When it debuted as the 308 RCZ concept car at 2007’s Frankfurt Motor Show, this daring Peugeot coupe was nothing more than a styling study, primarily to show what a low-slung two-door body might look like on the 308 chassis.
But such was the public reaction, the brand hastily developed it for production, with sales beginning in late 2009 across Europe, and in right-hand drive from 2010. Over 50,000 RCZs have found homes across the Continent since then.
Unlike most Peugeots, the car isn’t built in France – it’s contracted out to Magna Steyr and produced in Graz, Austria. Build quality is excellent, while the limitations of subcontracting the assembly process mean the range is refreshingly simple. Buyers could pick from a 1.6-litre THP turbo engine in three states of tune or a 2.0 HDi diesel, as well as Sport, GT and range-topping R trim levels.
The diesel makes most sense from an everyday perspective, and with 161bhp it’s no slouch. But our pick would be the 197bhp 1.6 THP, which just about exploits the RCZ’s handling capability to its limits with the power available, yet still promises respectably low CO2 and fuel consumption figures. Whichever model you choose, though, you’ll get a great-looking car that’s still a relatively rare sight, due to the limited numbers on the road.
Yet you can have it serviced at a main dealer in almost every town in Britain thanks to the prevalence of the brand in the market. What’s more, the Peugeot badge means appealing pricing as well, with the earliest examples now available from £12,000.
Fair price: £1,950
Remember the fuss when Audi introduced its Bauhaus-inspired TT in 1998? A unique design marked the car out as a style icon, and issues with high-speed handling were soon fixed with a rear spoiler, standard ESP and tweaked suspension. The TT went on to write its own chapter in Audi’s history, thanks to its sheer desirability, popularity and performance.
It’s now 15 years since Audi unveiled the TT, with its concept car looks and striking interior. Yet even today, it remains hugely desirable – especially with prices at under £2,000. Cheap cars don’t get much prettier, while VW running gear means low bills. Even at this price you can choose between Coupé or Roadster models, front or four-wheel-drive transmissions and 180bhp or 225bhp versions of the 1.8T engine.
Fair price: £4,995
A sleek and powerful Jaguar XK for the price of a new Dacia Sandero? Yes, it’s true: savage depreciation means you can pick up a cherished example of the stunning Brit for less than £5,000.
That buys head-turning style and an upper-class cabin, plus effortless 4.0-litre V8 performance. And thanks to its supple ride and composed handling, the big cat is good to drive, too. Running costs aren’t cheap, but most XKs have been well cared for by enthusiastic owners, while independent specialists can help take the sting out of servicing bills.
Fair price: £6,995
Choose any of the three generations of Porsche Boxster, and you’ll be getting an exceptional second-hand performance car that’s more than capable of putting a smile on your face and delivering reliable, high-speed service.
Of the three, though, it’s the 2005 to 2012 versions, codenamed 987, that make the best used car choices – they don’t have the age-worn fragility of the earlier 986 models, nor the expense or complexity of the later 981 Series cars, plus there’s a huge selection out there on the market.
Don’t dismiss the Boxster as a ‘hairdresser’s car’, either – it may have picked up some criticism when new for only being available as a drop-top (something Porsche answered by introducing the Boxster-based Cayman coupe in 2006), but it’s extremely quick and an absolute joy to drive.
Porsche is known for creating driver-focused cars, and the Boxster is no different. Unlike other performance cars, whose thrilling rides can become strained on long drives, a comfortable driving position means tackling motorway journeys is enjoyable. It’s also well insulated from road noise.
Whether you go for the entry-level 2.7 (increased to 2.9 litres in 2009) or the more powerful 3.2 or 3.4-litre models, you’re guaranteed exceptional performance and fine handling balance. You’ll also experience the tunefulness of a horizontally opposed flat-six engine behind your ears – all of the aural and dynamic experiences you’d expect from Porsche’s flagship 911, but in a more manageable and more affordable body. Throw in simple, yet beautiful looks and a well finished and efficient cabin, and the package is complete.
Running costs are surprisingly sensible for a car wearing the Porsche badge, especially if you use one of the many marque specialists which know the model inside out. The Boxster is built to last, too, and is easily capable of everyday use. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a more alluring performance car for the second-hand buyer.
Fair price: £16,000
If you buy a factory order GT 86, you won’t receive it for a few weeks, even though the waiting list has dropped off. Get one faster and save a bit over new by opting for a demo or ex-fleet model from a Toyota forecourt instead. It’s a truly brilliant coupe.
Fair price: £21,000
The XKR has been around for nearly a decade now, but still has lots of star appeal, while the supercharged 4.2-litre V8 delivers a knockout punch on the road.
The R also gets uprated suspension, for rear-wheel-drive fun in corners. Yet due to its smooth ride, slick auto box and cosseting leather-trimmed interior, it’s also an effortless long-distance cruiser.
It’ll be expensive to run, but our Driver Power satisfaction surveys suggest it’ll be reliable.
Fair price: £18,700
Strong residuals mean that a Porsche is a good buy when new, but like all new cars, there comes a time when a model’s desirability fades. The latest 991-generation was introduced in 2012, so the previous model, the 997, has fallen out of favour – and the earliest examples from 2005 are now dipping under the £20,000 barrier.
You’ll have to live with a high mileage, and running costs will be steep, but the standard Carrera we found will have all the performance and handling finesse that Porsche is famous for.
Fair price: £44,950
Depreciation has delivered some real second-hand bargains on these pages – and the latest-generation BMW M5 is a prime example.
Powered by a 552bhp twin-turbo V8, the sedate-looking four-door has supercar pace, while uprated suspension and brakes offer remarkable agility on twisting back roads. Yet it’s as refined, comfortable and spacious as any other 5 Series.
What stands out, though, is the price. The 12-reg M5 we found had nearly £5k of extras, and was on sale for £44,950 – a £33,705 saving over new.
Fair price: £42,000
How would you like to get your hands on a four-seater Ferrari supercar for less than the price of a new Audi S5? The bold, Pininfarina-styled 612 Scaglietti caused a stir when the wraps were pulled off for the first time in 2004, and 10 years on it still has the ability to stop people in their tracks.
Yet it’s the Ferrari’s glorious 5.7-litre V12 engine that steals the show, thanks to its scorching performance and addictive, howling soundtrack.
And as with all the world’s best thoroughbred grand tourers, the 612 is as comfortable crossing continents as it is tackling a twisting back road.
More importantly, you can pick up a well maintained, low-mileage example for the price of a mainstream German coupe. Just be sure to set a large chunk of cash aside for the hefty running costs.