Having a sports car doesn’t have to break the bank. Here is our choice of the 10 best affordable sports cars
The choice of sports cars at the accessible end of the spectrum has never been greater, each offering emotions that match and, in some cases, exceed those of their most expensive peers.
It’s not just about brake power at this end of the market: most cars on our top 10 list put driver entertainment ahead of straight performance. But we guarantee that each one will put a big smile on your face in one way or another.
1. Alpine A110
Every significant part of the Alpine A110’s driving experience – from the harsh turbocharged torque of its engine to the hilarious and engaging posture of its handling – is all about the F word: fun. He gives life to journeys and roads that his rivals would not, and he has a handling by which his affection can only grow as you explore him more closely.
Anatomy the car and you won’t find many mechanical ingredients or areas that you could really call exceptional; but put them all together and you can’t help but conclude that the A110 is a much bigger car – and an achievement – than the sum of its parts would suggest. The subsequent arrival of the A110 S only confirmed this, which saw the car’s power go up to 288bhp and a firmer suspension and larger brakes installed; however, it is the basic A110 that remains the sweetest and most engaging machine for driving on the road.
Rarely does a car appear so dedicated to driver involvement and so singularly effective at it, even among affordable sports cars; the last time was probably the Toyota GT86 in 2012, a car to which we also gave a five-star recommendation for its supreme aptitude for the purpose of sucking the marrow every kilometer. The A110 is faster, more agile, effusive and, ultimately, even more fun. It deserves no less than a standing ovation.
2. Porsche 718 Boxster & Cayman
Even with its reduced four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine, the 718 is by far the most complete mid-engined sports car on sale. Concerns about how the car’s crank is turning have been expressed in many quarters since 2016, and have now been persuasive enough that Porsche has returned a six-cylinder engine to this car for high-end GTS versions. But, whether it is equipped with a four- or six-cylinder engine, have no doubts: the Boxster and Cayman have always been, and continue to be, excellent sports cars.
The four cylinders 2.0 and 2.5 turbo flat fours that came into service in the car in 2016 attracted particular criticism for sounding without tonality; due to lack of smoothness, sharpness of response, linearity and operating range; and also falling short of the purist driver appeal typically associated with Porsche. Later, Porsche re-tuned the car’s 2.0-liter engine to comply with WLTP emissions and launched the Boxster and Cayman T – whose lack of response worsened a controversial situation.
However, in one of the industry’s most unexpected twists in recent memory, in 2019 Porsche reintroduced a naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine. It’s an excellent engine by any standard, although the long-range manual gearbox he partnered with doesn’t make it as good as it should.
Practical, sophisticated, excellent handling, always engaging to drive and quite fast even in the form of four cylinders, the 718 has it all – and it takes a car with unique dynamic brilliance to overcome it.
3. BMW M2 Competition
The BMW M2 Competition was the only M2 model that you could buy here in Britain until the recent introduction of the Extra-special M2 CS. Neither of them will have much uptime until BMW finishes production of the M2 later this year. When that happens, what later became one of the best M cars in recent years, will sadly leave the stage. The previous model of a single inline six-cylinder turbo was replaced by a double inline six-cylinder turbocharged with Division M ‘S’ -prefixed engine code itself in 2018, when the M2 competition was unveiled. Although slightly out of tune with the larger M3 and M4 models that shared it, the engine provided considerable increases in performance and responsiveness for the M2, while a handful of chassis and suspension adjustments mean that it is now even more crisp and more controlled on battered UK roads than ever before. The heavy steering allows you to point the nose of the car into a curve with confidence, and handling is extremely adjustable on the accelerator as well.
When the BMW M introduced the M2 CS in late 2019, it applied a radical makeover to its smallest model for the first time. The CS also became the first M2 with adaptive cushioning, the first with ‘cup’ tires, and the power soared to 444 horsepower. The car is a true oppressor full of muscle car attitude and has supreme handling intelligence on the track – but it is very expensive and, while attractive, it is not the fluent and versatile performance car on the road that it would need to be to propel BMW on top of this. graphic.
4. Toyota GR Supra
Was the Toyota Supra the most anticipated new car of 2019? Very likely. After an absence of about two decades, Toyota’s iconic sports car has finally returned to the UK. But were it not for a collaboration with BMW – from which the new Z4 was also generated – it is likely that this icon would never have been reborn. As such, beneath the Supra’s impressive exterior, you will find an engine, platform, transmission, sliding differential, electricity and many distribution panels, all distinctly of Bavarian origin.
