It’s hard to beat the sense of wellbeing you get when cruising down a sunny country road behind the wheel of a small sports car.
Their compact dimensions make them easy to place on the road, and their lightweight bodies endow them with a feeling of agility you just don’t get from the average family hatchback. Even better, being able to take the roof down gives you an even greater sense of adventure – even if you’re just trundling into town.
It’s easy to dismiss sports cars on the grounds of expense, but there are bargains to be had – here we round-up the best cheapest sports cars on sale.
10 – Porsche Boxster – £39,553
We might as well get straight to the point: the Porsche Boxster is the finest two-seater sports car you can buy. It’s fast, the handling is fabulous, and it carries the style, prestige and quality that you’d expect from a Porsche costing much more.
Prices start at just under £40,000 for the 265hp 2.7-litre model. If outright driving thrills aren’t your biggest deciding factor, however, there are still cheaper ways to get the two seat experience, which is why this isn’t further up our list.
9 – Mercedes SLK – £34,715
Although prices for the Mercedes SLK do climb to over £55,000 for the incredibly fast AMG version, you can get your hands on one for the same price as a C-Class family saloon. You’ll have to be willing to settle for the entry level SLK 200 AMG Sport – with a more modest 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol in place of the AMG version’s 5.5-litre V8 – but it’s still a cracking car.
Those prices are before taking some of the huge offers into account too. Going through our deal checker, a Mercedes dealer offered a staggering £9,200 off the asking price, so you could get your hands on a brand-new SLK for as little as £25,500. Even more tempting now, isn’t it? Head over to our SLK configurator to get some offers of your own.
8 – Audi TT – £31,995
Arguably one of the most handsome cars in our top 10, the undeniable style of the Audi TT – whether looking at it from afar or while enjoying the gorgeous interior – has been one of the car’s major selling points as far back as the first generation’s introduction in 1998.
The latest model pairs genuine talent to those looks, too. It’s more than a match for the Mercedes SLK along a winding road, and when fitted with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine it matches a 7.1 seconds 0-62mph time with a highly un-sports car-like 67.3mpg fuel economy. If you’re not completely sold on the idea of a diesel sports car, then fear not – a more potent 227hp petrol costs only £90 more.
Head to our TT Roadster configurator to see what you could save on the list price.
7 – Ariel Atom – £30,596
If you like your sports cars just a little more intense, it’s hard to overlook the Ariel Atom. Even the ‘entry-level’ 3.5 model – powered by a supercharged version of the previous Honda Civic Type-R‘s engine – sprints from 0-62mph in just 3.3 seconds. That’s the same as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which costs £100,000 more.
There is little in the way of weather protection, no anti-lock brakes and no traction control. Safety gear extends as far as a pair of roll hoops and a crash helmet – the latter isn’t a legal requirement, but due to the tiny excuse for a windscreen, we’d strongly recommend one.
The trade-off for that lack of practicality is one of the most exhilarating driving experiences money can buy. It’s not as much money as you might think, either – the Atom can be had for a shade over £30,000
6 – Lotus Elise – £28,720
We admit that the Atom may be just a little too raw for most people. The availability of a canvas roof (and indeed, some bodywork) makes the Lotus Elise just a little bit easier to live with every day.
When testers use words like “sublime” to describe the driving experience, the steering and even the ride quality, then as two-seaters go it makes an incredibly compelling case for itself. An added bonus of the lightweight body is that it’s fairly frugal too: the Toyota-sourced 1.8-litre petrol is good for 45mpg.
5 – BMW Z4 – £27,740
As BMW’s alternative to the Audi TT and Mercedes SLK, the Z4 offers similar levels of driving enjoyment and performance. Like the Mercedes, it benefits from the security of a metal folding roof, while the long bonnet gives it a ‘hot rod’ style which sets it apart from its rivals.
Before any discounts are taken into account, the Z4 2.0 sDrive 18i is the cheapest of the three, too. While you won’t quite find the same huge discounts that Mercedes dealers are willing to offer, it’s possible to knock as much as £7,900 from the price of a new Z4, moving it well into the same price bracket as a mid-range Volkswagen Golf.
Build your ideal Z4 using carwow to see what you could save off the list price.
4 – Morgan 3 Wheeler – £25,950
The Morgan 3 Wheeler is perhaps the only car on this list which can rack up more crazy points than the Ariel Atom. In case the single rear wheel wasn’t enough to convince you of its madness, the tiny biplane-like cockpit, skinny front tyres and huge engine slung right out the front might.
That engine plays a big part in the driving experience. The 2.0-litre two-cylinder unit is more commonly found bolted to the frames of American custom motorcycles, and although the 82hp output seems low, bags of torque and a lightweight body mean that performance is still rapid. It has bags of character too – a phrase which applies to the whole car in general.
3 – Caterham Seven – £18,995
Perhaps one car which can come close to the Morgan’s grin factor is the Caterham Seven. A tiny kerb weight combined with a simple rear-wheel-drive chassis results in a car which many testers agree is the place in which to learn about performance driving techniques.
The starting point to the range is known as the Caterham 7 160. With a tiny 490 kilos for the equally tiny 660cc, 80hp engine to lug around, it’s capable of a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds. Prices start from £18,995, but if you’d like to add “weather equipment” (such as a windscreen and doors – both optional extras!) you’ll need to add £1,250 to that figure. A heater costs a further £300, too.
Despite the measly standard kit list, relative to its closest rivals the Seven still represents great value for money.
2 – Mazda MX-5 – £18,495
If ever there was a template for the perfect cheap sports car, the Mazda MX-5 would be it. There’s nothing too fancy under the skin, just an uncomplicated front-engined, rear-wheel-drive design with all the basic creature comforts included. It’s brilliant fun to drive, easy to live with, and thanks to the willing 1.5 and 2.0-litre engines, it’s even fairly frugal too.
About £18,500 of your hard earned cash will buy the 1.5 in SE trim. An absolute bargain in our eyes, and there’s a chance you might be able to sneak an extra £500 or so off that price using our deal checker.
1 – Mini Roadster – £18,260
The margin is small, but the cheapest convertible sports car on sale in the UK is the Mini Roadster. As with the rest of the Mini range, it’s a grippy agile thing to throw around, and interior quality is a cut above most cars at this price, but this one also benefits from an open air experience exclusively for two.
Priced from £18,260 in 1.6 Cooper trim, it edges out the Mazda MX-5 for the title of ‘cheapest sports car’ by £235. It’s pretty cheap to run too, thanks to a fixed price service plan and a very reasonable group 17 insurance. Fun, cheap to buy, and cheap to run. What more could you ask for from a sports car?