Fast old cars

Want to look cool in an old car which is seriously quick? These fast older cars could give you much more power per pound than you expect

James Wilson
Aug 31, 2021

Looking for a fast older car but don’t know where to turn? That's not surprising, as there are so many different types of high-performance cars to choose from. At one end of the spectrum, there are small, lightweight cars that come alive when accelerating and cornering, zipping around with agility that larger, heavier cars can't match. However, this type of car often comes with firm suspension that can shake occupants about when driving on rough roads.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are large, luxurious cruisers that hide their sense of speed behind plush seats, plenty of sound deadening and comfortable suspension. Then there are all the cars that nestle in between, striking a balance between pace and usability. Having such a wide range of fast old cars may make choosing one a little more difficult, but it means that everyone from sensible family drivers who want something speedy to single people after the fastest car for their money can find the perfect vehicle.

Whenever the word ‘old’ crops up in car conversations some people start worrying about reliability and running costs. Yes, the likelihood is that older cars will cost more to run but because of this, they are much more affordable to start with. In the case of fast old cars, these models tend to be more rare and desirable so they often hold onto their value quite well and you should be able to get more of your money back when you come to sell. In short, buying a well looked after second-hand quick car might not cost as much overall as you might think.

Below we've rounded up eight of our favourite fast old cars. They range in shape, size and how fast they are but they are all available for less than £30,000 or around £425* per month when financed - in most cases they cost significantly less than this. All the cars below can sprint from 0 to 62mph in less than 8.0 seconds, which is pretty fast. Four of them will do the same sprint in under five seconds, which is modern Porsche territory.

Fast old cars

1. Audi S3

Used deals from £17,499
Monthly finance from £0*
Power 300hp
0 to 62mph 4.8 seconds

If you don't turn the engine on, the Audi S3 might seem very similar to the standard A3 hatchback that it is based on. This means there is a classy interior, upmarket styling and solid build quality. Start the engine and the burbly noise coming from the exhaust suggests this German car has some fire in its belly. Start driving and hit the accelerator with purpose and the punchy engine and four-wheel-drive system - which is standard on all S3 models - will rocket you forwards at serious speed.

From a standstill, the S3 can reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds, which is incredibly fast. As a comparison, the Toyota GT86 coupe - a car designed to be a sports car first and foremost - will do the same sprint in 7.6 seconds. Thanks to four-wheel drive, which provides good grip in wintry conditions and a standard-fit automatic gearbox, the S3 is also very easy to live with all year round. And, as it has five seats and a relatively large boot, it's decently practical, too.


2. Mazda MX-5

Used deals from £9,791
Monthly finance from £0*
Power 158hp
0 to 62mph 7.9 seconds

Mazda’s MX-5 has never been one to shine on paper, as its performance statistics seem modest compared to many fast cars. It takes more than three seconds longer to accelerate to 62mph than the Audi S3 above. However, the MX-5 involves you much more in the process of driving, so it feels quick and is a very satisfying machine to drive - whether you're going fast or slow.

The MX-5 has only two seats, which are mounted very low, making it feel like a true sports car and it's very light, which makes it agile around corners and quick to respond when you press on the throttle and turn the wheel. Considering how light it is, the power from the engine is plenty to get this Japanese convertible flying down the road. The MX-5's compact dimensions also make it easy to judge where the extremities of the body are, which helps you to navigate everything from narrow city streets to tight and twisty lanes.

When it comes to older MX-5s, there's a choice of 2014-2015 models, which are likely to be the last of the third-generation MX-5, which features smoother styling than the current model, which you might prefer. The fourth-generation model - which is pictured above - meanwhile, is smaller and lighter, making it more of a true sports car.


3. Ford Focus ST

Ford Focus ST front three quarters view

Used deals from £10,795
Monthly finance from £0*
Power 185hp
0 to 62mph 8.1 seconds

While there is a petrol Ford Focus ST, here we are homing in on the diesel version. It comes with a 185hp 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces a substantial 400Nm of torque. Torque refers to the low engine speed punch that an engine produces. The more torque an engine offers, the better it should pick up speed without you needing to work the engine hard. This means that while the Focus ST diesel has an unimpressive 0 to 62mph time, it should offer strong overtaking punch - enabling you to effortlessly pass slow-moving traffic.

Although some drivers may be hesitant to get a diesel car (some cities are imposing additional levies on diesel drivers due to environmental concerns over their emissions), motorists who cover more than 15,000 miles or so per year are likely to save money with a diesel model, due to the greater fuel economy compared to a petrol. If you need a more practical fast older car there are also estate versions of the Focus ST, which have a much larger boot, although these are less common and can be more expensive.


