Best used cars for petrolheads

From brilliant hot hatches to a lightweight roadster and old school 5.0-litre V8 coupe, here are eight cars that are perfect for petrolheads

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Nov 25, 2021

Petrolheads have never had it so good. Modern performance cars accelerate faster and corner harder than ever before, while being increasingly safe and more efficient too, offering the kind of technology that makes them far easier to live with on a daily basis than the fast cars of old.

The 21st century hot hatchback is a good example. Most are comfortable and economical enough to tackle the daily commute, yet slightly unhinged and exhilarating when you want to let your hair down and blast along a B-road. Anyone who says the hot hatch peaked in the 1980s hasn’t driven one of the latest of the breed.

Beyond that, you can pick and choose from high-performance estate cars with enough power to rival supercars, affordable roadsters with the handling and agility to compete with a six-figure sports car, and high-performance crossovers that put the ‘sport’ into SUV.

We’ve pulled together a list of the best cars to suit a variety of petrolheads. Each one is available second-hand via BuyaCar for far less than the list price and could be delivered to your door with just a few clicks. It couldn’t be easier to get your petrolhead kicks.

Petrolheads cars for sale

1. Ford Fiesta ST

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

The Ford Fiesta ST deserves to be held aloft as one of the world’s greatest hot hatchbacks. Mentioned in the same breath as the first-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI, Peugeot 205 GTI and Renault Clio Williams.

Its 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine provides enough power to propel this tiny tearaway to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds. The optional Performance Pack includes launch control, so you can have fun trying to match the claimed figure.

Torque vectoring and an optional limited-slip differential help the Fiesta ST to get its power down onto the road effectively when exiting a corner, making this an absolute riot on a British B-road. When you’re not ‘on it’, the Fiesta can deactivate one of its cylinders to save fuel. Try doing that in an 80s hot hatchback.


2. Honda Civic Type R GT

Used deals Limited stock

Wandering into a Honda showroom to buy a standard Civic, only to emerge with a Type R, is akin to ordering an M&S cardigan, only to receive something racy from Ann Summers. Both do a job, but one offers more fireworks.

Honda has managed to squeeze 320hp out of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet of this Civic, which is enough to propel the Civic Type R to 62mph in just 5.8 seconds. Keep your foot down, and the car will hit a top speed of 169mph. That's the kind of speed you needed a Porsche or something more exotic to achieve just a few years back.

The Type R has always been the most bonkers model in a group of insanely good hot hatchbacks, but an update in 2020 has made it even better. Highlights include bigger brakes, stiffer suspension and some tweaks to reduce weight. Even the media system has been improved. The best just got better. Even if you can't stretch to a 2020-on model, though, the Civic Type R is still one exciting machine.


3. Mazda MX-5

Used deals from £11,621
Monthly finance from £0*

Not only is the Mazda MX-5 the world’s best affordable sports car, it’s also good enough to rival cars costing significantly more. The fourth-generation MX-5, introduced in 2015, seems to have achieved the impossible, by blending the charm and nimbleness of the original car with everything you’d expect from a modern sports car.

The most affordable version of the current MX-5 is also one of the best. Power is sourced from a revvy 1.5-litre petrol engine producing 132hp. It’s not as quick as the 2.0-litre version, but the six-speed gearbox is so good and the engine so eager, you won’t mind changing up and down gears to get the best from it.

An update in 2019 upped the power of the 2.0-litre to 184hp, making it the engine of choice in the MX-5. It’ll hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds, but it’s the noise the engine makes as it revs to 7,500rpm that will live longest in your memory. If you can justify a two-seater roadster in your life, you should make room for a Mazda MX-5 - whether that's a top value 1.5-litre model or a more hardcore later 2.0-litre model.


4. Toyota GT86

Used deals Limited stock

Cars like the Toyota GT86 are few and far between. It was designed with one thing in mind; to deliver pure driving thrills. It's not the most powerful or quickest coupe you can get, but it’s one of the most agile and rewarding cars on the planet - being lightweight, rear-wheel drive and featuring a turbo-free high-revving petrol engine.

