Best cheap sports cars

If you're looking for performance kicks, these sports cars will have you grinning ear-to-ear

Brand new sports cars are out of most people’s price range, however, if you’re prepared to shop around on the used car market you might just be able to make that performance car dream a reality.

A cheap sports car from the second hand car market is a cost-efficient way of accessing performance that only these types of vehicles can offer. With the right model you’ll be doing so for quite a bit less than a manufacturer would charge for something factory fresh. And that should only add to the adrenaline.

• Buying a used car – your complete guide

Some of the performance cars in this list aren’t ideal for daily commuting so you’ll have peace of mind that they’ve spent most of their time on driveways or garages, rather than sitting in traffic at rush hour. 

A word of caution though: sports cars are also types of vehicle that owners like to drive hard and when things do go wrong, they tend to be expensive to put right. It all means it’s essential to see evidence of careful maintenance before you agree to a deal. It’s always a good idea to review a vehicle’s service history to ensure there are no catastrophic issues lurking under the bonnet, and we would always advise asking a professional mechanic for their opinion too.

There’s a good mix of sports cars here and while they offer varying degrees of performance and driving experiences, one thing is certain – they will all put a big smile on your face. 

Caterham Seven

We found: 1.8 Roadsport (2006/06 reg, 12k miles)
Price new: Around £25,000
Now: £17,000
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 165bhp
Economy: N/A
CO2: N/A
Euro NCAP: N/A

Specialist Caterham has been building its Lotus Seven-based sports cars for over 40 years, and whichever one you choose, it will put a smile on your face. Lightweight construction ensures that even with a modest 165bhp, the Seven is rapid, while direct steering and a ground-scraping ride height mean every journey is exhilarating.

• Caterham Roadsport 150 review

A factory-built car will give peace of mind over a home-built kit, but buying a Seven gives you access to a world of helpful owners and factory assistance, although you’ll need to be prepared to get your hands dirty keeping it running.

Nissan 370Z

We found: 370Z (2011/60 reg, 69k miles)
Price new: £27,475
Now: £12,500
Engine: 3.7-litre V6, 326bhp
Economy: 26.7mpg
CO2: 256g/km
Euro NCAP: N/A

Big, brawny coupés are in short supply in the UK, so the Nissan 370Z really stands out when you see it on the road. With its bulging wheelarches and bulbous curves, it isn’t quite as elegant as the 350Z it replaced, but its wide stance and squat body signify its sports car intent.

• Nissan 370Z review

The 370Z is a decent performer thanks to that big V6 under the bonnet – although it doesn’t sound as meaty as it should – and the handling is sharp for a car that’s relatively heavy. But that big engine has big costs associated with it, while the auto version really numbs the driving experience.

Lotus Elise

We found: Elise (2004/04 reg, 51k miles)
Price new: £26,670
Now: £17,500
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 189bhp
Economy: 32.1mpg
CO2: N/A
Euro NCAP: N/A

The Elise is a perennial sports car favourite. It’s not quite as spartan as a Caterham, and it feels more like a real car than a kit, but its lightweight build and nimble handling are true to the philosophy of Lotus founder Colin Chapman.

• Lotus Elise review

A £13k budget stretches to a Series 2, the sharper-looking model that shared its chassis with the Vauxhall VX220. The standard car had a 120bhp Rover K Series engine, which is plenty to enjoy on back roads.  However, in 2004 the Lotus added a Toyota engine in the 111R edition, giving it 189bhp and this is more reliable model is the one to go for.

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage

We found: V12 Vantage (2001/51-reg, 73k miles)
Price new: £95,410
Now: £27,000
Engine: 6.0-litre V12, 420bhp
Economy: 14.8mpg
CO2: N/A
Euro NCAP: N/A

You’d hardly call a small Aston Martin the entry-level model, but in a way, that’s what the DB7 was. The original car’s supercharged straight-six was joined by the later V12 Vantage, which sourced its engine from Ford.

• Aston Martin DB7 Vantage

This car delivered 420bhp and was offered with manual or automatic boxes. The latter are cheaper, but that transmission suits the DB7’s grand tourer nature. We’d advise finding a model that has been serviced by an Aston Martin specialist, too.

Porsche 911 Turbo

We found: 911 Turbo (2006/06-reg, 74k miles)
Price new: £90,360
Now: £46,595
Engine: 3.6-litre flat-six, 480bhp
Economy: 22.1mpg
CO2: 272g/km
Euro NCAP: N/A

There are silly prices to be paid for all kinds of fairly ordinary Porsches, but look hard enough and you can still find some decent cars out there at sensible money.