4. BMW M235i

Used deals Limited stock
Power 326hp
0 to 62mph 4.8 seconds

If you want an older, fast, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe that is great to drive and easy to live with, then there is one standout option. The BMW M235i (though it's worth keeping an eye out for M240i models, as these are very similar).

This has a large 3.0-litre engine that offers serious muscle and sounds distinctive, as it has six cylinders rather than four, which is what you'd normally expect in a car of this size. So, this compact BMW is not only incredibly fast, but it also sounds much more like a high-end sports car than high-performance hatchbacks like the Audi S3 above, which has a conventional four-cylinder engine.

Another difference is that the M235i sends power to the rear wheels like a traditional sports car, so it provides precise steering and good traction when accelerating. The interior is quintessentially BMW, meaning that it is relatively simple, functional and thanks to the impressively slick 'i-Drive' media system, it is easy to use features such as Bluetooth and to navigate through the car’s settings. Everything feels well built, too.


5. Mercedes-AMG A45

Used deals from £17,495
Monthly finance from £0*
Power 360hp
0 to 62mph 4.6 seconds

If you have a need for speed, the Mercedes-AMG A45 - which is the sportiest version of the third-generation A-Class - could be the answer. On a clear piece of road, it will blast to 62mph from a standstill in well under five seconds. This makes it notably faster than a brand new Porsche 718 Cayman.

One thing that the Mercedes offers that few other hugely fast cars do, is a wide choice of exterior styling - and we aren’t just talking colours here. At one end of the A45 styling scale is a car that looks no more potent than the kind of car a number of pensioners might nip to the garden centre in. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale there are models which would look more at home on the set of a Fast and Furious movie. If having a car that looks fast is important to you then it's worth going for a model with the optional ‘AMG aerodynamic Package’.


6. Ford Fiesta ST

Used deals from £7,989
Monthly finance from £293*
Power 182hp
0 to 62mph 6.9 seconds

The previous-generation Ford Fiesta ST is something of an icon - it's great value and incredible fun to drive. It arrived in 2013 and was on sale for five years. During that time it was praised time and time again for its incredible roadholding, good value and appealing looks. The interior doesn’t measure up against rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo GTI in terms of offering an upmarket feel, but if you want a fun fast and affordable car, the Fiesta ST is a great option.

Being based on the standard Fiesta also meant the ST version was decently practical - though it wasn’t until 2017 that Ford offered a five-door ST. It is safe to say the Fiesta ST was a sales success, too, so there are plenty of models to choose from. Ford offered three trim levels, ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3. The higher the number, the better the specification. ST-3 models come with sat-nav, cruise control and keyless entry, so are really well equipped for an older small car.


7. BMW 335d

Used deals from £16,995
Monthly finance from £0*
Power 313hp
0 to 62mph 4.9 seconds

Not all fast cars are about attacking corners, firm sports suspension and loud exhausts. Some are more grown-up, more suited to effortlessly picking up speed and covering great distances without really breaking a sweat. One such car is the BMW 335d. Put simply, it is a BMW 3 Series with a potent 3.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet. This model has long been used as a police car and that's a great sign of how quick, comfortable and capable - and economical - this machine is.

All 335d models come with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox - both of which help make the 3 Series both easy to drive and incredibly fast - with the four-wheel drive system ensuring that the car doesn't spin the power away when you accelerate hard. If you need plenty of luggage space for dog(s), camping gear or general bric-a-brac, Touring estate models offer extra carrying capacity over the regular saloon versions.


8. Audi SQ5

Used deals from £17,999
Monthly finance from £0*
Power 313hp
0 to 62mph 5.2 seconds

Fast SUVs are becoming increasingly common but one of the oldest is the Audi SQ5. More precisely, the previous-generation Audi SQ5. It is based on the standard Q5 but comes with a large and powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine that delivers acceleration that few would expect from a family SUV. Not that it is always that easy to tell how fast you are going, as the refined interior is very comfortable and well built, so somewhat detaches occupants from the speed.

One of the fast Audi’s biggest strengths is that it is still remarkably comfortable to drive, despite having a more sporty suspension than the standard Q5. Plus, as it has a diesel engine fuel economy is relatively impressive, with an official fuel economy of just over 40mpg - which is very impressive for something so quick and large. All in all, the SQ5 makes a strong case for itself as a fast family car.


*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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