Whether it’s the exhilarating acceleration, the sharp steering or the precise handling, a sports car is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, so you can leave the pressures of work behind.
Granted, a sports car won’t be as practical, versatile or as cheap to run as your current hatchback or SUV, but as our list of the best sports cars reveals, buying one needn’t break the bank. In fact, you might wonder why it has taken you so long to take the plunge.
We’ve included something for everyone, from a French fancy with purity and precision, to something special from Woking that wouldn’t look out of place in a supercar paddock. Some are coupes, while others allow you to get the top down when the sun decides to shine.
Read on to discover 10 of the best sports cars you can buy right now.
This isn’t an alphabetical list, so it’s purely coincidental that the Alpine A110 is our first selection. Or maybe it’s not, because the A110 is one of the purest and most exhilarating sports cars you can buy. A case of Pure by name, pure by nature, because the eponymous entry-level model is the best A110 you can buy. Its 1.8-litre turbocharged engine delivers a mere 252hp, but because the A110 weighs about the same as a gnat, it makes full use of the horses at its disposal. It’ll change direction quicker than a housefly and sprint to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds.
Until the arrival of the Alpine A110 in 2019, the Porsche was unquestionably the best sports car to combine performance and affordability. Available in both closed (Cayman) and open (Boxster) forms, the 718 will make you question the need to splash out on the more expensive Porsche 911. The most affordable 718 Cayman undercuts the entry-level 911 by around £40,000, yet features an engine developing 300hp, which is enough to propel the car to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds before reaching a top speed of 170mph. The 718 Boxster costs around £2,000 more than the equivalent Cayman, which is money well spent if you fancy the thrill of driving with the roof down.
The Mazda MX-5 is the most popular affordable sports car on the planet. It’s so good, it has essentially seen off all of its rivals, so it’s the only junior sports car you can buy new today. Fortunately, it’s almost faultless, with limited practicality the only genuine drawback in the ‘negatives’ column. Our advice is to get used to packing light, because you’ll be rewarded with a driving experience that’s as good as a sports car costing 10 times the price. A brilliant six-speed gearbox, sublime handling and a pair of rev-tastic engines are the highlights. The MX-5 RF comes with a retractable metal roof for added security.
The most affordable BMW Z4 costs around the same as the flagship Nissan Qashqai, and while it’s not exactly family-friendly, it is one of the most practical sports cars you can buy. It’s a two-seater, so you’ll have to leave the kids at home, but there’s lots of room in the cabin, with plenty of seat adjustment to help you get comfortable. You also get 281 litres of luggage space in the boot: on par with some small hatchbacks. The two four-cylinder petrol engines deliver a great blend of performance and fuel economy, but the 3.0-litre straight-six M40i is the pick of the bunch.
It might be long in the tooth, but the Jaguar F-Type is no less desirable today than it was at its launch in 2014. The 2020 facelift helps. More aggressive styling, new 20-inch alloy wheels and an improved 12.3-inch infotainment system are the bits you can see, but it’s the bits you can’t that leave the biggest impression. Jaguar tweaked the chassis to make it even better to drive, edging the F-Type tantalisingly close to the Porsche 911. Coupe and convertible versions are available, with some versions hitting a top speed of 186mph. The best news is that the entry-level 300hp F-Type Coupe is arguably the purest of the lot.
The Toyota GR Supra shares a platform, engines and a lot of interior trim with the BMW Z4, but the two cars offer a very different experience. For a start, the GR Supra isn’t offered with a folding roof, so you’ll have to keep your lid on. That’s no bad thing, because the Toyota feels more focused than the BMW. The 2.0-litre version is okay if you’re after the styling and some of the performance, but the 3.0-litre straight-six is the pick of the bunch. Put simply, driving the GR Supra is like spending the evening playing Gran Turismo 7, while spending time in the BMW Z4 is like relaxing on a summer’s evening.
At the extreme end of the range, the Porsche 911 is nestled deep in supercar territory, with explosive performance, wild styling and a price tag knocking on the door of £175,000. At £87,500, the entry-level 911 Carrera isn’t what you’d call ‘affordable’, but it does deliver the most authentic sports car experience. Its six-cylinder engine delivers a mighty 385hp for a 0-62mph time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 182mph. Removing the roof adds £10,000 to the price, while the Carrera 4 adds the reassurance of four-wheel drive. For the best of both worlds, why not consider the stylish 911 Targa?
The Audi TT RS is ideal if you want to drive your sports car every day. Starting with the boring stuff, you get a pair of (admittedly small) rear seats, a boot large enough for a day of retail therapy, and respectable fuel economy. The more exciting stuff includes a glorious 2.5-litre five-cylinder developing 400hp and the kind of noise that sounds really good in a tunnel. It’ll hit 62mph fast enough to keep a Porsche 911 Carrera S driver on their toes, while the quattro four-wheel-drive system provides tremendous all-weather and all-season reassurance. Throw into the mix a gorgeous interior and you’ve got the makings of a highly tempting sports car.
The Porsche 911 might be more precise and purer to drive, but the Mercedes-AMG GT will arguably turn more heads. It looks quite unlike anything else on the road, with a long bonnet, aggressive front grille and shapely bottom. A range of 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engines deliver theatre by the bucketload, with a soundtrack more appealing than a West End musical. Even the entry-level GT Coupe and Roadster models deliver an impressive 530hp, while the GT R ups the ante with 585hp. Mind you, it comes with an extravagant price tag to match: a cool £158,500.
The McLaren 720S bridges the gap between the other cars on this list and the most ‘affordable’ models from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. It’s arguably too fast for our tight and congested roads, but that’s true of many sports cars. Power is sourced from a 4.0-litre V8 engine producing… wait for it… 720hp. Count to three – the 720S will hit 62mph before you’ve finished counting, before going on to reach a top speed of 212mph. It’s comfortable enough to live with every day, but practicality isn’t a strong suit. Still, life’s too short to drive boring cars, isn’t it?
The Mazda MX-5 is the cheapest sports car you can buy. Prices start from around £25,000 for the 1.5-litre version in SE-L trim, rising to £31,000 for the 2.0-litre GT Sport Tech. You’ll pay around £1,500 more for the entry-level RF (Retractable Fastback) version, which features a folding metal hard-top. The all-new Toyota GR86 is likely to cost around £30,000 when it goes on sale in mid-2022. Power is sourced from a 2.4-litre flat-four Subaru engine.
Sports cars aren’t necessarily expensive to run. Opt for a Mazda MX-5 with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and you can expect to see around 45mpg, and you could see a similar return from the Alpine A110. That’s if you’ve got a light right foot. Drive a sports car in the manner they’re intended and you’ll see that fuel economy plummet like a stone. You also need to factor in the cost of insurance, servicing and parts.
Once upon a time, owning a sports car meant making a few sacrifices and having a chiropractor on speed dial. Sure, only a sucker for punishment would drive something like a Caterham Seven or Ariel Atom every day, but most modern cars are safe, reliable, comfortable and come with the kind of equipment you need for a daily commute. You just need to ensure that the boot is large enough to carry any groceries you buy on the way back from the office.
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