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

Murray Scullion
Aug 29, 2018

Sports cars are tricky to define. Motorsport is a type of sport, but other than that cars aren’t actively used in sports. Unless you count the cars used in cycling events to carry the bikes. But they tend to be Skoda Octavia estates, and they’re definitely not sports cars. But, saying that, the VRS editions are sporty...

You get our point. But, what we can agree on is that sports cars usually have two doors and a low-slung body. They have to have a certain look, and they have to be moderately fast, and fun to drive.

For the purpose of this list we’re only including cars which are a)small, and b) conform to these sports car norms. We’re also adding in a very traditional caveat that the car needs to be rear wheel drive.

Read more about rear-wheel-drive here

Or continue reading to see our list of the best small sports cars.

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

Mazda MX-5

MX-5 Exterior

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0-litre
Latest Mazda MX-5 deals from £10,435
Finance from £167 per month

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 158 bhp. While it’s enough to propel the car from 0-62mph in 7.3 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.
Mazda MX-5 buying guide

Best small sports car for reliability

Toyota GT86

Our pick Toyota GT86 2.0 Pro
Latest Toyota GT86 deals from £12,295
Finance from £190 per month

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 197bhp isn’t exactly slow in a small car either.

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.

Best small sports car for balanced ability

Porsche 718

Our pick Porsche 718 Boxster
Latest Porsche Boxster deals from £33,950
Finance from £529 per month

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 which makes 296bhp or a 2.5-litre model with 345bhp.

Both engines are massively fast, although, the change to four-cylinders from six-cylinders in older cars has upset some Porsche fans.

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.

Best small sports car for Italian design

Fiat 124 Spider

Our pick Fiat 124 Lusso 
Latest Fiat 124 deals from £12,098
Finance from £198 per month

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 in full Abarth spec has 168bhp, and is slightly faster than the MX-5. Choosing between the MX-5 and the 124 mostly depends on how you prefer your engine, normally aspirated, or turbocharged.
Fiat 124 Spider buying guide

Best small sports car for power


Our pick BMW M2 Competition Pack
Latest BMW M2 deals from £29,650
Finance from £361 per month

It’s a sleek looking thing, the 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 365bhp 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.

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.
BMW 2 Series buying guide

Best small sports car for retro styling

Alpine A110

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 249bhp, 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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