Fast sports cars

Want your next car to be fast and exciting to drive, though still affordable? These sports cars are both speedy and good value

James Wilson
Nov 12, 2020

Driving a fast sports car is a dream for many people - whether you're seduced by being able to beat nearly any other car away from the lights, enjoy bombing along country roads or simply relish the thrill of having the wind rush through your hair in an open-top roadster. Or, the appeal might be looking out over a long swooping bonnet hiding a powerful engine that snaps, crackles and pops its way down the road. Whatever it is, the good news is that drivers are spoilt for choice these days, no matter what car their looking for.

What’s more, these sporty machines don’t have to cost the earth. All the cars below are readily available for less than £35,000 or £400 per month on PCP finance, but don't be disheartened if that's still a little rich for you, as cars such as the Toyota GT86 and Mazda MX-5 - both of which are in our roundup - can be scooped up for around half this.

To make the cut, all vehicles below have to be a bonafide sports car - not just a powerful hatchback. All cars have to be genuinely fast, too - the average 0-62mph time for the models included is 5.7 seconds. For context, 5.7 seconds is halfway between particularly rapid and ridiculously fast. While all the cars are quick, there are different types of fast. Some models are speedy thanks to a combination of low weight and a punchy engine, while others are bigger and heavier but have huge amounts of power to ensure they surge forward at an incredible rate.

So whether you fancy a lightweight and agile two-seater open-top sports car, or a muscular coupe with an enormous engine, you're spoilt for choice below. To give an idea of just how fast each of the sports cars below is, we've provided the key performance figures. So read on to discover which of the fast sports cars below appeals to you most. And in the meantime, if you're not sure what you can afford to spend, click on the button below to get a finance quote.

Fast sports cars

1. Nissan 370Z

Our pick Nissan 370Z 3.7 V6 Nismo 3dr
Used deals Limited stock

0-62mph 5.2 secondsTop speed 155mph
Power 344hpTorque 371Nm

 

The sleek Nissan 370Z is not a big car, but the Japanese manufacturer has seen fit to stuff a massive 3.7-litre engine under the bonnet with enough power to move a small town. While the 370Z produces a mighty 344hp, its appeal is in how it delivers that power rather than the actual headline figure. You see, the 370Z requires effort and concentration to get the best from it - unlike an increasing number of modern cars - making it far more engaging than most cars, but if you're willing to put the effort in, the reward is worth it.

There are three 370Z models to choose from - standard, GT and Nismo. The Nismo version is the most expensive but the one to go for if your budget allows, thanks to its sportier and more distinctive styling. Though the interior isn't the most high tech - you won’t find massive screens here, for example - the 370Z’s cabin is a nice place to be. There are manual and automatic gearboxes available - stick to the manual for the most engaging driving experience - but all versions come with the same 3.7-litre engine.

NISSAN 370Z BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Porsche 718 Cayman

Our pick Porsche Cayman 718 2.5 GTS PDK
Used deals from £52,997
Monthly finance from £786

0-62mph 4.3 secondsTop speed 180mph
Power 365hpTorque 430Nm

 

Pace, polish and poised handling await anyone lucky enough to get behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayman. For reference, ‘718’ is Porsche’s identifier for its latest version of the Cayman (and also the Boxster, which is a convertible version of the Cayman). There isn’t one part of the Cayman that shines more than the rest, as it's a great all-round sports car. The handling. The speed. The interior. All of these are impressive.

GTS models sit near the top of the range and come with additional go-faster bits to ensure they are quicker and better to drive than the models below them. That said, one such go-faster bit is the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine used in GTS models made before early 2020, which has an impact on the character of the car.

You see, four-cylinder engines are the default used in most cars, while six-cylinder engines - like the one fitted newer 2020-on 718 GTS models - make a more distinctive noise, the kind you'd expect from a sports car, and can be smoother. Porsche has now brought out a six-cylinder engine for 718 GTS (badged as ‘718 GTS 4.0’) but if you're happy with the smaller engine, you can scoop up a performance car bargain.

3. Mazda MX-5

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0 184hp
Used deals from £14,098
Monthly finance from £222

0-62mph 6.8 secondsTop speed 137mph
Power 184hpTorque 205Nm

 

Being the best selling roadster of all time gives the Mazda MX-5 a whole lot of kudos - even against pricier alternatives. The Japanese convertible earns its title of ‘fast car’ thanks to its relatively low weight, strong engines and impressive roadholding that make it possible to maintain high speeds through corners and onto the next straight. As for creature comforts, standard equipment levels are good - 16-inch alloy wheels, electric windows and air-conditioning are all included.

Most models have a fabric roof which is opened and closed by hand to save weight and complexity, but there are ‘RF’ versions which come with an electric metal folding roof should you prefer the car to remove the roof for you. There is also a choice of engines - 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrols to be precise.

When first launched, it was the 1.5-litre engine that seemed the more enthusiastic, being slower but more exciting to drive, performing better and better the harder you worked it, while the bigger engine felt less eager. That makes earlier 1.5-litre models a more appealing choice than 2.0-litre equivalents of the same age, but thanks to a refresh in 2018 (and a power hike to 184hp), the larger engine is the one to have in newer models.

Most models have a very slick and satisfying manual gearbox, though some RF versions can be found with an automatic gearbox. Unless you absolutely need to have an automatic, we'd strongly recommend the manual option, as it's beautifully smooth to use and really adds to the driving experience - the key selling point for a car like the MX-5.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Jaguar F-Type

Our pick Jaguar F-Type 3.0 V6 S Auto
Used deals from £28,444
Monthly finance from £429

0-62mph 4.8 secondsTop speed 171mph
Power 460hpTorque 380Nm

 

Sat stationary in a car park the Jaguar F-Type is exceptionally good looking. Turn it on and it is exceptionally good sounding (provided you opt for a V6 or V8 version). Drive it down the road and it is exceptionally good fun. In a nutshell, it is a rather exceptional fast sports car.

