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Cheap fun cars: our used sporty car picks from £1,000 to £10,000

It’s very possible to buy a cheap car that’s a lot of fun – even with a budget of up to £10,000. Here are the best ones

Cheap fun used cars

If you’re a keen driver and would rather someone else take the depreciation hit on a new sporty car, there are plenty of cheap fun models to choose from on the second-hand market.

You can get into the driver’s seat of a fun used car for as little as £1,000 in some cases, and if you’ve got a budget of up to £10,000 there are plenty of fun sports cars, hot hatchbacks, and even a super saloon or performance estate car or two that will satisfy your craving to thread down a B-road. We’ve steered clear of track-focused hardcore sports cars in favour of fun cars you can genuinely use day to day.

Toyota GT86 front passenger sideBest cheap sports cars

Many of the cars on our list are not only cheap to buy, but their desirability when new means they could end up as future classics if you hold onto them long enough, so their values could increase if you keep them in good condition.

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We’ve divided our list of the best cheap used fun cars into four price brackets between £1,000 and £10,000 to help you choose based on your budget. While choice might be limited at the lower end of the scale, towards the top £10,000 price tag you can get some particularly high-performance cars and low-mileage examples that should hopefully prove reliable for years to come. Make sure to refer to our guide to buying a used car to make sure you're buying wisely, and if you'd rather go with something brand new, check out our list of the best sports cars on sale now.

£1,000-£3,000 

Audi TT Mk1

Want a true design icon that won’t cost a fortune? It’s difficult to think of a car that better fits the bill than the original Audi TT. It’s fun, fast, and still looks the part even after all this time thanks to Audi’s gradual, evolutionary approach to design.

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The TT was presented in concept form in 1995, but when it reached production in 1998 the styling had barely changed, and its svelte lines and affordable price tag were transformative for Audi as a brand: while known for its quality products and appreciated by enthusiasts for its rallying exploits, it was the TT that made Audi cool in the eyes of the general public.

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The car’s popularity back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s means the market is now awash with inexpensive used examples. The TT’s mechanicals are fairly straightforward, with all but entry-level cars using Quattro all-wheel drive. Most are powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder although a small number have a 3.2-litre V6, examples of which tend to fall just outside our budget. 

TTs do have some common issues, with coil packs being a weak point, but the wide choice means you can afford to take your time and find a well cared-for and regularly serviced car, and – given that style will no doubt play a part – in a colour that you like.

Toyota MR2 Mk3

A rear-wheel-drive, mid-engined two-seater sports car with sprightly performance, sharp handling and reasonable running costs, all for less than £3,000 – it’s pretty hard to beat the value offered by the third-generation Toyota MR2. Built between 1999 and 2007, the last MR2 lost the earlier models’ pop-up headlights, but gained a folding soft-top and a focus on driver thrills; the result is a lightweight, sharp and agile sports car that’s lots of fun to drive. It’s not as practical as some cars on this list (there’s a tiny front cubby and some space behind the seats, so it’s no grand tourer) but few can match its value today.

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A well cared-for example with less than 100,000 miles on the clock can be had for just under £3,000. Watch out for rust, check for signs of dampness in the interior and pay attention to service history – reliability is generally good, but some common issues exist, including engine problems caused by disintegrating exhaust parts. We recommend a good set of correctly sized matching tyres all round, too. Better get in there soon, though, because Mk3 MR2s are going up in price, much like many other Japanese sports cars of this era.

Renaultsport Clio 172/182

The facelifted second-generation Renault Clio was always a good car to drive, but with a 2.0-litre petrol engine with as much as 180bhp (in 182 form) under the bonnet and a sportier chassis, the Renaultsport version raised the bar. Whichever version you choose, performance is strong: a 0-62mph time of around seven seconds and plenty of low-down power make swift progress very easy. On a twisty road the Renaultsport Clio’s low weight, reworked suspension and communicative steering all help make it one of the most nimble and lively fast hot hatchbacks of its generation.

While well used, roadworthy examples can just about be found at the lower end of our budget. However, we recommend looking for a pampered one. These will start at around £3,000 and should have straight bodywork, fewer than 150,000 miles on the clock and a full service history. Engine issues aren't common on well maintained cars, but it’s worth assessing the health of the suspension, bushings and gearbox mounts in particular. Prices continue to creep up, though, so while it could also prove a good investment, don’t leave it too long.

