Never has the choice of sports cars at the affordable end of the spectrum been greater, each offering thrills to match and in some cases exceed those of more expensive peers.
It's not all about brake horsepower at this end of the market: most of the cars in our top 10 list put driver entertainment ahead of raw, straight-line performance. But we guarantee each will put a huge smile on your face on way or another.
Every significant component part of the Alpine A110 driving experience – from the rasping turbocharged torque of its engine to the hilariously immersive poise and panache of its handling – is all about the F word: fun. It brings to life journeys and roads that rivals wouldn’t, and has handling for which your affection can only grow as you explore it more closely.
Anatomise the car and you won’t find too many mechanical ingredients or areas you could genuinely call exceptional; but put them all together and you can’t help but conclude that the A110 is a much greater car – and achievement - than the sum of its parts would suggest. The subsequent arrival of the A110 S has only confirmed that, which has seen power for the car rise to 288bhp and firmer suspension and bigger brakes fitted; and yet it's the basic A110 which remains the sweeter, more involving machine for road driving.
Rarely does a car come along so devoted to driver involvement, and so singularly effective at it, even among affordable sports cars; the last time was probably the Toyota GT86 in 2012, a car to which we also gave a five-star recommendation for its supreme fitness to the purpose of sucking the marrow out of every mile. The A110 is quicker, more agile, more effusive and ultimately even more fun. It deserves no less of an ovation.
Even with its downsized four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, the 718 is by some distance the most complete mid-engined sports car on sale. Misgivings about the way the car's crank is now turned have been voiced from plenty of quarters since 2016, and have now been persuasive enough that Porsche has returned a flat six engine to this car for range-topping GTS versions. But whether fitted with a four- or a six-cylinder motor, be in no doubt: the Boxster and Cayman have always been, and remain, excellent sports cars.
The four-cylinder 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre turbo flat fours that were pressed into service in the car in 2016 attracted particular criticism for sounding toneless; for lacking smoothness, crispness of response, linearity and operating range; and also coming up short on the purist driver appeal typically associated with Porsche. Later still, Porsche retuned the car's 2.0-litre engine for WLTP-emissions compliance and released the Boxster- and Cayman T - whose unresponsiveness made a controversial situation worse.