Cheap sports cars

Don't be fooled into thinking that sports cars are only for those with money to burn. Here are nine, top-value, great fun options

Simon Ostler
Apr 30, 2020

What is a sports car? Does it need to have sporty looks? Does it need to be fast? Does it need to be really loud? Have a folding roof? Well...it's hard to say for sure, since every driver looks for different elements in a sports car, but for certain a sports car should be engaging to drive.

Most people use 'sports car' to refer to sleek, low-slung two-door models - either with a fixed roof or a convertible folding roof arrangement - that are fun to drive. So that's what we're focusing on here. 

Not all sports cars are super-fast, but they need to offer a good mix of speed, fun and noise to make you want to pick up the keys and go for a drive. We've picked eight cars that absolutely meet those criteria, providing behind-the-wheel excitement - and all for a low price or monthly payment. 

You might think that sports cars are pretty expensive to buy, and that can be true, especially if you're looking at brand new cars. But there are plenty of much more affordable options available on the used car market, and BuyaCar has thousands of offers on used cars that provide all the driving thrills you're after at a fraction of the original price. Click on the button above to find the best great value sports car for you.

Best cheap sports cars

1. Mazda MX-5

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav

No sports car list would be complete without the Mazda MX-5. This little bundle of joy has been proving that you don’t need huge engines, or huge amounts of money, to have a huge amount of fun since 1989.

The latest generation model was introduced in 2015, and we're looking at the particularly enticing Sport trim. While you get plenty of up-to-date equipment including a seven-inch touchscreen media system, cruise control, sat-nav and rear parking sensors, you can also get the 2.0-litre, 160hp petrol engine, which punt it from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds.

It's certainly not crazy fast but you can use this power on real roads without worrying about getting a speeding ticket every time you accelerate and it's difficult to find anything else that would offer the same thrills for this kind of cost. And that's really what the Mazda MX-5 is all about - you're sat low to the ground, the roof comes down and the road becomes your playground.

This particular model received some updates in 2019, bringing new trim levels to the table and giving more power to the 2.0-litre engine, but you can expect to pay upwards of  for a used Sport Nav+ model, so stick with older models for maximum fun-per-pound.

2. Toyota GT86

Our pick Toyota GT 86 2.0 D-4S
Used deals from £14,569
Monthly finance from £206

The Toyota GT86 is the best car to drive on this list, and it will more than likely go down as one of the finest small sports cars to ever exist. That's because it's small, lightweight, engaging to drive - and crucially, affordable too.

As soon as you sit in the low-slung driver's seat, you know that the GT86 means business. It’s often referred to as an old-school car by enthusiasts. What they’re referring to is the simple set up of a small sports car with its engine up front, sending power to the rear wheels.

It’s a riot in which to zoom down a B-road because the setup is so engaging - the steering is precise and satisfyingly heavy in your hands, the throttle responds quickly to your inputs and it darts around corners with real agility. The 2.0-litre engine produces 200hp - which isn't much in the 2020s - but the key thing is that like the MX-5 you can use most of this power, most of the time, making it an exciting car to drive, without ever feeling scary.

3. Peugeot RCZ

Our pick Peugeot RCZ R
Used deals Limited stock

It’s stunning isn’t it? When the Peugeot RCZ came onto the scene in 2010 its sharp looks were enough to frighten the likes of Audi and Mercedes.

Available in petrol and diesel guises, the RCZ was mechanically based on the Peugeot 308 - a vehicle that is very much not a sports car. But it wasn’t all bark with no bite.

For true sports car thrills, go for the most powerful RCZ-R model. At the time, it was the most powerful engine Peugeot had put into a road car, and with 266hp it could keep going to 155mph. Unlike some cars in this list, the Peugeot is front-wheel drive, meaning that the front wheels are used for both steering and transmitting power to the road, so if you accelerate too hard around corners, the front of the car can slide wide. The RXZ-R is so well engineered, though, this is rarely a problem with this car.

There aren't many of these around nowadays, so you'll have to get lucky to pick one up at a good price, but it'll be worth the search if you can find one.

4. Renault Megane Renaultsport

Our pick Renault Megane Renaultsport 265
Used deals Limited stock

Some may say that this bonkers Renault Megane is a hot-hatchback rather than an out-and-out sports car. Maybe they're right, but we question why it can't be both.