Ford Mondeo ST220

If you need a car that’s cheap to buy, practical and comfortable yet still thrilling when the mood takes you, there are plenty of go-faster family cars from the early Noughties vying for your attention, including the original Skoda Octavia vRS. A less obvious choice, though, is the Ford Mondeo ST220. With its 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, the ST220 improved on Ford’s already excellent family car by adding tauter suspension and more power.. You can choose between hatchback, saloon or estate variants – the latter is particularly spacious in the back. With 223bhp, 0-62mph takes around seven seconds and overtaking is effortless – although you'll pay for the privilege at the pumps. If 25-30mpg isn’t palatable, the closely related Mondeo ST TDCi offers similar looks and handling but with a 2.2-litre diesel engine that returns around 46mpg.

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The Mondeo ST220 comes in hatchback, saloon or estate variants – the latter is particularly spacious in the back. With 223bhp, 0-62mph takes around seven seconds and overtaking is effortless – although you'll pay for the privilege at the pumps. If 25-30mpg isn’t palatable, the closely related Mondeo ST TDCi offers similar looks and handling but with a 2.2-litre diesel engine that returns around 46mpg, although it’s worth bearing in mind it won’t be ULEZ friendly if you plan on using it in London.

£3,000-£5,000

Porsche Boxster 986

Yes, you really can find a ‘proper’ Porsche sports car for under £5,000, though as buyers cotton on to the amazing deals available on the car that saved Porsche in the mid-1990s, we’ve noticed prices beginning to climb in recent years, particularly for those that are in good condition.

There’s much to recommend the Boxster, even if it can be relatively expensive to run. Its curvy 1990s styling is ageing well, in part thanks to Porsche’s policy of gentle evolution, so even the very latest 718 Boxsters don’t look dissimilar to an original 1996 car. They handle beautifully too, and while the early 2.5-litre cars aren’t rapid by modern standards, they still perform well and the flat-six engines sound glorious when revved. Be extra vigilant when buying and budget for potentially expensive repairs and servicing (Boxsters of this age have a few common engine issues), and you’ll own one of the decade’s greatest sports cars.

Honda Civic Type R (EP3)

The Honda Civic Type R is a hot hatch in a class of its own, with a uniquely high-revving engine, sharp handling and a sublime manual gearbox complete with its lever mounted on the centre console. There’s plenty of performance, with 0-62mph completed in just 6.6 seconds, while grip and handling is similarly impressive – although some may find the steering a little numb.

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Many examples on the market will have been driven hard, but well maintained cars should be able to put up with a little abuse. Prices have started to rise lately, so you will have to settle with a well-loved vehicle with around 100,000 miles. A full service history is essential, with evidence of a cambelt change particularly important. Watch out for worn synchromesh in the gearbox, too, while rust is beginning to become an issue after 20 years of use.

As strange as it might sound, you could even consider the curvier, later-generation FN2 with a little less mileage – while it’s newer with more creature comforts, it’s a little less loved than the EP3 model given it’s not yet considered as much of a classic, heavier and slightly slower than its predecessor as a result.

Suzuki Swift Sport

A great-value hot hatch when sold new (between 2005 and 2011), the first-generation Swift Sport is now a complete performance bargain. Adding a fizzy 1.6-litre petrol engine and lively handling, Suzuki transformed the Swift into a critically acclaimed hot hatchback with subtle sporty styling touches – all while retaining the standard car’s great build quality, reliability and practicality.

Today, prices for rough-and-ready, early high-mileage examples start at around £1,500, however, £3,500 will get you a newer example with around 50,000 miles on the clock. The Swift Sport is generally reliable if looked after, but watch out for gearbox issues – input shafts are a weak point, though clutches can last up to 70,000 miles. Body panels are also expensive.

Mazda MX-5 Mk3

While its modern classic predecessors are readily available for much less, the third-generation Mazda MX-5 is a better proposition as a reliable and cheap fun car. With rear-wheel drive, a choice of a 129bhp 1.8 or 158bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines and relatively low weight, the newer car is just as fun to drive as its ancestors, but feels more modern. There was even a folding hard-top version – although we’d stick to the soft top.

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You’ll find a range of examples within our budget, with a good mid-mileage early 1.8-litre model costing around £4,000 and a good 2.0-litre pushing that figure higher. Reliability is generally excellent, with few real mechanical issues to worry about beyond usual wear and tear. 

