Best sports cars under £20,000

Think you can’t afford a fun sports car? Think again, because here are eight great options available for less than £20,000

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Apr 8, 2022

You may have noticed that £20,000 doesn’t go a long way when you’re buying a new car. It’s enough for a supermini or range-topping city car, but that’s about it in the 2020s. This is why buying a used car makes more sense, especially when you discover what’s available for under £20,000.

Fancy a new Mazda MX-5? You’ll need to find £25,000 for the basic model. Like the look of the new Audi TT? That’ll be 35,000 of your British pounds, before you explore the trim levels and options list. If you’re after a Fiat 124 Spider, forget it, because it’s no longer available to buy new.

Fear not, because we’ve pulled together a list of the best sports cars for under £20,000. We’ve included everything from the best lightweight sports car on the planet to a few inexpensive upmarket cars from Germany - one with a folding hard top for year-round comfort.

And if you have no desire to drop the roof, there's even a fixed-roof coupe that prioritises driving fun over getting a tan when the sun comes out. Best of all, there's no need to spend the full £20,000 to get a great sports car. Read on for more.

Best sports cars under £20,000

1. Mazda MX-5

Best sports car under £20,000 for cheap thrills

Used deals from £11,617

Why buy a new city car when you can drive the best affordable sports car of modern times for the same money? The Mazda MX-5 is so good, it has seen off most of its rivals over the years; you’d have to buy something with a Porsche or Lotus badge to have this much fun in a sports car.

Launched in 2015, the current MX-5 is the best of the four generations, and because it has been on sale for a while, prices are becoming increasingly tempting. You might even be able to afford to have one as a second car for weekend drives in the country and the occasional drive to work - taking the long way, of course. That's not something many people can afford with a similar age Porsche.

The 2.0-litre version offers lively performance, but don’t rule out the less powerful 1.5-litre, because it offers nearly all of the thrills for a cheaper price. Even the ‘basic’ models come with a generous level of equipment, so it doesn’t really matter which MX-5 you choose. Just add a sunny day for maximum fun.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Audi TT Roadster

Best sports car under £20,000 for a quality feel

Audi TT Roadster front three quarters view

Used deals from £14,900

It might lack the precision of the Mazda MX-5 to drive, but the Audi TT Roadster will be an easier car to live with on a daily basis. You get a bigger boot, more storage space and a larger cabin, although you’ll need the TT Coupe if you want the convenience of a pair of rear seats.

The triple-layer fabric roof folds away in just 10 seconds and reveals an interior with a high-quality feel throughout. From the materials chosen to the way the switches and buttons operate, everything feels a class above what you’d expect from a car costing under £20,000.

There’s a wide range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, along with a choice of two- and four-wheel drive. The latter is great if you intend to use your TT Roadster throughout the year, as it delivers more grip on slippery roads. Just make sure the car you're looking at is fitted with the optional head-level heating and heated seats to be able to make the most of it year-round.

AUDI TT ROADSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Fiat 124 Spider

Best sports car under £20,000 for Italian style

Used deals Limited stock

The Fiat 124 Spider is the perfect sports car if you fancy a Mazda MX-5 but would like a little more exclusivity. That’s because it shares the platform it's built on with the MX-5 and was built alongside the Mazda in Japan.

Aside from the exterior styling, the biggest difference is the engine, with the Fiat powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, rather than the MX-5’s non-turbocharged units that produce more power the harder you work them. Overall, the Fiat delivers a slightly softer driving experience, but it’s still great fun to drive.

The basic Classica trim offers everything you’d want from a sports car, but the Lusso Plus model is recommended if you intend to use the car in the winter. Highlights include LED headlights, adaptive headlights, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers and a superb Bose audio system. The mid-range Lusso is also worth a look, not least for its heated seats and heated steering wheel so you can keep the roof down later into the autumn months without getting cold.

