Small sports cars

Fast and fun cars don't need to be big and scary. Here are the best small sports cars on the market

BuyaCar team
Feb 28, 2020

You think of a sports car, you think of something sleek, something powerful, something like an Aston Martin or a Lotus. Something that, unfortunately, is very expensive in every sense - tens of thousands of pounds to buy, and then another ten thousand pounds to run each year thanks to extortionate insurance and tax costs, not to mention the amount of fuel they get through.

So, you think of a sports car and in the majority of cases you think of something you'll probably never be able to own. It's sad to think you might never feel the excitement of sitting low to the ground in a proper performance car, putting your foot down and feeling the force of several hundred horsepower firing you along your favourite road.

Well, actually, it's very possible that you could have that feeling for much less money than you might think. While an Aston Martin might be out of the question, there are much cheaper alternatives on the market that cost around the same as a mid-sized SUV.

So we've put together this list of five excellent and affordable sports cars that could see you living the dream at a fraction of the cost. Read on to find out more about these excellent small sports cars.

Best small sports cars

1. Mazda MX-5

Best small sports car for wind-in-the-hair thrills

MX-5 Exterior

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0-litre
Used deals from £17,250
Monthly finance from £271

The MX-5 is the culmination of a tried and tested formula that’s been brewing since 1989. This latest generation is the best yet, and proves that you don’t need deep pockets in order to have fun in a car.

The slick, crisp, mechanical gearshift is a trademark of the MX-5, and helps you feel connected to it. As does the low driving position.

We’d recommend the more powerful 2.0-litre engine which makes 184hp. While it’s enough to propel the car from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, it’s also not so fast that you need to travel at silly speeds to enjoy it. The non-turbo engine loves to be revved and is engaging to use too.


2. Toyota GT86

Best small sports car for reliability

Our pick Toyota GT86 2.0 Pro
Used deals from £16,699
Monthly finance from £279

This Toyota is cut from the same cloth as the MX-5 above, as it offers a huge amount of fun for not a lot of money, plus, it’s not-scary fast.

The fact that you sit so close to the tarmac helps elevate the sense of speed, although the 200hp generated by the 2.0-litre engine isn’t exactly slow in a small car, and 0-62mph takes just 7.6 seconds.

Unusually for a performance car, the GT86 uses skinny tyres. This is so the car has a lower grip threshold, making it more nimble and more fun for keen drivers.


3. Porsche 718

Best small sports car for balanced ability

Our pick Porsche 718 Boxster
Used deals from £33,750
Monthly finance from £420

Porsche’s smallest car is also one of its best, with blistering performance no matter which option you go for. There’s a 2.0-litre model that makes 300hp or a 2.5-litre model with 350hp.

Both engines are massively fast, although the change to four-cylinders from six-cylinders in older cars has upset some Porsche fans, but 0-62mph in either 5.1 or 4.6 seconds depending on the engine size is exhilarating.

And as the engine sits behind the driver, and not at the front, there are luggage bays at the nose, and rear of the car, making it pretty practical too.

4. Fiat 124 Spider

Best small sports car for Italian design

Our pick Fiat 124 Lusso or Abarth 124
Used deals from £13,999
Monthly finance from £240

The Fiat 124 Spider shares a platform with the Mazda MX-5 on this list, and is even made on the same production line in Japan.

Where the 124 differentiates itself is the styling and the engine choice. The Fiat is an altogether better looking effort, with a sleeker profile.

It also uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that generates 140hp, but if you spend a bit more and go for the suped-up Abarth version, you get a whopping 170hp, and a 0-62mph time on a par with the Mazda MX-5. Choosing between the MX-5 and the 124 mostly depends on how you prefer your engine, normally aspirated, or turbocharged.


5. BMW M2

Best small sports carfor power

Our pick BMW M2 Competition Pack
Used deals from £33,699
Monthly finance from £351

It’s a sleek looking thing, the BMW M2. It’s the smallest car in BMW’s M range of performance cars, but don’t think that means it's lacking in the power department.

The 410hp twin-turbo straight-six is a detuned version found in the bigger BMW M3 and M4, meaning that the M2 is still furiously quick, despite its relatively small stature - 0-62mph takes just 4.4 seconds.

While some hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R may be just as fast, and cheaper, the M2 is much more fun to pilot because of its engaging chassis and rear-wheel-drive setup.


6. Alpine A110

Best small sports car for retro styling

Our pick Alpine A110 Legende

You’re forgiven for not knowing much about Alpine. This is the company’s first car since 1995, and it’s a belter.

Its of similar stature to the Porsche 718, but it’s a piece of French design and all the more cool for it. After all, it apes the original Alpine A110 of the Sixties that proved so popular in rallying, and that is one of the coolest cars ever made.

While it may have a modest 1.8-litre engine, it does make 252hp, which feels even faster in comparison to rivals because the Alpine is so light. It was designed to be the lightest in its class, and is some 300KG (give or take) less than a Porsche 718.


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