A hot-hatch refers to a car that’s both fast and usable every day with a practical hatchback boot. Renault classes the catchily titled Renault Megane Renaultsport as a 'coupe' - which is more marketing than fact - but get behind the wheel and you'll be convinced that it can be classed as a sports car.

The badge doesn’t have the cachet of BMW or Mercedes-Benz, but this Renault does have power on its side. With 265hp under your right foot, it can sprint to 62mph in six seconds. Being a hatchback, it’s also pretty practical, and has seats in the rear that can be used regularly, rather than just for short journeys.

If you do have a bit of cash to burn, the newer Renault Megane R.S. was launched in 2018 with 280hp and offers better handling. It's an absolute blast to drive, but prices start from £21,990, so you couldn't really call it cheap just yet.

5. Audi TT

Our pick Audi TT 1.8 TFSi S-Line
Used deals from £10,965
Monthly finance from £203

The Audi TT is mechanically very similar to the Volkswagen Scirocco further down this list. The biggest differences are the styling and the interior. On the outside, the Audi is much more aggressive, befitting of its sporting nature. And on the inside, the interior feels oh-so-stylish - it really is just as impressive inside as out.

In terms of performance, the 1.8-litre petrol version of the TT produces 180hp and can get from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds - more than fast enough on every day roads. We've gone for the 1.8-litre because it is the cheapest option and although 2.0-litre variants offer an extra 50hp, this is sometimes too much for the front tyres to cope with - unless you track down a more expensive Quattro all-wheel drive version. 

We would recommend seeking out higher-specification S-Line models. These would have cost the original owner significantly more than the entry-level Sport when new, but the difference in value after several years is negligible.

6. Mini JCW

Our pick Mini Hatchback 2.0 John Cooper Works
Used deals from £15,490
Monthly finance from £234

The Mini Hatchback has always been fun to drive, but when it was re-imagined in 2015 as the John Cooper Works model it became an entirely different beast. A few styling changes on the outside gave the JCW a distinct appearance, building on the sporty nature of the Cooper S but adding a more aggressive front end, a rear spoiler and JCW badging. 

More substantial changes were made under the bonnet however. Power was bumped up to 231hp meaning 0-62mph can happen in a rapid 6.3 seconds. A very angry-sounding sports exhaust was added to so you get a gnarly soundtrack to go with the alarming performance. Yes, this is a hatchback, like the Renault above, but in the same vein, it feels far more sporty than that from behind the wheel.

Being a sports-oriented model, the Mini John Cooper Works comes with a firm ride thanks to stiff and unforgiving suspension, which is not so great when you're trying to get home from work on a busy motorway, but rather excellent if you're ready for play time along your favourite B-roads. That makes it a sports car in our books.

7. VW Scirocco

Our pick VW Scirocco 2.0 TSI GT
Used deals from £14,490
Monthly finance from £229

Those old enough to remember the Seventies may remember the original Volkswagen Scirocco. It was a sleek coupe built on a Volkswagen Golf platform that remained on sale in one form or another until 1992.

Fast forward a decade or two and Volkswagen resurrected the name for this car. It went off sale in 2018, which makes it a savvy used buy today. We'd recommend a powerful 2.0-litre petrol model in GT trim. Offering 180hp, this can get from 0-62 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is mildly quick without venturing into the high insurance rates and steep price of the Scirocco R model.

If you're after a good quality option with sporty vibes and alternative looks, the Volkswagen Scirocco is a good place to start.

8. Mercedes SLK

Our pick Mercedes SLK 350
Used deals from £11,999
Monthly finance from £180

The SLK joined the scene in 1996, and was renamed the SLC in 2016, though it didn't change that much apart from that. The design is muscular and it looks great from most angles, and the SLK/SLC has a folding metal roof too. This is good for sound insulation, as it’s quieter for the driver in comparison to a traditional canvas roof. It also means you can drop the roof, to enjoy driving on the rare ocassion the sun makes an appearance.

The SLK 350 offers a large petrol engine that provides plenty of power and sounds good, but if you want your cheap sports car to have cheap fuel bills, then check out the diesel option - the 250CDI. It’s economical and capable of getting close to 55mpg.

 

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