Fabric roofs are worth checking over for signs of damage, including the frame and rear window. Watch out for signs of crash repairs and peeling lacquer on alloy wheels, and keep an eye out for corrosion – mk3 MX-5s are now starting to show issues in the same areas as their predecessors, and repairs can be expensive.

Read our full used buying guide for the Mazda MX-5 Mk3 here

£5,000-7,000 

Nissan 350Z

Although Nissan's most recent Z sports car will sadly not make it to the UK, with the brand not considering the market here big enough. If there’s any consolation, it’s that it’s still very easy to find the company’s first sports car of the current millennium, the 350Z, in large numbers on the used market. And even better, it’s as great to look at and entertaining to drive as it was at launch back in 2002. It’s even available as a convertible roadster version, which tends to be cheaper on the used market with keen drivers preferring the rigidity of the coupe.

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The 350Z uses a 3.5-litre V6, developing 287bhp in early variants and around 300bhp in later cars. It’s rear-wheel drive too and predominantly offered with a chunky six-speed manual gear shift, while the distinctive cabin design sits you towards the rear wheels for a traditional sports car feel. 350Zs get driven hard, so gearboxes, suspension and brakes can all wear and it’s sensitive to good tyres too. Early engines use some oil, so check for regular changes, while accident damage is obviously a risk and tax is relatively expensive. Buy a good one though and it should be as reliable as the Nissan badge suggests.

Skoda Fabia vRS Estate

The Skoda Fabia vRS Estate was unique in its class as a high-performance supermini-based estate when new and it remains as such even today – making it a fantastic second hand bargain. Its 1.4-litre petrol engine is both supercharged and turbocharged for a total of 178bhp, while a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox was the only transmission option. It’s not quite as sharp to drive as a Renaultsport Clio of a similar age, but it’s still fast, fun and far more practical.

Prices for good, higher-mileage Skoda Fabia vRS Estates start at around £4,000, but you’ll probably need to spend at least £6,000 upwards to secure the best. Finding one could be a challenge, too, as the estate is relatively rare – the classifieds are packed with its hatchback counterpart, though. Oil consumption is said to be high and there are known issues with the dual-clutch gearbox, so try to seek out a well maintained example. Given that the engine has both a supercharger and turbocharger, the latter is particularly important – reliability is somewhat of a grey area for this generation Fabia vRS.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5

After the disappointing Mk4 Golf GTI, the fifth-generation model represented a fantastic return to form for Volkswagen’s iconic hot hatch. It got all the basics right – powerful 2.0-litre engine, poised front-wheel-drive chassis and sporty styling – while positioning the sportiest car in the standard Golf range as a classier alternative to more boisterous rivals. Good examples still look great today and make for fantastic everyday transport.

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As little as £2,500 can buy a high-miler in decent health, but it makes more sense to aim for a pampered example with less than 100,000 miles if you want to minimise costs in the long run. You’ll need at least £6,000 for this, but a price heading towards our £7,000 maximum is more likely to secure the best, while some special edition examples go for even more.

The Mk5 Golf GTI is generally reliable, but there are few foibles to watch out for alongside the usual age-related concerns: the engine is quite noisy but a rattle may be a faulty fuel pump, while uneven rear tyre wear points to suspension that needs adjustment.

Read our full Mk5 and Mk6 Volkswagen Golf used buying guide here

Peugeot RCZ

The Peugeot RCZ was the French firm’s answer to the hugely successful Audi TT, but its wild styling and fine driving experience weren’t a match for the cachet of its closest rival when it came to sales and depreciation. The good news is that this talented front-wheel-drive sports coupe is now available well within our budget; perfect if you want to stand out from the crowd. 

There’s a 163bhp diesel option if fuel economy is a concern, or the sporty RCZ R with over 260bhp if you’re in a hurry. A 1.6-litre petrol with 156bhp is the most common example on the market, offering a good balance between cost and performance.

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Today the RCZ represents good value, with low-mileage 1.6-litre petrol examples starting at around £6,000, but going for a well used example can drop the price significantly. You’ll typically need a little more to secure a low-mileage diesel, while the range-topping RCZ R is significantly more expensive (upwards of £15,000) thanks to its rarity and enthusiast appeal. Facelifted cars tend to be more expensive and generally more reliable, but arguably aren’t as good to look at. No RCZ is particularly prone to issues, but look for evidence of timing-chain replacement and make sure the gearbox shifts smoothly.

