Old school cars

Fancy a modern car that channels the spirit of a classic sports car, traditional off-roader or retro soft-top? These cars could fit the bill

James Wilson
Mar 21, 2022

Classic cars allow us to look back on yesteryear with rose-tinted glasses. They promise a flavour of the good old days when fuel was cheap and the roads were less busy, but they gloss over the less-good parts such as patchy reliability, poor crash test safety and a complete lack of modern comforts such as Bluetooth.

Old school cars, however, can channel much of this feel, without you having to miss out on modern reliability, safety and technology. When considering what qualifies as an old school car there are a number of different characteristics that spring to mind. A big powerful engine sending power to the rear wheels is one classic recipe, as is a light sports car with nimble handling that makes driving along a twisty road brilliant fun.

Although old school cars may sell in lower numbers than some contemporary alternatives, they do have a number of advantages. Take residual values, for example - how much value a car retains as it gets older; some old school models lose value incredibly slowly, which means that they can offer surprisingly low monthly payments on PCP finance, as what the car is worth at the end of the contract is just as important in calculating the monthly payments as the initial price.

Additionally, driving an old school car can mean being behind the wheel of something that stands out compared with most modern cars, which often look very similar. So, if you'd like a car that stands out from the crowd, then one of the models below could be just the ticket.

Expect to pay somewhere between £10,000 (or around £175 per month) and £30,000 (or around £525 per month) with used versions of the models below. Some are available to buy new, but this will generally mean that you have to pay more.

Old school cars

1. BMW M140i

Our pick BMW M140i automatic 3dr
Used deals Limited stock

When looking for an old school fast hatchback, the BMW M140i is in a class of its own. To give you the highlights, it is rear-wheel-drive - a feature normally associated with traditional sports cars than a hatchback - incredibly powerful and features subtly sporty styling.

In fact, the visual differences between the standard BMW 1 Series and the M140i are so subtle some will be hard pushed to tell the difference. Once they hear the oversized 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine - another feature normally associated with older high-performance cars rather than modern cars that often feature downsized engines to maximise fuel economy - there will be no confusion, though.

The old school vibe continues in the cabin, with its low-slung driving position - another trademark sports car feature. Sitting in some cars that have massive media system displays can feel like a trip to an IMAX, but the M140i uses a more well-proportioned system. Of the two systems BMW offers in this version of the 1 Series, it is the 8.8-inch ‘Professional’ navigation system that stands out as the best option - it's easy to use, has a large, clear display and its high position minimises the time you need to look away from the road.


2. Suzuki Jimny

Our pick Suzuki Jimny 1.5 SZ4 ALLGRIP
Used deals from £21,413
Monthly finance from £310*

Back in the day, an off-roader was designed to, erm, go off-road. Now, however, high-riding SUVs that look like off-roaders are primarily designed for road driving, with some of them doing without four-wheel drive or any all-terrain capability. However, the Suzuki Jimny stays true to the proper off-roader format, thanks to a heavy-duty four-wheel-drive system, good ground clearance - which helps you to avoid scraping the bottom of the car when off-road - and small overhangs, which mean you're very unlikely to bash the front or rear of the car when on rough terrain.

The Jimny is also one of the coolest-looking cars regardless of price. Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but both inside and out the small Suzuki looks distinctly old school. There are a handful of drawbacks to be aware of, though. Take the boot, it is tiny and not just by small SUV standards but by two-seater sports car standards, though you can at least fold the rear seats down for much more loading room.

Another plus point for the Jimny is that it is holding its value exceptionally well. This means that the initial price may be quite high, but you should be able to benefit from low PCP finance monthly payments or the prospect of getting a large amount of your initial spend back when you come to sell it on, if you buy it outright to begin with.


3. Ford Fiesta ST

Our pick Ford Fiesta 1.5 ST-2
Used deals from £14,750
Monthly finance from £241*
Hot hatchbacks are very popular in the UK. When they first started arriving in the 1980s, these lightweight but speedy cars promised to bring fun to the masses by being relatively affordable, relatively practical and very exciting to drive on faster roads. Today, few cars embody this quite as well as the Ford Fiesta ST.

Both the current and previous generation Fiesta STs are utterly brilliant fun to drive, but the newer model - which was launched in 2018 - has slightly more grown-up styling, is more comfortable and has better in-car tech, such as a slick central touchscreen media system. The older model, meanwhile - which was launched in 2013 - is, if anything, even more engaging to drive, offering a more old school feel, as there's less technology to distract you from the process of driving.


