Sportiest cars for less than £10,000

Fancy a fast, sporty car for less than £10,000? Take your pick from great value hot hatchbacks and sleek, surprisingly affordable coupes

James Wilson
Nov 30, 2020

Sporty cars that cost under £10,000 offer affordable thrills for those wanting something which is fun to drive. This doesn’t just mean they're fast, though, as half the excitement of driving a sporty car is injecting a little enjoyment into everyday journeys and carving your way around tight corners as it is straight-line speed. After all, consider just how much time you spend sitting in the driver’s seat and you will soon wonder why you should have to put up with a tedious driving experience.

As it would happen, there is more than one way to make a car sporty. Some manufacturers use powerful engines, some offer sharp handling, some even use the way the engines produce power to help make a car genuinely sporty. Meanwhile, some drivers enjoy the feel of cars that send power to the rear wheels, as these can offer a more sporty feel than front-wheel drive alternatives.

With a budget of £10,000, there is plenty of choice of suitable cars. However, the choice is predominantly limited to performance-focused superminis (think cars of a similar size to the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio). Even so, some of these are great cars and genuinely exciting to drive, plus, there are one or two coupes available that offer sleek, sophisticated looks too.

With so much choice, finding the best cars can be a confusing affair. Happily, BuyaCar is able to help. We've identified some of the sportiest cars available for under £10,000 below. All of these are five years old or younger for this budget and offer a genuinely sporty driving experience.

Sportiest cars under £10,000

1. Ford Fiesta ST

Our pick Ford Fiesta 1.6-litre EcoBoost ST-2
Used deals from £9,598
Monthly finance from £182

0-62mph 6.9 secondsTop speed 139mph
Power 182hpTorque 290Nm

 

The previous-generation Ford Fiesta ST is fast, fun and, financially speaking, something of a steal. Sure its interior isn’t the stuff of dreams, but with such agile handling around corners and an engine this punchy, does it really matter if the cabin has a few too many buttons dotted about?

Part of what makes the Fiesta ST such a great car is that it doesn’t over-complicate the small sporty car brief - it comes with a strong engine, a slick manual gearbox and relatively affordable running costs, and it's hugely exciting to drive for such an inexpensive machine.

There is a choice of three core trim levels; ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3 - which go from the least to the best equipped in that order. ST-1 versions are cheap but a little on the basic side. ST-2 spec offers the best balance of price and equipment, while ST-3 versions come with sat-nav, cruise control, keyless entry and automatic headlights, so are the most desirable.

FORD FIESTA ST BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Abarth 595

Our pick Abarth 595 1.4-litre T-Jet 145
Used deals from £7,450
Monthly finance from £125

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

 

Not only does the Abarth 595 look good, but it goes rather well, too. Based on the Fiat 500, Abarth’s sporty little hatchback is incredibly popular. While some performance cars come with frankly scary power and top speed figures, Abarth 595s are very much manageable.

That isn’t to say they are slow - many a more powerful car will have a hard time keeping up with one on a gnarly back road. However, the Abarth's appeal is in how it looks and makes you feel - this really is a charming little car that makes you feel good behind the wheel, whether you're whizzing around at speed or not.

Since the Abarth 595 (and 500 before it) have been on sale for over a decade there are a massive number of models to choose from. As a general rule, the newer 145hp versions offer a good mix of usability, performance and running costs. There are automatic versions of the 595, however, these are significantly less common and the gearbox doesn't really suit the car's energetic character.

ABARTH 595 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Peugeot 208 GTI

Our pick Peugeot 208 1.6-litre THP GTI Prestige
Used deals from £8,750
Monthly finance from £166

0-62mph 6.5 secondsTop speed 143mph
Power 208hpTorque 300Nm

 

Despite having the same size engine as the Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot’s 208 GTI has more power, more torque (this is low engine speed muscle, which is important for acceleration) and a quicker 0 to 62mph time.

It doesn’t end there, either, as the little French hatchback comes with cracking handling around corners, too. A great sporty car, then? Well, yes, but there are a few caveats. One of the most major is the 208's tiny steering wheel - this makes the steering feel more direct and rather than looking at the dials through the wheel, you look at them over it. Some people love this, others find it awkward, so have a think whether this suits you.

As for specification, Peugeot kept things simple; there are entry-level GTI models, then GTI Prestige variants and finally GTI by PeugeotSport versions. All models come with a manual gearbox. Across the range standard equipment is good - GTI Prestige trim includes big alloy wheels, a panoramic roof, sat-nav and seven-inch touchscreen media system. Peugeot 208 GTI by PeugeotSport versions, meanwhile, come with a number of go-faster additions but are yet to drop below £10,000.

PEUGEOT 208 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Vauxhall Astra GTC

Our pick Vauxhall Astra 1.6T SRi
Used deals from £5,250
Monthly finance from £121

0-62mph 8.3 secondsTop speed 137mph
Power 180hpTorque 290Nm

 

Thanks to close ties to the rather boring standard five-door Vauxhall Astra, many don’t realise just how sporty the three-door Astra GTC is. With a budget of £10,000, a 180hp petrol version should be attainable for you, even if it takes some hunting as there aren’t all that many available. This offers decent acceleration and is enjoyable to drive.

