Best cars for drivers

Looking for the perfect ‘driver’s car’? From sports cars to hot hatches, we have performance covered

Chris Rosamond
Nov 4, 2021

Amongst all the traffic congestion, increasingly high-tech speed regulation and driver-aiding technology that comes with driving in current times, the appeal of a high-power, blisteringly-fast performance car still appeals to many drivers.

Although emission regulations and fuel economy are often the main priority when car makers bring a new model into the market, there are still plenty of cars that focus primarily on delivering sheer thrills. You can even choose from just about any variation, too, ranging from multi-million-pound exotic hypercars, supercars and super sports cars, through to SUVs, saloons, hot hatchbacks and even city cars.

In fact, thanks to the rise of the fully-electric car, you can enjoy extreme performance mixed with zero emissions. The new Tesla Model S Plaid is a great example of this with its eye-watering 0-60mph time of 1.99 seconds and 200mph top speed.

Meanwhile, here in the golden years of petrol and diesel engines - with new petrol and diesel cars set to be banned from 2030 - there’s plenty of more traditional high-performance cars to enjoy for all budgets. So with enthusiastic drivers in mind, we’ve rounded up a few of the great performance car offers that have caught our eye.

No matter what shape of car you may seek, our selection provides food for thought for anyone who puts driving fun near the top of their car shopping requirements.

So read on for a taste of the driving delights on offer here at BuyaCar, then use our comprehensive search features to home in on the model that’s right for you. Click on the button above to start your search now. Happy hunting!

The best cars for drivers

1. Ford Fiesta ST

Ford Fiesta ST front three quarters view

Used deals from £14,600
Monthly finance from £293*

The Ford Fiesta ST combines real driving thrills and hatchback practicality in an affordable package that’s a worthy successor to multiple generations of former fast Fords. Grab a nearly-new version of the latest ST and you’ll find a rorty and efficient three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that packs awesome mid-engine-speed punch and sounds great.

Sporty drivers will also enjoy steering that turns keenly into corners, roadholding that’s beautifully balanced and tenaciously grippy, plus responsive brakes and a slick gearshift. With nearly 200hp to play with acceleration is impressive too. A 6.5-second 0-62mph time may not sound that extreme, but the muscle on offer at high engine speeds means there are few cars for the money that will keep up with a committed Fiesta ST driver on a challenging road.

Currently available new in three-and five-door variants, and in ST-2 and ST-3 trim levels, we’d pick the mid-range ST-2 as the best value option. It comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, superb Recaro sports seats, 17-inch alloys and projector headlamps amongst a long list of goodies. Nearly new examples start at well under £300 per month here on BuyaCar making them an affordable prospect.


2. Toyota GT86

Used deals Limited stock

After having a bit of a hiatus to focus more on its rapidly expanding hybrid range, Toyota returned to the world of sports cars in 2012 with the GT86. Its lightweight body, revvy engine and precise steering proved a recipe for sheer driving enjoyment.

While the GT86 is admittedly one of the slowest-accelerating cars on this list, it is still very worthy of consideration if what you seek is a car that can easily put a massive smile on your face. With rear-wheel-drive and a punchy ‘Boxer’ engine, the GT86 is enormously fun to maneuver down a twisty A or B road. You could even take it to a track and enjoy this car’s eagerness to drift - just be prepared to pay for new tyres when you’re done.

Although this sporty Toyota is classed as a 2+2 - in which it has four seats - the rear is very cramped so it is better to think of this as a two-seater. Make no mistake, the GT86 is not intended to be a practical car, but even still, it comes with a pretty decent 237-litre boot - certainly enough for the weekly shop.

The GT86 is still available brand new although its replacement, the GR86, is due to arrive soon. While this is a fairly exclusive car, there are a fair amount of used examples available for under £25,000 on BuyaCar. Alternatively, the GT86’s sister car, the Subaru BRZ, can be found for less. The BRZ is a much rarer car, though, so be prepared for a longer search.


3. Jaguar XE AWD

Used deals from £18,980
Monthly finance from £0*

You could be predictable and pick an Audi A4 with 'quattro' four-wheel drive as your family-friendly sports saloon, but if you want a bit more exclusivity, why not look at Jaguar’s smallest sports saloon instead? The stylish Jaguar XE was facelifted in 2019 and gained much-needed improvements to the onboard media systems, which make it a much more appealing machine.

Pick the 2.0-litre diesel with the all-wheel-drive option and you’ll get an economical and capable high-speed cruiser that’s great fun to drive thanks to a setup that balances decent agility around corners with good comfort levels, along with the added benefit of extra sure-footedness in wintry weather.

A year-old diesel XE could be yours for under £21,000 in R-Sport trim which includes leather seats, a big touchscreen and alloy wheels.

Compared to some of its German rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, this definitely feels like a lot of car for the money. No, this isn't the fastest car you can get on this budget, but it's still a satisfying machine to drive if you need a practical four-door saloon.


