Cheap sports cars

Don't be fooled into thinking that sports cars are only for the well heeled. Look at these cheap sports cars

Murray Scullion
Apr 20, 2018

Sports cars are very hard to define. Car enthusiasts regularly bang their heads together for hours discussing the differences between the different branches of this derivative that can appear wildly confusing to the general public.

But, a sports car is generally regarded as a coupe or convertible that’s fun to drive and own. A coupe being a two-door car with a roof that slopes down to the back, and a convertible being a car with a detachable or folding roof.

Pedants would argue that a true sports car needs to be rear-wheel drive (the rear wheels providing power, and the front wheels steering) with a petrol engine and a manual gearbox.

But attitudes change over time, and sports cars can be configured with diesel, hybrid, and electric powertrains, as well as driven via automatic, or semi-automatic gearboxes.

And don’t think the sport in sports car is necessarily intrinsically linked with motorsport either. Most sports cars today have little to no link to motorsport whatsoever. 

The Mazda MX-5 has long been the archetypal sports car, although the term would also be used to describe much faster cars like the Lotus Elise, as well as much more expensive cars like the BMW 2-Series.




Peugeot RCZ

Best cheap sports car for bhp per £  

Our pick Peugeot RCZ-R
Used price £10,500-£20,000 Price from new £31,995 

It’s stunning isn’t it? When the Peugeot RCZ came onto the scene in 2010 its sharp looks were enough to frighten the likes of Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Available in petrol and diesel guises, the RCZ was mechanically based on the Peugeot 308. But it wasn’t all bark with no bite. For true sports car thrills, go for the most powerful engined RCZ-R model.

At the time, it was the most powerful engine Peugeot had put into a road car, and with 266hp it could climb to 155mph. Unlike some cars in this list, the Peugeot is front-wheel drive, meaning that the front wheels are used for both steering, and propulsion. 

This makes it less lively to drive than rear-wheel drive cars like the Mazda MX-5, but in day to day driving you’d be hard pushed to notice a difference. 



Mazda MX-5

Best cheap sports car for balanced fun 

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport Tech
Used price £10,000-£14,000 Price from new £18,900 

No sports car list would be complete without the Mazda MX-5. This little bundle of joy has been proving that you don’t need huge engines, or huge amounts of money, to have a huge amount of fun since 1989.

For sub £15k (and as low as £10k) you’ll be looking at the previous generation car. That’s no bad thing, as it’s still a superb drive. You sit low down and feel really connected with the car, and the steering is weighted in a way that you can really sense what the wheels are doing. 

The 1.8-litre engine is lighter than the 2.0-litre engine, and some would say that the smaller engine lends itself to more nimble driving experience. However, the 2.0-litre is quicker. It can do 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds, in comparison to the 9.1 seconds it takes the 1.8.



Mercedes-Benz SLK

Best cheap sports car for premium feel 

Our pick Mercedes-Benz SLK 250CDI
Used price £12,000-£20,000 Price from new £29,170 

The SLK joined the scene in 1996, and was renamed the SLC in 2016. For around £12,000, you can buy into the last generation of SLK ever made.

Generally, this last iteration is the best. The design is muscular and it looks great from all angles, and it has a folding metal roof too. This is good for sound insulation, as it’s quieter for the driver in comparison to a traditional canvas roof.

We’d opt for the 250CDI. It’s a diesel engine and is very frugal - it should achieve close to 55mpg. This comes with an automatic gearbox that is equally as quiet and refined. However, if you’re after a more sporting version we’d recommend the 350 petrol engine. It’s faster, sounds better, and is better suited to a sports car. But it’s more expensive to buy (£20,000 as opposed to £12-15,000) and isn’t as economical either.



 Volkswagen Scirocco

Best cheap sports car for quality and style

Our pick Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TSI GT
Used price £10,000-£16,000 Price from new £21,480

Those old enough to remember the Seventies may remember the original Volkswagen Scirocco. It was a svelte coupe with Volkswagen Golf underpinnings than went on until 1992.

Fast forward 16 years and Volkswagen resurrected the name for this car. It went off sale in 2018, which makes it a savvy used buy.

