Top 10 best driver's cars 2024
You don’t need a supercar to enjoy a twisty road – these driver’s cars offer just as much fun
Most people consider their car to be a tool for getting from A to B, but there are plenty of buyers who want to have fun along the way – or who simply enjoy driving for the sake of driving.
If you’re in the second camp, then perhaps one of these driver’s cars is for you. A driver’s car prioritises the driving experience above all else, be it through great steering, a finely-tuned chassis or a characterful engine. Unlike an exotic supercar, however, this won’t necessarily come at the expense of practicality or affordability, and many of the cars on this list could be used as your only car.
Car manufacturers recognise the importance of models that involve and excite the driver; many brands’ reputations are built on cars that are inherently fun to drive regardless of their intended purpose, while others offer sportier variants of their regular family cars. Whatever the case, driver’s cars are alive and well, even in these eco-conscious times.
Best driver’s cars to buy now
Below we have listed our top driver's cars, but if you’re after something even more practical, read our list of our favourite sports and performance SUVs.
On the right day, on the right road, there are few cars that can match Mazda’s plucky roadster for outright fun. First launched in 1989, the MX-5 brought an affordable and reliable sports car experience to the masses, and the latest generation continues that ethos today.
It’s neither the fastest nor the most sophisticated car on the road – its 181bhp pales in comparison to many modern hot hatchbacks – but with responsive steering, low weight and a slick manual gear shift, the MX-5 delivers an involving driving experience no matter the speed. Its skinny tyres provide more than enough grip, yet confident drivers can push the MX-5 enthusiastically without troubling our speed limits.
An affordable sub-£30k starting price widens the Mazda’s appeal, and there’s a folding hardtop ‘RF’ variant if fabric roofs aren’t for you. The two-seater layout and tiny boot will deter some potential buyers, but for enthusiasts seeking simple driving pleasure, the MX-5 is hard to beat.
The BMW 2 Series is already an accomplished and capable sports coupe, but it’s the full-fat BMW M2 that embodies the brand’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ slogan to the fullest extent. It may be the smallest and least expensive ‘M’ model that BMW offers, but we could argue that it’s the most fun to drive of the lot, with compact dimensions, a 453bhp six-cylinder engine and a playful and responsive chassis.
Put your foot to the floor and you’ll be up to the speed limit in no time, so the M2’s straight-line speed is best reserved for track days. Thankfully, there’s plenty of fun to be had on a windy B-road as the M2 eats up corners with ease. Unlike the bigger M3 and M4, the M2 is rear-wheel drive only and available with a manual gearbox, offering an old-school experience for driving enthusiasts. Opt for the automatic and you won’t miss out on any of the fun, with the carbon-fibre paddles delivering suitably snappy shifts.
Drive sensibly and the M2 performs daily driving duties no differently than a run-of-the-mill BMW 2 Series. The ride is comfortable, the interior well-built and there are two (admittedly rather small) rear seats. As all-round driver’s cars go, the M2 is up there with the best.
The latest Civic Type R dropped the angular-edged exuberant styling of its predecessor for a more subtle appearance. However, underneath the bodywork remains the same voracious performance as before. This will almost certainly be the last pure petrol-engined Civic Type R and so it will be no surprise to learn it is the most powerful of all the generations, with an impressive 325bhp sent through the front wheels.
That may sound like a lot of power for the front axle, but Honda’s engineers have refined the chassis to such an extent that the Type R can keep up with much more expensive machinery down a twisty road. Most of the suspension and braking components are carried over from the old car, but they’re honed to deliver the most engaging driving experience yet, bolstered further by one of the best manual gear shifts found in any car.
The fact that there’s no option for an automatic gearbox epitomises Honda’s intention with the Civic Type R – driving engagement is the priority. That being said, it’s still based on a regular Honda Civic, meaning you get five seats, a big boot and decent fuel economy when you’re not gunning it.
Few could have foreseen Toyota bursting into the hot hatchback market in 2020 with a genuine rally-bred driver’s car, but the GR Yaris did exactly that. Designed to comply with rally homologation rules, the GR Yaris was created with performance in mind from the outset, and the result is a truly special driving experience.
With a 276bhp three-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive, the GR Yaris packs a serious punch into its diminutive footprint. Drivers can adjust how the power is distributed between the front and rear wheels on the fly, giving the GR Yaris a broad breadth of ability across different road surfaces. The four-wheel drive system is never short of grip, while Circuit Pack models add firmer suspension and locking differentials to further improve stability and traction. The steering is sharp and accurate which, combined with its small size, makes the GR Yaris immense fun to thread down a bumpy British B-road.
Until recently, the GR Yaris has only been available with a manual gearbox, providing an extra layer of engagement for the driver. A recent facelift in 2024 brought an optional automatic gearbox and revised interior, both adding to its usability without detracting from the driving experience.
The Alpine A110 is a mid-engined sports car that rekindles the spirit of its 1960s namesake. Powered by a fizzy 1.8-litre engine, the Alpine is a left-field alternative to a Porsche 718 Cayman or Audi TT RS that’s brimming with character, both in the way it drives and in how it looks.
While you can drive the Alpine around town every day, where it really shines is along a country road. It’s the lightest car in its class – over 300kg lighter than a Porsche 718 – allowing the engineers to soften off the suspension without compromising body control. The result is a car that complies with our bumpy B-roads rather than attacking them, letting the driver focus on the communicative steering.
