Best cheap fast cars 2020

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

Fast, powerful cars are - a sad but unavoidable truth - expensive to buy and expensive to run. Most petrolheads drool over ridiculously high-powered supercars or rip-snorting sports cars yet these are often unobtainable for the average man on the street. The only way most people would be able to afford a high performance car would be to remortage their house or selling  body parts (both of which we strongly advise agaisnt). 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.

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 first generation Lotus Elise, 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.

On the other hand, the Jagaur S-Type R 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 395bhp available from its 4.2-litre V8 it's a great choice as a cheap fast car.

Subaru Impreza

  • We found: WRX STi 2.0 (2005/05-reg, 87k miles)
  • Price new: £26,252  
  • Now: £9,750
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 276bhp  
  • Economy: 25.4mpg
  • CO2: 265g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

The Impreza WRX STi is one of the older cars in this price bracket, with an enthusiastic fanbase keeping values high. Still, this rally-bred special remains one of the fastest and most capable sports saloons available.

Drawing on that WRC heritage, the WRX STi uses a 276bhp 2.0-litre flat-four turbo, and has pumped-up styling. The looks aren’t for everyone, but it’s hard to argue with the driving experience; addictive acceleration and tenacious grip and traction in all weathers make the car one of the fastest ways to tackle a British B-road.

Jaguar XK8

  • We found: 4.2 V8 (2006/06-reg, 87k miles)
  • Price new: £59,802  
  • Now: £8,495
  • Engine: 4.2-litre V8, 296bhp  
  • Economy: 25.0mpg
  • CO2: 269g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

The Jaguar XK is a car right at the bottom of its depreciation curve; in just over 12 years and 87,000 miles, the example we found has shed over £50,000.

But with its smooth, characterful 4.2-litre V8, great chassis and refined long-distance cruising ability, the Jag could even increase in price if you find a cared-for model as it becomes recognised as a modern classic. Now is the time to buy if you’ve been after one of these British GTs.

Running costs will still be steep, but the car will be fun to own if you can stomach the servicing, fuel and tax bills

Jaguar S-Type

  • We found: R 4.2 V8 (2007/57-reg, 76k miles)
  • Price new: £44,807
  • Now: £6,000
  • Engine: 4.2-litre V8, 395bhp
  • Economy: 22.7mpg
  • CO2: 294g/km
  • Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2002)

Its yesteryear styling might divide opinion, yet there is little to argue about where the S-Type R’s value and performance are concerned. High-mileage, under-maintained examples can be had for less than £5,000, but to save yourself the headache of repair costs, we suggest you find a better cared-for, more expensive car.

The S-Type’s chassis is taut and balanced, its ride is good and its engine provides a surprising turn of speed and incredible V8 character. The top speed is 155mph, 0-62mph takes 5.3 seconds and thanks to great torque, in-gear acceleration is respectable.

Lotus Elise

  • We found: 1.8 111S (1999/V-reg, 80k miles)
  • Price new: £26,645
  • Now: £12,950
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 143bhp
  • Economy: 38.7mpg
  • CO2: N/A
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Little else this side of a motorcycle can match the thrills of an Elise. An aluminium chassis and lack of any unnecessary comforts or kit sees the 111S weigh in at less than 750kg. Despite a seemingly modest 143bhp from its mid-mounted, Rover-derived 1.8-litre engine, it delivers 0-60mph in less than six seconds.

But it’s the way the Lotus tackles bends that’s likely to delight keen drivers most. The steering is light but brimming with feel, and the Elise corners with balance, precision and fluidity – just as a true sports car should.

Porsche 911

  • We found: Carrera S (2003/53-reg, 90k miles)
  • Price new: £56,505
  • Now: £15,000
  • Engine: 3.6-litre flat six, 316bhp
  • Economy: 25.5mpg
  • CO2: 269g/km
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Among diehard Porsche enthusiasts, the 996 is seen as the poor relation of the 911 bloodline. That’s great for used buyers; while some generations fetch huge money, early 2000s examples are still incredibly affordable.

There’s still much to love. The characterful flat six sounds great and delivers strong performance, while the rear-engined balance was tamed over the previous 993, so it’s fun without leaving your knuckles white.

But as with any performance car, a full service history will keep you relaxed come maintenance time as well.

