Price new: £23,560
Model: RCZ GT THP 156
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 156bhp
CO2/road tax: 159g/km/£180
Price Now: £11,470 (2011/11-reg, 24k)
When it was first unveiled way back in 2009, few people believed that Peugeot’s 308-based RCZ could really back up its head-turning styling with an equally striking driving experience. But it does.
It’s not the quickest coupe money can buy, while the driving position could do with a little more adjustment. Plus, as is usually the case with this sort of car, the rear bench should be regarded more as a parcel shelf than genuine seating for two passengers.
There’s a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, and even though the 1.6-litre THP turbocharged petrol version delivers a modest power output of 156bhp, the RCZ is never less than pure theatre – from the distinctive ‘double-bubble’ roof to the sound actuator that boosts the exhaust note. Finally, it’s not an Audi TT, which for many potential buyers looking to stand out from the crowd is likely to be a positive.
Price new: £28,050
Model: 2.0 TFSI S line
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 197bhp
CO2/road tax: 183g/km/£225
Price now: £10,750 (2009/09-reg, 69k)
Audi's evolutionary styling approach means that the second-generation TT hasn’t dated too badly with the arrival of the new version. It remains one of the classiest coupés on the road.
Diesel versions are, of course, more economical, but the 208bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol better suits the TT – it’s quieter and makes the car lighter at the nose, and therefore slightly more agile.
The TT’s interior is so wonderfully stylish and so well built that a low-mileage, six-year-old version for under £11,000 seems a steal – and it’s more practical than you might think.
Price new: £12,995
Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl, 123bhp
CO2/road tax: 178g/km/£230
Price Now: £795 (1999/V-reg, 77k)
Are you after fun on a shoestring budget? Well, look no further than the Ford Puma. A revvy 1.7-litre petrol engine matched to an agile front-wheel-drive chassis provides top entertainment behind the wheel, and it’s pretty stylish, too.
The Puma added a dash of panache to the fast Ford recipe when it debuted in 1997, with a clever TV advert featuring Hollywood legend Steve McQueen doing wonders for the compact coupé’s sales. That means there are plenty to choose from on the second-hand market. We found a 1999 1.7 showing a relatively low 77,000 miles for just £795.
However, as values have dropped to rock bottom, so have owners’ desire to look after them. Lots of Pumas will now be showing signs of 15 years or more of use, so watch out for rusty wheelarches and sills that could bring about MoT failures. Still, with humble Fiesta supermini underpinnings, it should mean affordable running costs and cheap car insurance, even for the younger generation of drivers.
Price new: £21,800
Model: GTV 2.0 JTS
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 163bhp
CO2/road tax: 220g/km/£285
Price now: £2,500 (2005/55-reg, 63k)
Could buying a used Alfa Romeo be a first-class ticket to frustration and expensive repair bills? Maybe, but it’s hard to deny that the thought of a GTV for less than £3,000 is tempting.
You may have to budget for regular repairs, but when everything’s right the GTV’s 2.0-litre engine will delight and the sleek, two-door coupé will still turn heads. This Alfa isn’t going to rival a contemporary hot hatchback for performance or ability, but at just short of £3k for a stylish Italian sports car, it does bring a lot of kerb appeal.
Price new: £17,345
Model: 2.0i SE
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 158bhp
CO2/road tax: 181g/km/£225
Price Now: £7,995 (2009/09-reg, 19k)
Just a few minutes behind the wheel of a Mazda MX-5 is all it takes to understand why it’s one of the most popular two-seater sports cars ever made. It’s not without its flaws, though, as the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine is very thirsty compared to the latest turbos and it’s also about as spacious as a shoebox.
But this is a car all about the driving experience, which is sublime. Less than £8,000 will buy a 2009 model, which was updated from the 2005 version with a more modern look and includes air-con, remote central locking and a Bose stereo.
Price new: £25,995
Model: 1.8 111 S
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 158bhp
CO2/road tax: 163g/km/£180
Price Now: £11,000 (2002/02-reg, 66k)
There aren’t many cars capable of dishing up a driving experience as visceral and enjoyable as the Lotus Elise’s. A near-handmade production method means the car doesn’t have the same interior build quality as a Porsche Cayman, but well documented engineering heritage equates to world-class dynamics – so trim imperfections here and there shouldn’t matter too much.
The current Series 2 Elise is 14 years old, so you can get a 2002 example with the revvy (and now discontinued) 1.8-litre Rover K Series engine for supermini cash – and it still looks modern.
Price new: £43,402
Model: Z4 M Roadster
Engine: 3.2-litre 6cyl, 338bhp
CO2/road tax: 292g/km/£500
Price Now: £15,000 (2007/07-reg, 45k)
As the Z4 M Roadster was made for only two years, it’s now a fairly rare sight on the road, yet prices have dropped to a third of their original level. This makes the BMW a very cheap way to get into the five-second 0-62mph club. You’ll pay day-to-day, though, with real-life economy unlikely to exceed the high teens, as well as serious servicing and parts costs for the M Division-tuned engine.
Yet as the M Roadster was engineered with driving fun in mind, the howling straight-six, nimble handling and wind-in-the-hair thrills should distract you from the running costs and firm ride.
Price new: £44,250
Model: Cayman 3.4 S
Engine: 3.4-litre flat-six, 291bhp
CO2/road tax: 254g/km/£485
Price Now: £13,500 (2006/55-reg, 61k)
With prices of the earliest Cayman S models coming down into mid-level supermini territory, a Porsche that some people regard as a better balanced – and therefore more enjoyable – sports car than the 911 is phenomenal value. Its grip and steering are the stuff of endless superlatives, and while comfort wasn’t a priority for the brand’s engineers, the ride is not back-breaking.
The Cayman doesn’t have much standard kit, and some of the early switchgear looks and feels low-rent now, but if you’re after driver engagement above all else, you’ll live with those things.
Price new: £122,445
Engine: 6.0-litre V12, 470bhp
CO2/road tax: 368g/km/£500
Price Now: £64,495 (2010/10-reg 18K)
For years Aston Martin has been voted the coolest brand in the car world, thanks in part to the DB9. The gorgeous coupé marries a burbling V12 to a smooth automatic box and a cosseting interior to give huge continent-crossing potential.
In the 11 years it’s been around, the styling may not have changed much, but the DB9 has been gradually updated, giving it more power and sharper handling. Of course, Aston ownership isn’t cheap – £65,000 will buy you a 2010 model – although many DB9s are only used as weekend cars, so few will have covered serious mileage.
Price new: £78,195
Model: R8 V8
Engine: 4.2-litre V8, 414bhp
CO2/road tax: 349g/km/£500
Price Now: £39,995 2008/57-REG, 75k
The R8 was Audi’s first attempt at cracking the supercar class, and a hostile shot across the bows of the Porsche 911. It combines the brand’s traditional immaculate build quality with a touch more design flair and driver engagement.
Around £60,000 will buy you an R8 V10, but £40,000 will get you the keys to the equally desirable V8. You’ll never tire of the 414bhp 4.2-litre engine’s noise and performance, while the four-wheel-drive chassis delivers entertaining handling. The R8 is also usable every day, with good visibility and a decent-sized boot.