Tips and advice

Top 3 used sporty cars for £5,000

Dear Carbuyer, I need to replace my loved but rusty Ford Puma coupé with something as characterful. What can I get for £5,000?

The original Ford Puma was revered by enthusiasts. Based on the contemporary Ford Fiesta, it was small, affordable and, importantly, a real joy to drive. Shorn of today’s must-have safety and tech features, it only weighed a tonne, so even modest power outputs were enough to make it feel quick. The most collectable and quickest Ford Racing Puma version only had 153bhp but could get from 0-62mph in under eight seconds.

Small coupes don’t sell very well any more, so Ford has reused its Puma and Cougar (now Kuga) nameplates for SUVs instead. They’re far better suited to families and Ford has made sure the new Puma isn’t a disgrace to its forebear by basing it on the Fiesta and ensuring it’s good to drive.

Ford Puma: old vs new

You don’t need much money to buy a Puma coupe these days; the challenge is finding a good one. Sadly, Pumas are few and far between now; most have succumbed to rust. That’s the situation our reader finds themselves in, so the time has come to reluctantly trade up to a newer model that’ll still put a smile on their face. What can they get for their £5,000 budget?

We’ve focused on sporty cars that share a similar ethos to the original Puma. Our choices are relatively light with reasonable power figures, which bring added benefits like cheaper insurance and lower costs for tyres and other consumables. For these cars, connecting you to the road is more important than technology to connect you to your phone, although all three do have some modern features to enjoy.

The sporty choice: Peugeot RCZ

  • For: Stunning looks, fast, fine driving experience
  • Against: Not as practical as Fiesta, ride can be firm 

If you’re after a car that feels as special as the Puma, the Peugeot RCZ makes a strong case for itself. From its ‘double-bubble’ roof that evokes racing cars with space for occupants’ crash helmets, to the silver roof arches, the RCZ still cuts a dash more than a decade after it arrived.

We’d opt for a petrol rather than a diesel engine, and the 1.6-litre unit puts out either 156 or 200bhp. A 2012 156bhp THP GT, or a 2010 200bhp model, both with 60,000 miles on the clock, fall within your budget.

The RCZ feels classy inside, and the analogue clock nestling between the air vents is a nice touch, but it’s worth looking out for cars with leather upholstery. Boot space is similar to the Fiesta’s, at 309 litres, but the rear seats are far tighter.

This French model has sharp steering and plenty of grip, while a rear spoiler that rises at 53mph adds to the Peugeot’s drama. It’s the fastest car here, too, with 0-60mph taking 7.6 or 8.3 seconds in the two petrol models mentioned above. Check you’re happy with the ride on cars with 19-inch wheels, though.

Check out used Peugeot RCZ deals on our sister site BuyaCar.

The logical choice: Ford Fiesta

  • For: Great handling, lots for sale, you’ll get a newer car
  • Against: Lacks the Puma’s sense of occasion

It’s impossible not to recommend a Fiesta, because the original Puma was based on the contemporary version of Ford’s hatch. We’d love to suggest a sporty Fiesta ST, but cars at this budget are thin on the ground, and getting on.

A slightly warm version of the previous-generation Mk7 Fiesta will put a smile on your face, though. We found a 2013, 123bhp 1.0-litre Zetec S with just 80,000 miles on sale for £4,750. If you’d like an older car with fewer miles, a 118bhp 1.6 Zetec S with 50,000 could also be yours.

Although the Fiesta’s button-heavy cabin lacks the modern drama of the Honda’s dashboard, the Ford’s controls are well placed. It’ll still feel like a step up from the Puma, though, while the Fiesta’s rear seats are by far the most spacious here.

There’s a reason why the Fiesta has such a great reputation: from the slick gearbox to the sharp steering and responsive brakes, it’s engaging, and an absolute pleasure to drive. The 0-60mph acceleration in both the 1.0 and 1.6-litre cars is reasonably brisk, taking a shade under 10 seconds.

Check out used Ford Fiesta deals on our sister site BuyaCar.

The quirky choice: Honda CR-Z

  • For: Unique warm-hatch hybrid set-up, striking cabin
  • Against: Back seats are next to useless, few for sale

Hybrid cars used to be mainly aimed at buyers who wanted the best economy, so Honda’s decision in 2010 to offer a two-door petrol-electric coupé was unusual. Today, hybrid sports cars are far better established, but the CR-Z is unique at this price point, and feels futuristic.

It should also still benefit from Honda’s strong reliability, but it’s a rare car; we found just 26 for less than £5,000. A 45,000-mile 2011 entry-level S costs £4,500, while an equivalent Sport will have an extra 30,000 miles or so.

With a prominent digital speedometer and control pods to either side of the steering wheel, there is almost nothing out there with an interior like the CR-Z’s. The Honda’s tight rear seats are best thought of as a parcel shelf, however.

The Honda CR-Z added to its idiosyncratic character by having a manual gearbox despite being a hybrid, but it’s a slick transmission. The 1.5-litre petrol-electric drivetrain sees off 0-60mph in 10 seconds, while the steering is sharp and the handling assured. The Fiesta is more fun to drive, though.

Carbuyer's choice, as picked by Content Editor Ben Custard

While the Ford Fiesta is victorious in many of the group tests it appears in, it’s a little too ordinary to win this comparison. Fiestas are 10-a-penny, and we think a dedicated coupe will feel more special. But CR-Z or RCZ? Well, the Honda CR-Z isn’t quite as fun to drive as the Fiesta and it’s quite techy, even if it does have rarity on its side. The Peugeot RCZ has a similar shape and focus to the Puma, and its button-free steering wheel will probably make the cabin feel alike as well. Like the Puma, we can see the RCZ being a future classic.

Read our guides to the best used coupes and best cheap sports cars.

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