The lower-powered 140hp versions (these come with a 1.4-litre petrol engine) aren't as fast in a straight line but they still have sporty handling, so you shouldn't feel short changed if you like the looks..

The Astra GTC doesn’t have all that many direct rivals - the closest is perhaps the Renault Megane coupe which was taken off sale in 2016. For maximum sporting effect, it is best to avoid entry-level Sport trim and hunt down an SRi model as these get sports seats and a leather steering wheel, which make them feel a bit more special from behind the wheel.

VAUXHALL ASTRA BUYERS' GUIDE

5. BMW 1 Series

Our pick BMW 118i Sport
Used deals from £7,695
Monthly finance from £138

0-62mph 8.5 secondsTop speed 130mph
Power 136hpTorque 220Nm

 

While £10,000 won’t quite stretch to the higher echelons of the BMW 1 Series range (there are some super-powerful models with 340hp, which is rather a lot for a car of this size) it does put 118i and 116i models in reach.

While these come with a modest power output of around 136hp, all previous-generation 1 Series models are rear-wheel drive and it is for this reason that the baby BMW has been included, as this configuration makes them feel that bit more sporty than other hatchbacks which send power to the front wheels. No matter how hard you accelerate, the steering wheel never tugs in your hands - which can happen when pulling away quickly with a car that is front-wheel drive - giving you more precise steering.

In line with BMW’s premium imagine all models come well equipped - a digital radio, sat-nav and alloy wheels are all standard. That said, it is worth hunting down Sport models as these look, well, more sporty.

It is worth noting that diesel 1 Series models are also a great option for those wanting a car with rear-wheel drive and great fuel economy and they can offer a greater feeling of muscle from the engine, as you don't have to work the diesel motors as hard to access the power.

BMW 1 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Peugeot RCZ

Our pick Peugeot RCZ 1.6-litre THP GT
Used deals Limited stock

0-62mph 7.6 secondsTop speed 146mph
Power 200hpTorque 275Nm

 

The Peugeot RCZ coupe is a cracking car to drive. It comes with nimble handling, excellent engines and rather fetching styling. The RCZ was launched to take on cars such as the Audi TT and VW Scirocco and while it never achieved the same sales success as its rivals it is arguably the better option for those wanting an affordable used car which is fun to drive. There are petrol and diesel models but while the latter are punchy they are best suited to cruising. The petrol versions feel more sporty.

Peugeot gave buyers the choice of automatic and manual gearboxes (past tense as the RCZ stopped being made in 2015) although the former are super rare. Our pick would be a 1.6-litre petrol (producing a strong 200hp) paired with a manual gearbox, as these are fast and satisfying from behind the wheel.

Just be aware, that even though there are technically four seats, the rears are best used as extra storage rather than as a method of transporting humans. Saying that, the boot offers a decent 309-litres of luggage capacity, which is only two litres less than the latest Ford Fiesta, so it is not like the RCZ is stuck for cargo space.

7. Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Our pick Vauxhall Corsa 1.6T VXR
Used deals Limited stock

0-62mph 6.5 secondsTop speed 143mph
Power 205hpTorque 280Nm

 

In a game of Top Trumps, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR blows away its biggest rival (the previous generation Ford Fiesta ST) when it comes to performance figures. Most of this is down to a rather potent turbocharged petrol engine producing over 200hp. It isn’t all go and no show, though, as VXR models thrive on twisty back roads. Practicality is decent, too, although like many particularly sporty small cars of this age, all versions are three-door only.

In standard form, the Corsa VXR is rapid, but those with the Vauxhall Performance Pack are well worth hunting down as they come with a number of sporty additions - such as trick mechanicals that allow drivers to accelerate harder out of corners thanks to improved traction. At the same time, for those who cannot quite stretch to a VXR model, there are 150hp 1.4-litre petrol Corsas that still sit on the sporty side of things, and cost less, even if they are a bit slower.

VAUXHALL CORSA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Mini Hatchback

Our pick Mini Hatchback 1.5-litre Cooper
Used deals from £6,799
Monthly finance from £131

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

 

The Mini Cooper has been around since the days when everything was black and white, but even so, the philosophy has not changed with the modern versions - the Mini Hatchback is a fun and fast little car. All Cooper versions of this generation come with a 1.5-litre petrol engine (there are diesel Cooper D models, which are very efficient but not as sporty to drive), though you can choose from manual and automatic gearboxes. The former is the one to go for for maximum fun behind the wheel.

Modern-day Minis have established a reputation for great interior design and heaps of personalisation options and these both hold true for Cooper models. Some examples of personalisation include bonnet stripes, graphics on the roof and bright and cheerful paint colours. Also, the latest generation Mini hatch is the first to be offered with rear doors, marking a massive leap forward in practicality.

This means that even when going used you should be able to choose from a wide variety of colours and styles, with three- and five-door models on offer, depending whether you want maximum fun or practicality.

MINI HATCHBACK BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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