£7,000-£10,000

Ford Fiesta ST Mk2 

Ford has offered hot Fiestas for almost as long as the Fiesta itself has existed but only in recent years has the car genuinely been a class-leader. The car that turned things around was the second-generation Fiesta ST, sold from 2013 to 2019, based on the sixth-generation Fiesta. It was truly the complete package, with striking styling, an engine that put it right in contention with rivals, and a chassis that had the measure of almost any hot hatch on the road.

This ST is a real pleasure to drive. The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine produces 180bhp and feels every bit as quick as you’d expect, but it’s the detailed steering feel and agile chassis that really made the Fiesta a class-leader. 

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The ride can be a little firm for some but the payoff is high levels of grip and sharp turn-in. They’re relatively solid little cars, though hot hatches like these get used hard, so check the history carefully for evidence of less-than-careful use – well used examples can certainly be had for less than this price bracket, but we wouldn’t recommend this. There are a lot of reports of STs of this generation being stolen too; if you buy one, it may be worth investing in extra security measures.

Audi S3

Closely related to the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but offering more power, four-wheel drive and extra luxury, the second-generation Audi S3 is a competent all-rounder with effortless point-to-point pace and an upmarket image. Overtaking is a breeze thanks to its 261bhp, while grip and traction are impressive – even if the car’s not quite as engaging as the Renault Megane RS featured below.

Good higher-mileage second-generation S3s start at around £8,000, but we’d suggest you spend a little more to find something more pampered – either a three-door or the five-door 'Sportback' with under 100,000 miles – for around £9,000-10,000. 

The 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine is generally very reliable, but some cars can suffer internal issues if neglected – as ever, check for signs of yearly servicing (or every 10,000 miles). Clutches can last as much as 80,000 miles, but it’s important that DSG automatics have had their gearbox oil and filter changed at the 40,000-mile mark or sooner to avoid overheating.

Renault Megane RS

The Renaultsport version of the third-generation Megane was one of the best large hot hatches of its generation and went down a storm with performance-car enthusiasts. It was in its element on a twisting B-road; a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 247bhp was enough for 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, while sharp, agile handling and a sublime suspension set-up belied the Megane’s roots as a family hatchback. Two versions were available: Cup and Sport. The former has less standard kit but more in the way of sporty chassis tweaks, while the latter came with more creature comforts.

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Prices start at around £6,500-£7,000 for earlier examples with higher mileages, but a budget of £8,500-£10,000 will secure something with a mid-five-figure mileage and good history. Look for a model with the Cup pack fitted – these are more fun to drive and hold their value better.

Renaultsport cars have a good reputation for reliability, but it pays to look out for signs of track-based abuse. Those supportive Recaro seats can suffer from worn bolsters, too, which are an expensive fix.

BMW Z4 Roadster/Coupe

The first-generation BMW Z4 was a replacement for the underwhelming Z3 and improved the recipe in just about every way. Fashion-forward styling, a range of excellent engines and a much more focused driving experience made it a solid sports car at the time, and now it’s an excellent used bargain. Whether it was the entry-level four-cylinder 2.0-litre or top-spec Z4M models with their powerful 3.2-litre six-cylinder, all Z4s offered a good combination of driving thrills with everyday usability and German luxury sheen.

Despite its age, the Z4 performs the enviable trick of looking newer and more expensive than it really is. You’ll need less than £4,000 to secure a Z4 2.0i with mid-to-high miles, or around £5,000 for a pampered car, although we’d recommend pushing your budget to £7,000 and above to secure one of the very best 2.5 and 3.0-litre models. With 192 and 265bhp respectively, these six-cylinder versions offer performance in spades. 

For our blow-out budget, you’ll have the pick of both the Roadster and the stunning, swept-back Coupe, some of which are now sneaking below £10,000. While the roadsters at this price point will have very low mileage, expect coupe models to still be hovering around the 100,000-mile mark. Be sure to check for comprehensive service history, as Z4s require regular fluid top-ups; be ready to listen out for noisy interior trim on the move, too.

Read our buying guide to the more comfort-oriented BMW Z4 Mk2, or check out the best used hot hatchbacks to buy.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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