel-drive and a long rally heritage the last (final) generation Subaru WRX STI will get away from almost any car on a wet British B road as it offers fantastic all-wheel drive grip. Unfortunately, that 2.5-litre engine and four-wheel-drive system which is so key to performance have a significant negative impact on the economy, which has always been a sticking point for the WRX STI.

*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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