4. Volkswagen Golf R Estate

Used deals from £22,250
Monthly finance from £0*

While hot hatchbacks are designed to combine everyday usability with a sporty look and feel, many drivers with a taste for performance need even greater practicality. That’s where sporty estate cars come in, and one of the best all-round packages is the wagon version of the Volkswagen Golf R.

The Golf R hatchback is conservatively styled and so something of a ‘sleeper’. With almost 300hp under your right foot, its 0-62mph acceleration is fast enough to see off most traffic-light rivals. It’s got loads of grip thanks to a four-wheel-drive setup, while the seven-speed automatic gearbox offers relaxed motorway cruising with the option to control shifts manually when you want to be more involved by using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The icing on the cake is a spacious boot that gives you 1,620 litres of load space with all the seats folded down. That means tonnes of room whether you need to cram in pushchairs, flat-pack furniture, mountain bikes or any other load. Express deliveries, anyone?


5. Cupra Ateca

Used deals Limited stock

The Cupra Ateca is an aggressively-styled high-riding SUV with a punchy turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine offering 300hp. That’s enough muscle to rocket you to 62mph in 5.2 seconds, and on to a 152mph top speed - performance figures that were unheard of in a family SUV until relatively recent times.

The Ateca also boasts a pleasingly unhinged character thanks to a crackling and popping exhaust, and the option of rapid manual gear changes via the paddles on the steering wheel connected to a fast-changing automatic gearbox. Just remember that the Cupra Ateca - also sold previously as the Seat Ateca Cupra - has an engine, gearbox and four-wheel drive system that is closely related to the Golf R Estate above, though the Golf is faster and offers a bigger boot.

Take it easy with the Cupra Ateca and this wild machine reverts to a sensible family runabout, offering comfort and space for five. As the Cupra Ateca hasn't been around for that long, prices aren't as low as with some of the other cars on our list. Again, the Golf R Estate may come to the rescue here, with more affordable used models available.


6. Nissan 370Z

Used deals Limited stock

The Nissan 370Z often gets overlooked by keen drivers focusing on the much pricier and more exotic GT-R coupe, but it's one of the few affordable new cars that truly engages the person behind the wheel in the driving process.

Once you’ve fallen for its hunched and aggressive exterior style, the slightly dated feel of the interior can be excused as pleasingly ‘retro’. It has a definitely sporty ambience too, with the tight-fitting cabin boasting low-slung but comfortable seats and a well-placed grippy steering wheel.

Power comes from a hefty 3.7-litre six-cylinder engine which gives the 370Z a real ‘muscle car’ feel compared to the typically smaller engines in sports cars launched more recently than the 370Z. Rivals may be lighter on their feet and more relaxing to drive, but the Z is great fun to hustle even if it requires a bit more work from the driver. It’s not short of go either, with 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds for the standard car and 5.1 seconds for the popular Nismo version which has bigger wheels and a few high-performance tweaks.

The 370Z is not the most relaxing or practical of sports cars, with plenty of exhaust and tyre noise and a compromised boot, but that’s all part of the fun, with this old-school machine. In terms of bang-for-your-buck, the 370Z makes a great used buy.


7. Porsche Cayman/Boxster

Used deals Limited stockUsed deals from £38,989
Monthly finance from £0*

You can’t talk about performance cars without mentioning Porsche, so what can you get for up to around £40,000 that wears this renowned badge? We’ll, we’ve got a dozen or so examples of the smallest Porsche SUV, the Macan, with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine or a more muscular 3.0-litre diesel motor.

However, for the best Porsche driving experience, we'd recommend the Cayman coupe and Boxster roadster models, available from £35,000. That’s enough for a 2017 four-cylinder 2.0-litre Boxster automatic.

This option should provide driving thrills aplenty for enthusiastic drivers with a low-slung driving position, precise steering and agile handling around corners. However, If you don’t mind investing a bit more into one of these dreamy cars, the 2.0-litre

Cayman manual is often held up as one of the best sporting drives available anywhere at any price, so that's where our money would go.

8. Tesla Model 3

Used deals from £46,495
Monthly finance from £0*

Who says high-performance cars have to come with high tailpipe emissions? Not Tesla. The Model 3 is the third Tesla model (disregarding previous models made jointly with Lotus) and potentially the most significant, as it’s pitched directly at more affordable, but still desirable models such as BMW 3 Series. Priced accordingly, you can order a new Model 3 from £40,990, with the top spec Performance model costing around £60,000.

However, if you can’t wait to get a car with the instant punch of an electric motor - or you simply want a more affordable one - fear not, as we have a handful of Model 3s for sale right now. Yes, these desirable machines aren't super cheap, however, you can expect to cut your fuel bills dramatically compared with a similarly fast petrol or diesel car.

A used Model 3 can prove to be very good value for a sleek and great driving upmarket machine with a comfortable 200-mile+ electric range that is capable of a 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds and a 140mph top speed. It’s a tempting foretaste of the good things coming down the line for used car buyers, and Model 3s will only get more affordable over the coming months and years as more new ones are sold.


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