And yet, when it comes to driving, Supra manages to sculpt its own distinct dynamic identity. Suspension, steering and differential calibration are exclusive to Supra, so much so that Toyota sees the Porsche 718 Cayman – instead of the Z4 – as its main rival.
Toyota is certainly not pulling its strokes, then. And in many ways, it is the Supra that contributes to the superior sports car. It may not be able to match the purity of handling and balance of the Porsche, but it is not far. Its ride is impressively flexible, its engine is smooth and much more characteristic and it would be much easier to live with it on a daily basis.
For those for whom a price of more than £ 50,000 is a little expensive, however, Toyota recently launched a slightly cheaper version of the four-cylinder and 2.0-liter car, the handling of which may even benefit from the relative lightness of the engine. smaller .
5. Mazda MX-5
There is not a single area in which this new Mazda MX-5 fails to outperform its predecessor. It is shorter, lighter, more spacious and with a better layout. It is clearer, but still disarming and distinct. It’s faster, more economical and even more vibrant and engaging to drive.
In 2018, Mazda revamped its iconic roadster, with the change in headlines being an increase in power of 23 hp for its powerful 2.0-liter engine. A steering column that now also adjusts to reach has also been introduced.
All of that, and yet the MX-5 remains the same vigorous and inimitable car that it was. His character has not changed at all. Nothing on this list offers a better rating in pounds per smile.
6. Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ
It is necessary not only to accept some commitments with the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ developed together, but also, as with a Caterham Seven, to embrace them positively. They make the car what it is.
They are visible, audible and tangible features that serve to remind you that you are driving the sharpest, sharpest, most pleasant and lovable little sports car of a generation.
It is important to note that it is an affordable sports car – one that will not break the bank to run, too – and is a refreshing alternative to the tastes of the Mazda MX-5 for those looking for simple, affordable rear-wheel drive fun.
Production of the first generation GT86 ended in late 2019, and only the last unregistered examples were left in UK showrooms, so act quickly if you’re waiting to buy one.
7. BMW Z4 M40i
In a recent group test, the next-generation BMW Z4 M40i emerged victorious against a lower-class Porsche 718 Boxster T. Although we concluded that, in the final analysis, he was not as composed, incisive or sharp-handling as the elegant Boxster, his refinement, powerful and responsive inline six-cylinder engine and blunt straight rhythm won a lot of affection from our testers. The fact that he also has a distinct sense of street fighter character also weighs heavily in favor of BMW.
That said, the 718’s high-end varieties still provide a more pure and attractive view of an affordable sports car. And while there is undoubtedly a lot of room for excitement on offer at BMW, as a precision tool it is still not as sharp as some of the smaller and lighter competitors in this class.
8. Lotus Elise Sport
The Lotus Elise is absolutely brilliant to drive if you are in the mood. It has one of the best handling chassis in the world and exquisite steering. But this Lotus is old and can be seen as expensive if you like to judge your cars objectively. 2021 will be the last year of the car on sale, with a special edition ready for its launch.
However, many of Elise’s disadvantages can be ignored when you are involved in the delightfully analog and tactile act of driving it. In essence, the Elise is still magnificent, and it gets better the more sporty the model is.
9. Audi TT
The current Audi TT looks like the answer of a company that has defended a popular car for decades against claims that it has all the style and no substance to be taken seriously by really interested drivers. This is how it feels because it has sharp handling responses and a lightness in its feet that eluded its ancestors, as well as a range of powerful engines.
Those who want usable fun with a dose of premium design fascination, delivered at a reasonable budget, should probably consider the 306bhp TT S first, which uses the same four-wheel drive power train as the excellent VW Golf R hot hatchback, but it is considerably shorter and thinner. Handling is straightforward and fast and high speeds are easy to maintain – although they don’t yet come with direct driver involvement as you would like.
10. Ford Mustang
The most sensible thing to do would be to buy an Audi TT or a BMW 2 Series Coupé, wouldn’t you say? And if I did, it would be a great shame.
Yes, this car has significant disadvantages in the UK. Yes, you have to think twice about where you will park in the city, as well as consider the far greater number of visits to the fuel pump than your colleagues do, but no other car at that price – or at several higher point prices – can do what the Mustang does.
Its powertrain brings with it an appeal that engines with fewer cylinders simply cannot, and the inherent balance of the chassis is very beautiful. Damn sensitive.