Some drivers want to take their car out for a spin for the hell of it. For that purpose, there is now a wide range of exciting, great handling sports cars on sale. We’ve taken a look at ten of the best to help you pick the one for you.
Put any of these cars in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. If you’re on a tight budget, check out our list of the best sports cars for less than £20,000 or, if you don’t want to blow too much cash at the pumps, read our list of the most efficient diesel sports cars.
The BMW Z4 isn’t the most uncompromising sports car that the brand produces, but it’s still great fun from behind the wheel. Thanks to the long bonnet, the driver sits closer to the rear wheels than the front, lending it a class sports cars feel and look.
The Z4’s overall setup is more biased towards comfort than B-road blasting, but the relatively soft suspension helps the driver exploit the car’s potential even on more challenging road surfaces.
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There are few cars more able to thrill than a Caterham Seven. Nothing else comes close to replicating the feel of a go-kart – direction changes are immediate, the balance is endlessly adjustable, even in the middle of a corner – and, when the limits of grip are tested, it breaks away predictably and progressively.
There’s a wide choice of Sevens to cater for all tastes. The range begins with the 80hp 160, and tops out with the riotous 620R which can dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in an incredible 2.8 seconds.
While the Lotus Evora may lack the polish of many of its rivals (the interior plastics leave a lot to be desired, for example), Lotus’ expertise has been focussed where it really matters – the Evora is widely regarded as possessing one of the finest chassis ever fitted to a road car.
The steering is described as “wonderfully communicative” by one tester, and the pedals are perfectly placed for enthusiastic driving. Even when driving hard, it feels completely benign, a feeling that’s enhanced by the amazingly supple ride, which some critics suggest is comparable to many executive saloons.
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The Ariel Atom is like little else with four wheels. The combination of low weight and a supercharged version of the engine found in the previous Honda Civic Type R help it achieve a 0-62mph time of 2.6 seconds – only 0.1 seconds behind a Bugatti Veyron.
Its lack of inertia helps it to dart through turns in a way the Bugatti never could. Its responses border on the telepathic and, best of all, thanks to minimal bodywork and a skeletal chassis, you can see the front suspension and steering rack working its magic from the driver’s seat. It’s insane and sublime in equal measure, and an unforgettable experience.
When Toyota designed the GT86, it set out to build a sports car not for ultimate performance, but one that would deliver simple, accessible driving pleasure. All the basics are spot on – the driving position is pretty much perfect, the controls are well placed, and the steering is well-weighted and accurate. In order to enjoy the car’s innate balance even at legal speeds, it shares the same eco tyres fitted to a Prius.
While the flat-four engine produces only modest power levels, it boasts a very low centre of gravity which, paired with a stiff rear-wheel drive chassis, results in a hugely entertaining driving experience.
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For a slightly more uncompromising experience than the GT86, the Lotus Elise should more than suffice. It makes use Toyota engines, too – either a 1.6-litre unit from the Verso mini-MPV, or the high-revving 1.8-litre used in the old Celica and MR2 sports cars.
In a car that can weigh less than 900kg, there’s serious performance on offer. The 1.8-litre can cover the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.2 seconds, while even the entry-level version manages the same benchmark in just 6.0.
It turns into corners with wonderful enthusiasm, the steering – which lacks power assistance – offers incredible feel, and grip is strong. Like its big brother the Evora, it rides with impressive compliance, too.
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From one end of the scale to the other, we move from the Elise to the Jaguar F-Type. It might weigh almost twice as much, but it isn’t any less of a thrill to drive. Thanks to a choice of rude-sounding V6 and V8 petrol engines, the drop top Jaguar adds an old-school ‘hot-rod’ quality to the driving experience.
It tends to bludgeon a road surface, rather than dance over it, although the wonderfully accurate steering gives it a delicacy that many big sports cars lack. What the F-Type certainly doesn’t lack is the ability to smoke its rear tyres if you have a heavy right foot. If you’ve found a nice safe circuit to slide it around, it’s impressively composed even when you behave like a hooligan.
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The Porsche 911 has all the main performance car bases covered. It fits the GT brief thanks to plenty of power and impressive cruising ability. It behaves like a supercar if you fork out for the seriously rapid Turbo or the racecar-for-the-road GT3 RS. All versions have the compact dimensions and driver engagement to be considered sports cars in the truest sense.
Some testers suggest the steering isn’t quite as communicative as 911s of old, but the overall impression is of a car where all of the elements gel perfectly together. Find a twisty road, and it’s brilliant – the steering is direct, it manages to feel agile yet stable, while traction is almost unflappable thanks to the weight of the engine squeezing down over the rear tyres.
When the first Mazda MX-5 was released back in 1989 its brief was simple – to replicate the style, feel and grin-factor of a 1960s British soft top, but with the reliability of a modern Japanese car. Ever since, it’s been a huge hit, becoming the highest selling two-seat roadster of all time.
While subsequent generations grew a little larger and heavier, the fourth-generation model has gone back to the original ethos – compact dimensions, light weight and revvy engines. The result is a car which is more enjoyable at 30mph than some performance cars feel at more than three times that speed. The suspension is fairly soft, allowing plenty of body movement when cornering. Grip is fairly modest, allowing the driver to feel like they’re approaching the car’s limits, even at legal speeds.
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While the Boxster puts forth a strong case for the title of ‘best handling car on sale today’, it’s the roofed alternative which offers the more outstanding drive. In almost any form, the Porsche Cayman delivers a perfectly balanced chassis and well-weighted controls. The mass is concentrated towards the centre of the car, making the Cayman feel very predictable giving the driver confidence.
To experience it at its best, the GTS is the sweetest of the lot, though the more powerful, more track-oriented GT4 is also deeply impressive. Based on our aggregated wowscores, the Cayman achieves one of the highest ratings of any car, which tells you everything you need to know.
Put any of these cars in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. For more options, head over to our deals page or, if you’re still struggling to pick your next car, check out our car chooser.