BMW M3

  • We found: M3 (E92, 2013/13-reg, 67k miles)
  • Price new: £53,915
  • Now: £19,000
  • Engine: 4.0-litre V8, 414bhp
  • Economy: 22.8mpg
  • CO2: 290g/km
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2013)

A truly usable sports car, the BMW M3 offers practicality, comfort and enough performance to worry the Porsche 911 of its day. Its 4.0-litre engine means it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, while the six-speed manual gearbox allows you to make the most of all that lovely V8 muscle. The chassis is arguably the best point, and features lightweight aluminium suspension, sharp steering and a limited-slip differential that combine to deliver great handling and balance.

As a top-of-the-line model when it was new, the M3 offers a generously equipped interior. It comes as standard with electric leather seats, climate control and an infotainment system that was decent when judged against the standards of the time. Shop around and you can easily find a second- hand model with electronic dampers, automatic xenon headlights and parking sensors, too.

Aston Martin DB7

  • We found: 3.2 (1995/N-reg, 49k miles)
  • Price new: £85,005 Now: £18,995
  • Engine: 3.2-litre straight-six, 335bhp
  • Economy: 18.0mpg
  • CO2: 370g/km
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

As the Aston Martin DB7 nears its 25th birthday, collectors are recognising its value and low-mileage V12-engined models are being advertised north of £40,000. Yet for £17,000-£20,000, you can still find an early, well-maintained, supercharged six-cylinder edition.

It produces 335bhp and 500Nm of torque, giving a 5.7-second 0-62mph time and 165mph top speed. Just do your research first. Early models suffered from reliability issues, and servicing can be costly.

Tesla Model S

  • We found: P85 (2014/14-reg, 87k miles)
  • Price new: £74,135
  • Now: £33,750
  • Engine: Electric motor, 463bhp
  • Range: 312 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2014)

The Model S just sneaks under the half-price barrier, so it definitely warrants inclusion in this feature. It’s one of the best used EVs on sale, and its hero status among enthusiasts is assured. In fact, the Tesla was one of the first pure-electric cars to offer a range of more than 300 miles, with all this tech wrapped in an appealingly premium package.

Early models still have access to Tesla’s Supercharger network for free, so it’s not only fuel costs you’ll be saving on. The example we’ve chosen is a P85, which can sprint from 0-62mph in only 4.4 seconds. The real draw of an electric executive car isn’t the acceleration, though, but the near-silent running wherever you go. There’s only a faint whine from the motor, and some wind and road noise at speed, but the driving experience is very relaxing. Also, tech fans will love the huge central touchscreen, which will still feel modern in 2019 even in this 14-plate model.

Porsche Cayman

  • We found: 2.9 (987, 2012/12-reg, 46k miles)
  • Price new: £39,262
  • Now: £20,750
  • Engine: 2.9-litre flat six, 262bhp
  • Economy: 30.1mpg
  • CO2: 221g/km
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Even in this base spec, the Cayman offers fantastic handling, thanks to its balanced mid-engined, rear-drive layout. Its steering is well weighted, and excellent grip further boosts its agility. Straight-line speed is respectable, too, with the Porsche’s 262bhp 2.9-litre naturally aspirated flat six enabling a 0-62mph time of 5.8 seconds and a 165mph top speed.

• Best sports cars 2019

First-generation cars are now becoming accessible, with early, high-mileage examples costing as little as £9,000. But we suggest you hold out for a later, low-mileage model – preferably with Active Suspension Management.

Jaguar F-Type

  • We found: Convertible 3.0 V6 auto (2013/13-reg, 35k)
  • Price new: £57,900
  • Now: £24,690
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 335bhp
  • Economy: 31.5mpg
  • CO2: 209g/km
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

The F-Type arrived half a century after Jaguar’s legendary E-Type sports car was launched – but it was worth the wait. With supercharged V6 power even in the entry-level model we’ve picked out, 335bhp was enough for a 5.1- second 0-62mph time with the smooth eight-speed auto.

Looks to die for, beautiful handling, the thrill of a drop-top body and that sonorous V6 are available for the price of a family hatch today, making the striking F-Type a relative bargain buy. Styling changes compared with new models are minimal, so it still looks contemporary. 

Now take a look at the fastest accelerating cars in the world

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