It’s been on sale since 2012, so there should be plenty to choose from on BuyaCar - even if you're on a budget. A 2016 model could be yours for less than the price of a new Ford Fiesta. It will also come with the remainder of Toyota’s five-year warranty. A sports car you can buy with your head and your heart.

The 2.0-litre engine produces ‘just’ 197hp, which might not seem like a lot in an era of hot hatchbacks with 300hp at their disposal. But it’s what the GT86 does with this power that matters. This is a classic front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car that is superb to drive, however fast - or slow - you're driving.


5. Skoda Octavia vRS Estate

Used deals from £14,500
Monthly finance from £487*

A new Skoda Octavia vRS has recently gone on sale, but it will be a while before prices drop to an affordable level. In the meantime, the outgoing Octavia vRS Estate (pictured above) makes a huge amount of sense if you’re after a fast load-lugger. ‘Huge’ being the operative word.

Granted, practicality might be low on your list of priorities when choosing a performance car, but if it helps you to justify the purchase to your family or fleet manager, that’s no bad thing. Just tell them the 640-litre boot is large enough for just about anything you can throw at it, including the kitchen sink.

As for performance, the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 245hp, which is enough to propel the car to 62mph in just 6.6 seconds. It’s the same engine you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but in this package you get much more passenger and boot space and simply more car for your money.


6. Audi RS Q3

Used deals Limited stock

The Audi RS Q3 was one of the first of a new breed of high-performance compact SUVs. It blends the high driving position and practicality of a small SUV, with the speed and acceleration of a sports car. You also get Quattro four-wheel drive for all-weather reassurance.

Launched in 2013, it took a while for prices to drop to an affordable level, but 2015 and 2016 cars are available for nearly half the price of the latest RS Q3. That’s a lot of performance and RS badge pedigree for the money.

The 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet is a modern classic, too. It’s the same one used to power the Audi TT RS and RS3 Sportback, and it will propel the RS Q3 to 62mph in 5.2 seconds. It also makes the best noise this side of a supersized V8.


7. Ford Mustang

Used deals from £28,490
Monthly finance from £0*

As the country prepares for the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, the writing is on the wall for big-engined cars like the Ford Mustang. A large, slightly impractical coupe with a V8 engine is starting to look like a square peg in a round hole.

This is why it’s probably a good idea to live the all-American dream while you still can. Although a 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost version - complete with turbocharger - is available, listen to your heart and opt for the 5.0-litre GT. The noise, the torque, the pace - the V8 Mustang has it all.

There are two versions; a coupe and a convertible. It’s easy to make a case for the drop-top Mustang, not least because you’ll be able to enjoy the soundtrack in all its glory, but it's the coupe that best channels the Mustang's retro vibe. The Mustang is a bargain when new. It’s even more tempting once you’ve looked at the BuyaCar second-hand prices, though.


8. Jaguar F-Type

Used deals from £27,989
Monthly finance from £547*

When we reviewed the Jaguar F-Type at its launch in 2013, we criticised the car for its small boot, expensive list of extra equipment and high running costs. We suspect you’ll be able to live with the boot, while the expensive equipment is a problem for someone else when you’re buying a used F-Type - since no matter how many options the first owner added, you'll only pay a fraction of the premium they did to get the same extras.

The great news is that 2016 examples are available for around half the original price, so the running costs should be less of an issue since you've saved so much to begin with. Besides, if you opt for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, claimed fuel economy is a reasonable 36mpg. It’s still quick enough to hit 62mph in 5.7 seconds, thanks to the 300hp on tap.

Other versions include a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, which sounds notably more dramatic than the 2.0-litre, and a thunderous 5.0-litre supercharged V8, which offers serious muscle. Neither the coupe or convertible are particularity practical, but you’ll soon learn to travel light to be in a car that turns as many heads as this.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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