• Porsche 911 review

A budget of £50,000 will land you a decent 997-generation Turbo, which gets four-wheel drive and was offered with either a six-speed manual box or a seven-speed PDK auto. Yet despite its startling performance, the Turbo is the easiest supercar to live with, thanks to its 2+2 layout, decent boot and good visibility. Full Porsche service history is recommended.

Jaguar XKR-S

We found: XKR-S (2011/61-reg, 34k miles)
Price new: £97,400
Now: £46,945
Engine: 5.0-litre V8, 543bhp
Economy: 23.0mpg
CO2: 294g/km
Euro NCAP: N/A

By the time the XKR-S arrived in showrooms in 2012, Jaguar had transformed itself from a grown-up, sensible luxury car maker to a dynamic and youthful firm. And that couldn’t be better demonstrated with the tyre-shredding last hurrah for Jag’s GT coupé.

• Jaguar XKR-S review

The supercharged V8 delivered big numbers, with a stonking 543bhp and 680Nm of torque. It was backed up by revised suspension settings, so the XK was more nimble than before. There’s a convertible version available, and we think the XKR-S looks best in the exclusive French Racing Blue paint option, like the one we found.

Audi R8

We found: V10 (2009/59-reg, 52k miles)
Price new: £99,580
Now: £49,999
Engine: 5.2-litre V10, 518bhp
Economy: 19.2mpg
CO2: 229g/km
Euro NCAP: N/A

If ever a model could be called the everyday supercar, it’s the Audi R8. While the concept-car looks mean it’ll turn heads wherever you go, it’s as docile as an A3 when you’re taking it easy. Go for a version with magnetic ride dampers, and it’ll be pretty comfortable, too.

• Audi R8 V10 review

But bury the throttle, and all hell breaks loose, with the V10 model in particular delivering a hard-edged growl that will send a tingle up your spine. Prices start from £36,000 for the V8 or £50,000 for the V10 featured here, so the choice is yours.

Ferrari 360 Modena

We found: 360 Modena (1999/V-reg, 28k miles)
Price new: £103,068
Now: £74,995  
Engine: 3.6-litre V8, 395bhp
Economy: 14.6mpg
CO2: N/A
Euro NCAP: N/A

Today, it seems any Ferrari can be viewed as ‘investment potential’. Scour the classic ads, and you’ll find vendors demanding over £30,000 for unloved models like the Mondial and 400i. But if you can afford a bit more, then a genuine Ferrari sports car could be yours.

• Top 10 best Ferraris ever

The 360 Modena is returning to favour though, where previously its blobby looks had made it less appealing to some. But the screaming mid-engined V8 has plenty of power, and we’d recommend the H-gated manual over the F1-inspired semi-auto box.

Aston Martin Vantage S

We found: V12 Vantage S (2015/15-reg, 11k miles)
Price new: £139,145
Now: £89,891
Engine: 6.0-litre V12, 565bhp
Economy: 17.0mpg
CO2: 343g/km
Euro NCAP: N/A

Even though the Vantage is about to the replaced with a new model, it still remains one of the most beautiful cars on the road. During its life it has had almost continual development, meaning it can still go toe to toe with the best sports cars from other manufacturers.

While the limited-edition GT12 and GT8 pay homage to the brand’s GT racing models, you can have just as much fun with the ultimate production version of the standard car, the V12 Vantage S.

• Aston Martin V12 Vantage S review

This model takes the standard V12 Vantage and gives it a makeover into a more focused sports car, featuring a new V12 engine with 565bhp. This means a 205mph top speed. If you find one that has racked up more miles than the one we did, be sure to check it has service history thoroughly.

Toyota GT 86

We found: D-4S (2012/62 reg, 55k)
Price new: £25,000
Now: £11,000
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 200bhp
Economy: 36.2mpg
CO2: 183g/km
Euro NCAP: N/A

Lightweight body, old-school rear-wheel drive handling and loveable boxer engine all made the GT86 one of our favourite sports cars when it was launched in 2012. It received a mid-life nip and tuck in 2017, but the older cars still represent huge bags of fun.

• Toyota GT 86 review

All GT 86s have 200bhp on tap, which gives a decent power per tonne ratio with a kerb weight of just 1,300kg. There is the option of an automatic, but the six-speed manual is the one best suited for a bit of cheap sports car fun.

Which of these supercars and sports cars would you go for? Let us know in the comments section below…

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