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
Mar 14, 2022

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 or even hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy, and then another ten thousand pounds each year to run thanks to extortionate insurance premiums and tax costs, not to mention the amount of fuel they get through, especially if you're driving with exuberance.

Based on those ideals, you're probably thinking a sports car is something you'll never be able to own. It would be 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, but we're firmly of the belief that you should never say never.

Because it's actually very possible to buy a car that can give you a very similar feeling for cheaper than you might think. While an Aston Martin might be out of the question, there are less expensive alternatives on the market that cost around the same as a normal family car in some cases.

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

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv-G
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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.

For a similar package with Italian design, the elegant Fiat 124 Spider (and the hardcore Abarth version) were built on the same production line as the MX-5. Both got a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, with the Abarth version bringing 170hp and lots and lots of noise.


2. Toyota GT86

Best small sports car for reliability

Our pick Toyota GT86 2.0 Pro
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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
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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. Audi TT

Best small sports car for a luxury interior

Audi TT Coupe front three quarters view

Our pick Audi TT 40 TFSI
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Perhaps the first small sports car you’d think of, the Audi TT is still one of the best after over 20 years on sale. The latest version is the most rounded yet, so it’ll put a smile on your face on a winding back road and cruise comfortably on the motorway. Even the lowest powered engine is fast in a straight line, but it will also manage up to 40mpg if you’re trying to eke out more miles to a tank of fuel.

The TT is now only available with petrol engines. We’d argue these suit its sporty nature the best but, if you need the superior fuel economy, there are a few used Audi TT diesels for sale on BuyaCar.

Climb inside the TT and you’ll see why it’s so appealing, with an interior that’s both pared-back and luxurious at the same time. The lack of a central touchscreen makes the cabin feel sporty and focused, but the digital instrument cluster gives you all the information you’ll need - including the display for the sat-nav.


5. BMW M2

Best small sports car for power

Our pick BMW M2 Competition Pack
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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
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You’re forgiven for not knowing much about Alpine. This is the company’s first car since 1995, and it’s a belter.

It's 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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