Five of the best
Defining a sports car can be a tricky one because it's completely subjective. Ultimately, everyone will have their own opinion.
Many will believe that performance is a large factor that needs considering, while there are those who think the emphasis should be placed on how the car feels compared to a regular family hatchback.
However, we believe that a sports car is one that has been designed by the manufacturer to be fun and engaging from the offset. Usually, things like practicality are sacrificed to achieve this, but that's okay because driving enjoyment is more important. That's the essence of a true sports car.
While there are plenty of sports cars to choose from if you have a substantial budget, we wanted to explore what sports cars were available under £10,000. This is what we found.
Nailing the basics has always been the remit of the Mazda MX-5, which excels at offering maximum driving thrills without helping itself to the contents of your bank account.
With this budget you can expect to get behind the wheel of a third-generation MX-5 (2005-2015). There are two engines to choose from, comprising a 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engine that produce 124bhp and 158bhp respectively.
Regardless of the engine you go for, you'll benefit from a free-revving naturally-aspirated (no turbo or supercharger) unit that'll send its power directly to the rear wheels. When combined with the balanced chassis and low kerb weight, you'll no doubt be grinning from ear-to-ear even if you're travelling at low speeds.
Arguably the best thing about the MX-5 is that it's a convertible, meaning you can enjoy all of the above with the roof down. Models with a traditional cloth roof are common, but versions with a folding hard-top aren't difficult to seek out if you want extra protection from the elements.
Used Mazda MX-5
If the Mazda above isn't quite your cup of tea, but the low running costs and emphasis on driving enjoyment appeals, then take a look at the Toyota GT86.
Toyota released this sports coupé back in 2012, engineering it for driving enthusiasts who enjoy nothing more than tackling a twisty B-road. Similar to the Mazda, the GT86 gets a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine that sends its power to the rear wheels.
The 2.0-litre engine may not be the most potent, developing just under 200bhp, but its unique design allowed Toyota to mount it low down, which really aids the GT86's ability to tackle corners. What's more, this unit will return mpg within the mid-30s, making the GT86 refreshingly affordable to run.
You may feel a little underwhelmed by the interior compared to the other vehicles on this list, but luxuries such as satellite navigation, heated seats and climate control are all readily available to make up for this.
Used Toyota GT86
With a premium badge and a luxurious cabin design, the BMW Z4 is a fine choice for anyone who wants excellent refinement without compromising on the qualities associated with a sports car.
The £10,000 budget should comfortably get you a second-generation Z4, which was in production between 2009 and 2016. Although the previous model is a good shout if you're after a weekend car and don't mind something older.
Typical of BMW, the Z4 utilises a balanced chassis and benefits from the power being delivered straight to the rear wheels. Running costs can be reasonable depending on the engine you go for.
The smaller 2.0-litre units are reasonably frugal, returning around 40mpg on a combined cycle. Fuel economy does decline on the 6-cylinder engines, but you get a better soundtrack and driving experience as a trade-off.
Being a convertible, the Z4 will allow you to enjoy the road you're on regardless of the engine that's under the bonnet.
Used BMW Z4
Few cars in recent history have managed to become a design classic overnight, but Audi managed to achieve that with the TT in the late 90s.
Although the budget here will easily get you a first-generation TT, it also allows you to explore the second-generation model, which was in production between 2006 and 2014.
This particular model built on the success of its predecessor with fresher aesthetics and more advanced technology. Despite production ending in 2014, this generation of TT doesn't look out of place next to more contemporary rivals.
Potent petrol engines are readily available, with the 208bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged unit falling comfortably within budget. These engines offer a good blend of performance and economy, with around 40mpg achievable on a combined cycle. It's worth noting that a diesel is available, making the TT ideal if you do quite a bit of mileage.
The coupé bodystyle will be the most common within this budget, but convertibles are also available if you want some roof-down thrills.
Used Audi TT
Think of the Mercedes-Benz SLK as the middle-ground between the aforementioned Audi TT and BMW Z4. It's more subtle than the Z4, but still looks and drives great, while the interior design isn't quite on par with the TT, but it's still very sophisticated.
This budget will get you behind the wheel of a second-generation SLK. Although the production for this generation ran between 2004 and 2010, £10,000 will easily get you a later-year model.
Similar to the Z4, the SLK is available with smaller engines, which mainly consist of a 1.8-litre that can return mpg in the mid-30s. A bigger, 6-cylinder, engine is also available, and should satisfy those who want more drama from a sports car.
Unlike the Z4 though, you can get the SLK with a diesel engine. As a result, you can enjoy roof-down driving thrills over longer distances without having to worry too much about fuel economy.
Used Mercedes-Benz SLK
Choose your next sports car with Evans Halshaw
As you can see from the above, you can get yourself a genuinely fantastic sports car for under £10,000. What's more, if you choose wisely, the running costs shouldn't cost the earth, either.
Convertibles have featured strongly on this list, but if you're willing to up your budget, then you can find some great used convertibles under £15,000. Alternatively, you may want practicality mixed with performance, in which case you should check out the best used hot hatchbacks under £10,000.