It’s not quite as refined as its German rivals, nor as raw as the old Alfa Romeo 4C, but the Alpine strikes a great balance between weekend thrills and everyday usability, with a pared-back interior that still offers some creature comforts and a sharp, agile chassis that’s still pliant enough around town. Claimed economy of 46.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 138g/km are great for the class, too.
The Porsche 718 Boxster has been on the market for eight years now and will soon make way for an all-electric replacement, but that doesn’t mean it's any less fun to drive. With a finely balanced mid-engined chassis, a strong range of engines and a choice between a manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox, there’s a 718 Boxster to suit all driving enthusiasts’ tastes.
Entry-level cars come with an effective, if slightly boring, four-cylinder engine, while GTS models get a much more exciting, sonorous six-cylinder unit. Even if you opt for the smaller engine, you won’t be short-changed in the handling department – all 718 Boxsters have tactile, communicative steering and the excellent chassis dynamics synonymous with the German brand. For maximum involvement, you’ll want the six-speed manual gearbox, although the PDK automatic delivers some of the quickest shifts of any car.
There are various models to choose from, escalating to the wildly fast Boxster Spyder RS. Not bothered about having the wind in your hair? Porsche will sell you the 718 Cayman coupe instead.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need a two-seater sports car to satisfy your need for driving thrills – the Cupra Formentor proves that even a family SUV can be a hoot to drive. It’s our favourite hot SUV on the market, with impressive body control, a strong 306bhp engine and four-wheel drive in its most powerful trim.
This range-topping Formentor is best suited to driving enthusiasts, backing up its aggressive looks with a sub-five second 0-62mph time and impressive grip levels. Front-wheel drive models with less powerful engines are offered – including a plug-in hybrid – but they still deliver more fun than rivals, and return good fuel economy.
Being a practical and spacious family SUV, the Formentor also excels day-to-day when you’re not channelling your inner Max Verstappen down a B-road.
It wasn’t long ago that the idea of an electric driver’s car was unimaginable, yet the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is real, it’s on sale, and it’s very good indeed. There are several electric sports cars on the market now, all boasting neck-snapping acceleration figures or record-setting lap times, but the Ioniq 5 N is different – there’s a clear focus on driving fun.
The playful driving dynamics of Hyundai’s i20 N and i30 N have carried over to the bigger Ioniq 5 N, with handling taking priority over straight-line speed. That’s not to say the Ioniq 5 N isn’t fast – with 641bhp, it will happily beat many sports cars in a 0-62mph sprint. Most interesting perhaps is the driving mode that mimics a combustion engine, complete with fake engine noise and simulated gearshifts. It may sound silly, but it only adds an extra layer of driving enjoyment to what is already a genuine driver’s car.
The long-awaited successor to the Toyota GT86 was so popular at launch that order books filled up almost immediately meaning you’ll likely have to look at the used market, unless you can find a cancelled order at your local dealer.
The GR86 has satisfying steering and agile handling that makes it one of the few affordable sports cars left alongside the Mazda MX-5. The 2.4-litre petrol engine produces 231bhp without any turbocharging – unusual in today’s market – and feels happiest when you let the revs build. A manual gearbox is standard fit, too, working with the engine to deliver a traditional sports car experience in a modern package.
The downside to the lack of turbocharging is that it isn’t as quick as other, more expensive sports cars. We think that’s unlikely to bother drivers who want to enjoy the open road and test their ability, rather than worry about which car has the most impressive Top Trumps card.
The Porsche 911 is, for many, the quintessential sports car, with its trademark recipe of excellent handling, performance and usability. As these qualities have improved throughout the 911’s lifetime, its price has slowly crept up, too, meaning you now need nearly six figures to get behind the wheel. That high barrier to entry knocks the 911 to the bottom of this list, but with such an enjoyable driving experience, it would be remiss to exclude it entirely.
It’s easy to get lost in the vast range of 911 models on offer, from Carreras to Targas, Turbos and GT3s, but all are rewarding and engaging to drive. The Carrera and Turbo models make for the best everyday cars, whereas the track-focused GT3 is practically a race car for the road. No matter which you choose, you’ll be behind the wheel of one of the very best sports cars on sale – just be prepared to pay for it.
What to look for when buying a driver’s car
If you’re looking for a driver’s car, you most likely already have an idea of the qualities you’re looking for. The best driver’s cars are communicative, through both the steering and through the seat, as well as exciting and engaging to drive. It should feel at home on a backroad, with suspension that can deal with our lunar-surface roads, and thanks to new adaptive suspension technology, many driver’s cars can soften off for comfortable motorway cruising.
You’re not confined to two-seater sports cars either – many SUVs today offer credible performance and impressive handling while still managing to accommodate the whole family. Modern petrol engines are fairly economical too when you’re not flooring it, meaning a driver’s car can be driven every day and the fuel bills won’t be astronomical.
If you’re looking for a used driver’s car, there are certain things you should be wary of. The handling characteristics of a performance car are often heavily influenced by the tyres fitted, so it’s always worth checking whether the car is still wearing OEM-specification tyres. The same goes for modifications – ask the seller whether any changes have been made to the suspension, brakes, exhaust and other commonly modified components.
A test drive is always recommended – pay particular attention to any untoward pulls from the steering and any knocks from the suspension over bumps. Look out for signs of track use, too, as a driver’s car may have lived an unforgiving previous life as a track day toy, with the resulting heavy wear, regardless of mileage.
Finally, if you’re looking at a particularly unique driver’s car, it’s worth getting a specialist to inspect the car beforehand. Replacement parts for low-volume sports cars can be expensive to replace, so it's best to be aware of any issues before handing over your cash.
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