What helps the F-Type stand out is its range of engines. It starts with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which doesn’t sound all that exciting but the truth is, it is. It produces 300hp and helps the F-Type to reach 60mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds and can hit 155mph flat out.

At the other end of the range is the F-Type SVR, which produces 570hp and can hit 200mph given a long enough straight. Happily, there are a number of V6 and V8 engines that bridge the gap between the least and most powerful models.

The majority of models are rear-wheel-drive and have an automatic gearbox but there are four-wheel-drive versions and even the odd manual (although only V6 models are available with a manual). Finally, being an upmarket sports car all models are well equipped - sat-nav and big alloy wheels are the tip of the iceberg.

JAGUAR F-TYPE BUYERS' GUIDE

5. BMW 4 Series

Our pick BMW 440i M Sport automatic
Used deals from £22,167
Monthly finance from £319

0-62mph 5.0 secondsTop speed 155mph
Power 326hpTorque 450Nm

 

This may seem surprising, but there are both petrol and diesel versions on offer when it comes to fast BMW 4 Series models. The former will be badged as a 435i if registered before March 2016 or 440i if registered after, while the latter will be badged as a 435d. Looking at it bluntly, petrol models sound great and are impressively fast, while diesel models offer surprisingly strong fuel economy and are also pretty fast. All models are well-equipped, coming with cruise control, heated leather seats and sat-nav to name a few standard features.

Manual petrol versions were offered, but by and large, most 435i/440is are automatics - and all 435ds are automatics. There is no shame in this, though, as the self-shifting ‘boxes are excellent. There are four-wheel drive versions for those wanting maximum grip, but the rest are rear-wheel drive. BMW calls its four-wheel drive system 'xDrive' and there are normally a couple of badges dotted about the bodywork to mark out models with this fitted, so keep an eye out if you're after four-wheel drive.

BMW 4 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ

Our pick Toyota GT86 2.0 D-4S Pro
Used deals from £16,990
Monthly finance from £230

0-62mph 7.6 secondsTop speed 140mph
Power 200hpTorque 205Nm

 

First things first, the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ are practically the same car, just with different badges. Second things second, both are widely regarded as some of the best entry-points into the fast sports car world. This is thanks to a 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet sending a reasonable 200hp to the rear wheels and an unusually analogue feel for a modern car.

Unlike some cars on this list, though, what makes the GT86 and BRZ fast isn’t raw power, but how little weight there is to carry around and how easy it is to exploit both cars' power - the responsive steering helps with this no end. As the car provides such a direct sense of connection with the road, you don't have to be driving fast to have a good time behind the wheel.

Neither Toyota nor Subaru went crazy with trims - there are only a handful and all come with at least cruise control, a touchscreen media system and front sports seats. There are both manual and automatic versions available but the manual suits the car far better.

What might surprise you is that the GT86 is actually reasonably practical. There are two rear seats (they are very cramped and only suitable for short trips, mind), fuel economy isn’t horrendous and if Toyota and Subaru’s long reputation for reliability is anything to go by, owners shouldn’t have to worry too much about things going wrong.

TOYOTA GT86 BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Ford Mustang

Our pick Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 GT
Used deals from £27,000
Monthly finance from £378

0-62mph 4.8 secondsTop speed 155mph
Power 416hpTorque 530Nm

 

Few cars are as iconic as the Ford Mustang. For generations, it has been one of the go-to vehicles for those wanting a bold American muscle car. It is only the latest version, though, that has been sold with the steering wheel on the right-hand side, making this the most suited to UK roads. Mustangs come in two main flavours - with a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine or a huge 5.0-litre V8. The latter is the one to go for. Not only does it sound sensational, but it produces well over 400hp and punts the Mustang from 0-62mph in less than five seconds.

If you're after the most possible power, be aware that Ford refreshed the Mustang in 2018 and gave the V8 a power increase of around 40hp - taking the total to around 450hp. Manual and automatic Mustangs are available, though all models come with rear-wheel drive. Likewise, all Mustangs get alloy wheels, Bluetooth, climate control, electric seats and even a limited-slip differential - which boosts the grip of the rear wheels when accelerating, apportioning the power between both tyres - as standard.

FORD MUSTANG BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Abarth 124 Spider

Our pick Abarth 124 Spider 1.4-litre T MultiAir
Used deals from £17,995
Monthly finance from £274

0-62mph 6.8 secondsTop speed 144mph
Power 170hpTorque 250Nm

 

The Abarth 124 Spider is quite simply one of the best modern-day two-seater roadsters. It is fun, fast and sounds brilliant. The magic is partly thanks to Mazda, who lent Abarth the bare bones of its MX-5 - featured above - to make a sports car of its own. This means that whether you're considering the Abarth or the Mazda it's worth thinking about the other one, too.

Abarth, or rather sister company Fiat, then designed its own exterior and put its own engines under the bonnet and hey presto the 124 Spider was born. All models use a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine but there is the choice of manual and automatic gearboxes - stick to the former for the most thrills. Importantly for those who enjoy speed, the Abarth 124 Spider comes with big brakes, trick suspension and (like the Mustang) a limited-slip differential that help the car to handle its power.

ABARTH 124 SPIDER BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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