It’s a rakish looking car that was on sale for ten years in the UK, which means that there is a wide range of colours and specs to pick from.

The 1.4-litre petrol engine is one of the cheapest to buy, and it’s economical too. These often have manual gearboxes which fit in with the sports car lifestyle.

There’s a diesel too, which can nudge close to 67 mpg, good for those who do a lot of miles. But in sports car fashion, we’d recommend the more powerful 2.0TSI GT. This can get from 0-62 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is mildly quick without venturing into the high insurance rates and buying price of the Scirocco R model.



Toyota GT86

Best cheap sports car for thrills

Our pick Toyota GT 86 2.0 D-4S
Used price £15,000-£25,000 Price from new £27,000

The GT86 is the best car to drive on this list, and it will more than likely go down as one of the finest small sports cars to ever exist.

As soon as you sit in the low racing inspired seat, you know that the GT86 means business. It’s often referred to as old-school by car enthusiasts. What they’re referring to is the simple set up of a small sports car with its engine up front, sending power to the rear wheels.

It’s a riot to hoon down a b-road because the set-up is so engaging and positive. The 2.0-litre engine makes 200 hp, which is fast enough for day to day driving and a bit of fun, but never so fast that it feels scary.



Mini Coupe

Best cheap sports car for fun frolics

Our pick Mini Coupe Cooper S
Used price £8,000-£11,000 Price from new £16,000

The Mini Coupe was only sold for four years between 2011-2015, but during its short lived life it gained notoriety for its divicise looks.

Designer of the car, Gert Hildebrand, says that the design of the roof was inspired by the sight of his son wearing a baseball cap backwards.

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the Mini Coupe is good to drive. Regular Minis are fun, but the coupe is turned up a couple of notches. It has firmer suspension to help it go round corners faster and it’s lighter than a regular Mini too.

It only has two seats though, so isn’t all that practical.



BMW 2-Series

Best cheap sports car for grown up interiors

Our pick BMW 220d
Used price £12,500 - £40,000 Price from new £22,590

Don’t get this confused with the 2-Series Active Tourer. That’s an MPV, whereas the 2-Series is very far removed away from that.

It’s rear-wheel drive for a start, unlike the Active Tourer. If you read the intro, you’ll realise that being rear-wheel drive is a big tick in the sports car requirement list.

The 2-Series can be had in coupe and convertible form, and it’s grown up and handsome in either styles. It has a series of punchy engines, and a best-in-class eight speed automatic gearbox.

The top-of-the-range M240i has 335hp on tap. This is lightning fast. Maybe too fast for what most people want, and can afford. The 220d diesel is faster than you’d think, plus cheaper to buy and relatively cheap to own.



Audi TT

Best cheap sports car for luxury

Our pick Audi TT 2.0 TFSi S-Line
Used price £9,999-£18,500 Price from new £31,150

The Audi TT is mechanically very similar to the Volkswagen Scirocco above. The biggest differences are the styling and the interior.

On the outside, the Audi is much more aggressively styled, befitting of its sporting nature. And on the inside, the materials are much better than the ones you’ll find in the Scirocco.

We would recommend seeking out higher-specification S line models. Theset would have cost its original owner significantly more than the entry-level Sport when new, but the difference in value several years is negligible. Petrol TTs also lose value a bit faster than diesel-engined car, plus they’re more sporting to drive.



Renault Megane Renaultsport

Best cheap sports car for hatchback thrills

Our pick Renault Megane Renaultsport 265
Used price £9,999-£18,500 Price from new £31,150

Some may say that this bonkers Renault Megane is a hot-hatch rather than an out and out sports car. But we say, can't it be both?

A hot-hatch refers to a car that’s both hot (fast, powerful) and has a hatchback design. Renault classes the catchily titled Renault Megane Renaultsport as a coupe, which drags it right into sports car territory.

The badge doesn’t have the appeal (to some) of BMW or Mercedes-Benz, but the Renault does have power on its side. It has 265hp, which means it can sprint to 62mph in six seconds. Being a hatchback, it’s also pretty practical, and has seating in the rear that can be used regularly, rather than just for short journeys.



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