Best German modern classic cars you can afford

Investing in a modern classic from Germany could be a shrewd financial decision. Here’s our pick of the best current options

Don’t let potentially big repair bills put you off because if you’re patient, do your homework and choose wisely, one of these modern classics from Germany could prove to be a great buy.

There's also a wide variety to suit all tastes, from the practical and futuristic Audi A2, to the classy Mercedes CLS

It might only seem like yesterday that cars like the BMW E36 3 Series were plentiful. The popularity among track day enthusiasts led to many being crashed or parted out, so with numbers dwindling they could now make for a great investment. 

For a cleverly packaged city car with a surprising amount of room, there’s little better than the Mercedes A-Class - with prices around £1,250 - and if you want a slice of automotive history, the Audi TT could be it. The first generation TT took the world by storm and it still looks fresh today. Whatever your budget, we’ve proven you could be driving a well-built, stylish and refined German classic car at a bargain price.

Check out some modern classics from some other countries here

Audi TT  

  • Typical price: £2,500
  • Engine: Various, up to 247bhp
  • Years produced: 1998-2006 
  • Rarity: ★★☆☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★☆☆

The first Audi TT was a huge success when it came out, and it’s easy to see why: its design still looks smart, and in many ways its uncomplicated lines are better-looking than ever. 

Mechanically, it was related to the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf and shared engines including the 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder and the 3.2-litre VR6 motor. This means performance is good, although the TT is perhaps not as fun to drive as it looks. However, the Audi is a superb daily driver as long as you don’t need to carry people in the tiny rear seats, and there’s even a convertible model available for very little these days – but not for long.

BMW 3 Series 

  • Typical price: £2,500 
  • Engine: Various, up to 187bhp
  • Years produced: 1990-2000 
  • Rarity: ★★☆☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★☆☆

If you want a modern classic that does it all, the 1990s version of the BMW 3 Series, often referred to by the model code E36, could be the car for you. It combines the driver-focused nature of earlier BMWs with some of the creature comforts of later models, making it a real sweet spot in the 3 Series timeline. 

There are loads of versions, with the lesser 316i and 318i four-cylinder models being the cheapest, but also the slowest. The six-cylinder versions are sought after and superb to drive, and there was a brilliant M3 model too, but these are well beyond a £2,500 budget. 

Audi A2 

  • Typical price: £2,000
  • Engine: Various, up to 109bhp
  • Years produced: 1999-2005 
  • Rarity: ★★☆☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★☆☆☆

Not all modern classics have to be sporty. The Audi A2 is an MPV-like supermini that brings excellent practicality for its low price, and enthusiasts love it for its clever engineering. It was made using aluminium to keep weight as low as possible, and thanks to a range of efficient engines, including an unusual 1.2-litre three-cylinder diesel, it was very economical. Some aspects of ownership are a pain, including access to the engine and high panel-repair costs, but it’s generally a dependable, economical, interesting and quirky family car. 

Mercedes A-Class 

  • Typical price: £1,250
  • Engine: Various, up to 138bhp
  • Years produced: 1997-2004 
  • Rarity: ★★☆☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★☆☆☆☆
  • Investment: ★★☆☆☆

The Mercedes A-Class is a lot like the Audi A2, in that it’s a car for those who aren’t after something sporty, but instead want to own a piece of motoring history that was a dramatic moment for the company that built it. The A-Class’s clever compact design means it’s still useful for driving in town, and it’s available very cheaply. Part of the reason for that is that it’s expensive to maintain and repair, but if you love the design and want a usable modern classic, a well loved early A-Class could be just the ticket.

Volkswagen Scirocco

  • Typical price: £6,000
  • Engine: Various, up to 276bhp
  • Years produced: 2008-2017 
  • Rarity: ★★☆☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★☆☆☆

The Volkswagen Scirocco benefits hugely from its smart design, because underneath it’s essentially a Golf Mk5. This means there is a range of engines including the powerful R model with 276bhp, which will delight high-performance fans, but the diesel and low-power petrol versions make the best daily drivers, thanks to their low running costs. 

The 2.0 TSI model is arguably the sweet spot, though. It’s good to drive, relatively practical and quite comfortable, so if you love the looks and want a modern classic for everyday use, you can’t go far wrong with a Scirocco – but steer away from the DSG models, which are expensive to fix.

Mercedes CLS 

  • Typical price: £5,500
  • Engine: Various, up to 500bhp
  • Years produced: 2004-2010  Rarity: ★★☆☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★☆☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★★☆

One of the most appealing aspects of buying a modern classic is that you can get what were once ultra-high-end models only affordable to the wealthy for less than a normal family hatchback costs new. The Mercedes CLS is a great example: it was once a flagship luxury coupé, but you can now buy a tidy example for easily under £10,000. 

The 500bhp CLS63 AMG models cost quite a bit more, but are incredibly powerful and luxurious for the money. Watch out for astronomical running costs on the high-end petrols, but a CLS brings comfort, quality, style, performance and even reasonable fuel economy in diesel form.

What does the Auto Express team drive? Find out here...

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