Best cheap fast cars 2018

Driving thrills on a budget? Look no further than our best cheap fast cars

Sadly, fast, powerful cars are expensive. Most petrolheads drool over ridiculously high-powered supercars or rip-snorting sports cars yet such machinery tends to be far removed from the cars most car fans actually have the budget to buy. Spending thousands upon thousands of Pounds on buying, insuring and maintaining a high performance car is an avenue open to very few of us but the are cheap, fast cars that bring some of the thrill-factor within financial reach.

You could, of course, get around the issue by hunting through the classifieds and buying a used car with big performance but you’ll still be opening yourself up to some sobering insurance, fuel and maintenance bills. Used cars aren’t for everyone anyway and buying a car which might have been thrashed all its life is not a particularly enticing prospect.

• Best supercars

Which is where this list comes in. Below you will find our top 10 best cheap fast cars – a collection of cars that we think offer strong performance, great handling and, for the most part, a lively exhaust note. While they won’t offer you supercar pace, they can provide a whole lot of fun for not a lot of money, either up front or in the long run.

The good news about most cheaper models is that they’re often more practical than the vehicles higher up on the performance tree. They tend to have smaller, less powerful engines, which return better fuel economy and cost much less to tax and insure. Maintenance fees will be lower than on pricey exotic models, and these cars can often be a true daily driver.

Some of our chosen models will suit a track day a bit better than others – the Caterham Seven 160, for example, is a lightweight two-seater sports car with no creature comforts at all. It’s perfect for a weekend drive or track days, but might not be the best car to commute in.

• Bhp bargains: cars with the most power per £

On the other hand, the BMW M5 is perfect for those who want to have a bit of fun on their daily drives. Its lively handling makes it a blast on the road, and with 552bhp available from its 4.4-litre V8 it’s a great choice as a cheap fast car.

Click on the links below or use the navigation pane to the left to see why we’ve selected each of these cheap fast cars.

Best cheap fast carsAudi S5

Price: From £8,000
Engine: 4.2-litre V8
Power/torque: 354bhp/441Nm
0-60mph/top speed: 5.1 secs/155mph

Understated performance is the name of the game for the Audi S5. Only a well-trained eye can tell it apart from a regular A5, but a fantastic 4.2-litre V8 means it’s good for a five-second 0-62mph time. Few cars mix speed and class so well – especially for the money that’ll get you an S5 in decent nick. 

TVR Chimaera

Price: From £11,995
Engine: 4.0-litre V8
Power/torque: 235bhp/366Nm
0-62mph/top speed: 4.8 secs/152mph

The Chimaera was one of the most comfortable and usable TVRs ever, with a boot that could fit two sets of golf clubs. A brace of Rover V8s was offered, but the lower-capacity 4.0-litre is cheaper, with decent cars dipping below £12k. 

Lotus Elise

Model: Lotus Elise 111S (01/51-reg, 57,000 miles)
Price new: £26,590
Now: £13,150
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 143bhp
Economy: 37.2mpg
CO2/tax: 179g/km/£250
Euro NCAP: N/A

It would take a certain disconnect with the real world to want to use a Lotus Elise as your only car, but for something to assist with occasionally blowing away the cobwebs, little else comes close. That’s the case regardless of what age and specification of Elise you choose – but here we’ve opted for a last-of-the-line Series 1 in 111S specification. Using a tuned version of the Rover K-Series engine, this produces a useful 143bhp in a car weighing less than 1,000kg, which is every bit as intoxicating as it sounds. 

Caterham Seven 160

Price: £17,725
Engine: 660cc 3cyl turbo
Power/torque: 79bhp/107Nm
0-62mph/top speed: 6.9 secs/100mph 

This entry-level Caterham is one of the purest driving experiences available. The tiny engine helps to keep the weight down, making for a beautifully balanced sports car. It’s such fun, who cares that the cabin is pared back to the basics? 

Porsche 911

Model: Porsche 911 Carrera S (06/56-reg, 79,000 miles)
Price new: £65,860
Now: £19,990
Engine: 3.8-litre 6cyl, 355bhp
Economy: 24.6mpg
CO2/tax: 277g/km/£555
Euro NCAP: N/A

With prices of air-cooled 911s still increasing, it falls to the later water-cooled models to provide used buyers with a vaguely affordable way into this legendary car. Of those, arguably none offers quite such good value for money as a 997 Carrera S, which can now be picked up for less than £20,000. You’ll get sensible mileage on the clock, a 355bhp naturally aspirated flat-six engine and adaptive suspension to provide the optimum ride and handling balance.

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage

Model: Aston Martin DB7 V12 Vantage (2002/02-reg, 78,000 miles)
Price new: £95,410
Now: £22,995
Engine: 6.0-litre V12, 420bhp
Economy: 14.8mpg
CO2/tax: 460g/km/£555
Euro NCAP: N/A 

The DB7 might have old-school underpinnings, but it’s an iconic Aston that’s also incredibly affordable. At this budget, you can get the keys to a V12-engined model, which growls on start-up and offers incredible straight-line performance and lots of character. Even though the interior is cramped and feels rather old-fashioned by modern standards, in many other respects the DB7 is a brilliant buy – it could even be an appreciating classic 

Mercedes C63 AMG

Price: From £26,000
Engine: 6.2-litre V8
Power/torque: 451bhp/599Nm
0-62mph/top speed: 4.5 secs/155mph

The C63 AMG built on the success of the saloon on which it’s based, offering an even more focused driving experience from its 6.2-litre V8 and delivering 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds. The Mercedes delivers a luxury interior, too, making the prices of used examples, which start at £26k, look very tempting. 

BMW M5

Model: BMW M5 DCT (15/15-reg, 41,000 miles)
Price new: £73,960
Now: £33,999
Engine: 4.4-litre V8, 552bhp
Economy: 28.5mpg
CO2/tax: 232g/km/£540
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2010) 

It’s always a big moment when BMW launches a new M5, not least because every generation tends to bring big changes, mainly to the engine. The M5 started with a straight-six, then evolved into a V8 and on to a bonkers naturally aspirated V10. But the F10 model of 2011 went back to a V8, this time with twin turbochargers. However, any fears that the new 4.4-litre unit would result in the M5 losing any of its character or urgency were thankfully unfounded, largely because the 680Nm of torque results in an awesome level of acceleration, with 0-62mph taking just 4.4 seconds.

What’s more, the F10 uses more technology than ever to ensure that it’s a true all-rounder: features such as the responsive dual-clutch gearbox and an adaptive suspension system that’s able to transform the car from a track-ready hooligan to a refined and relaxed cruiser at the press of a button.

Throw in a big boot and spacious interior, and the M5 makes for an indulgent but spectacularly accomplished family car. Just ensure you’ve got a decent wedge of cash to keep on top of the running costs.

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