FIAT 124 SPIDER BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Abarth 595

Best sports car under £20,000 for big fun in a small package

Used deals from £8,390

The Abarth 595 feels like a sports car in a city car package. It’s also cheap, with prices starting from around £10,000, which leaves you with plenty of change for hotel breaks and pub lunches. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving on a country road or nipping from roundabout to roundabout in the city, the 595 will put a smile on your face.

All versions are powered by the same 1.4-litre 'T-Jet' turbocharged engine, with varying degrees of power output, depending on the model. The Competizione is one of the most popular models on the BuyaCar website, not least for its switchable quad-exit 'Record Monza' exhaust that delivers a racy soundtrack.

ABARTH 595 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Toyota GT86

Best sports car under £20,000 for a pure driving experience

Used deals Limited stock

Since it was launched in 2012, the Toyota GT86 has established itself as one of the world’s best affordable sports cars. It’s a coupe, so you can’t lower the roof, but in other respects it feels like a Mazda MX-5. Only it has rear seats and a larger boot.

The 2.0-litre engine needs working hard to get the best from it, but you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic driving experience. Because the power is sent to the rear wheels, the front wheels are left to concentrate on the steering, which as your car enthusiast chums will tell you, is a good thing. The steering wheel never tugs in your hands as you accelerate, as can be the case with quick front-wheel-drive cars.

It’s been on sale for a decade, so there are plenty of used models to choose from, with prices starting from around the same level as a new city car. Toyota’s solid reputation for reliability should provide good peace of mind when buying used, but the three-year warranty can be extended to 10 years or 100,000 miles at your local Toyota dealer.

TOYOTA GT86 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mini Convertible

Best sports car under £20,000 for a Mini adventure

Used deals from £10,000

We’re going to let you into a secret: the Mini Convertible offers a similar amount of fun to a considerably more expensive sports car. It's like enjoying the benefits of a Mini Hatchback but with the added appeal of lowering the roof.

Launched in 2016, the current Mini Convertible remains one of the most fashionable cars you can buy, but there’s more to this drop-top than turning heads. Roof up or roof down, the Mini Convertible is a hoot to drive, especially on a country road. Less about turning heads and more about turning corners.

Thanks to its powerful 2.0-litre engine, the Cooper S is the sportiest of the bunch, but don’t rule out the Cooper model. The 1.5-litre engine is powerful enough that it still feels decently quick and it should be much cheaper to run.

MINI CONVERTIBLE BUYERS' GUIDE

7. BMW Z4

Best sports car under £20,000 for practicality

Used deals from £14,500

It looks like a million dollars, but the BMW Z4 could be yours for the price of a Ford Fiesta. We’re talking about the second-generation Z4, which was on sale from 2009 until 2016; it’ll be a little while before the current model drops below the £20,000 mark.

There’s a wide range of engines to choose from, including frugal 2.0-litre four-cylinder and powerful 3.0-litre six-cylinder units. Pick of the bunch is the twin-turbocharged sDrive35iS, but all of the six-cylinder engines deliver a fantastic soundtrack and plenty of performance.

One of the strengths of the BMW Z4 is its practicality, with the boot offering 310 litres of luggage capacity with the roof up, although this shrinks to 180 litres with the roof down. There’s also plenty of room for two tall adults, plus useful storage space in the cabin.

8. Mercedes SLK

Best sports car under £20,000 for comfort and safety

Used deals from £10,995

Arrive home from work in a Mercedes SLK and your neighbours will think you’ve been promoted. Few sports cars offer such a compelling blend of style and quality, especially at this end of the market. It's not a pricey car, but it does look like expensive.

It’s a rival to sports cars like the Porsche Cayman and BMW Z4, and while it’s a little softer in how it drives, it’s also more comfortable and easier to live with. The electric folding-metal roof is a mechanical work of art and perfect for posing outside the coffee shop or wine bar.

Even the powerful six-cylinder versions offer reasonable fuel economy, while all models come with a generous level of equipment as standard. Buy an SLK with the optional Airscarf heater vents in the seats for a little touch of luxury, thanks to the option to have a steady flow of warm air around your neck.

*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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