4. Fiat 500C

Our pick Fiat 500C 1.0 MHEV Lounge
Used deals from £8,390
Monthly finance from £165*

The original Fiat 500 was first launched all the way back in 1957 and has become one of the chicest classic cars of all time. This is partly due to its ‘sardine’ roof which is basically a fabric roof that opens like a sardine tin. Flash forward to the 21st century and there is still the option of a Fiat 500 with a folding fabric roof, although it is badged as the 500C.

In general, the 500 has a charming simplicity to it and a retro vibe inside and out. Many of its small car competition (such as the Skoda Citigo, Kia Picanto and Peugeot 108) are simple, but none are as stylish as the Fiat. As the 500C has been on sale for more than a decade, there are plenty of second-hand models to choose from. You'll want to choose a 'TwinAir' turbocharged two-cylinder petrol version if you're after an old school thrum from under the bonnet.


5. Ford Mustang

Our pick Ford Mustang Fastback 5.0 V8 GT automatic
Used deals from £30,900
Monthly finance from £560*

The Ford Mustang has all the hallmarks of an old school American muscle car; compared to the majority of engines used in British cars, a 5.0-litre engine is huge. It also sounds fantastic, with a deep exhaust note, which is characteristic for a V8 engine - a type of engine that is becoming less and less common as ever more cars move to smaller engines for greater fuel economy. It produces a substantial 450hp, which means it's seriously quick, too.

Then there is the driving experience, which again harks back to simpler times in that the suspension isn’t rock-hard like a lot of modern-day performance cars. While the suspension is comfortable, it is still capable of keeping the Mustang stable when driving quickly. The interior hammers home the Mustang’s muscle car roots, thanks to a big round gear knob in manual versions, large front seats and a dashboard that looks similar to the original Mustang’s.


6. Mazda MX-5

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav
Used deals from £16,500
Monthly finance from £264*

The Mazda MX-5 is the most popular sports car of all time. The latest generation arrived in 2015 and won the hearts of many drivers thanks to its smart styling, brilliant handling and punchy engines. Even so, if finances allow, we would recommend a post-2018 2.0-litre model as the MX-5 was updated in 2018 and the 2.0-litre engine received a useful boost in power. If money is tight, then an older 1.5-litre model is a great option as this engine is zesty and suits the MX-5’s fun nature - it's not the fastest car, but this engine is very enjoyable to work hard.

In terms of sports cars, the MX-5 isn’t all that fast in a straight line - regardless of the engine. What makes the MX-5 shine, is that it manages to be more fun than rivals promising more speed - this is down to it being so light, a feature more associated with classic cars than modern cars that have to meet tough safety standards and provide more and more in-car features.

Mazda also includes a good helping of standard equipment - such as a media system in the centre of the dashboard. Most models come with a touchscreen display but early SE models use a more basic button-operated system. We’d recommend spending a bit extra on a model with the better touchscreen setup, though.



7. Land Rover Defender

Our pick Land Rover Defender 3.0 D250 X-Dynamic SE
Used deals from £53,995
Monthly finance from £794*

Much like the Suzuki Jimny, the Land Rover Defender is an off-road vehicle that can actually go off-road. The latest version was launched in 2020 and had some almighty shoes to fill. The reason being, the old Defender was hugely iconic thanks to its long life, being sold over many decades, its boxy styling and hardcore off-road mechanical parts, plus the fact it featured in films such as James Bond: Skyfall, Rambo: Last Blood and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Away from the big screen, there was an issue: old Defenders were hard work to drive. The latest Defender fixes this while managing to keep its rugged side and old school feel. There are 90 and 110 versions to choose from - 90 models are shorter and only have two side doors, while the 110 is longer and has two more doors, making it more practical and much more spacious inside. The interior mixes modern comforts with an old school off-roader feel very well, with the chunky gear knob and touchscreen media system contrasting well against each another.


8. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer

Our pick Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer 1.2 PureTech 130 Sense EAT8
Used deals from £15,500
Monthly finance from £268*

What is a people carrier doing in a countdown of old school cars, especially one named 'SpaceTourer', which makes it sound more like a futuristic UFO than an old school car? Well, people carriers have been around for decades, designed to offer maximum practicality for passengers and luggage. However, SUVs are more popular with many drivers after a large car these days, making people carriers the old school option for carrying lots of people.

Today, no car is truer to this school of thinking than the Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer. Plus, Citroen prioritises comfort over sportiness - another traditional value that seems to be less and less common with modern cars, as manufacturers try to make even the most mundane cars sporty.

The big Citroen is a seven-seater with reasonably spacious rearmost seats, though these are better suited to children and shorter people, rather than taller adults. It is comfortable to drive and when paired with one of Citroen’s frugal diesel engines, it shouldn’t cost too much to run. The small 1.2-litre petrol engine has plenty of power for town driving and the odd motorway run, too.


*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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