How much fun can you have within a budget? That’s the idea of this test. It’s Britain’s Best Affordable Driver’s Car, our annual assessment of the more attainable yet great-to-drive cars launched during the past 12 months, taken to some of the greatest roads we know.
The idea of ‘budget’ is a movable one, depending on what has just been launched. This year, because the Volkswagen Golf R, BMW 128ti and Cupra Leon 300 have all arrived – serious hatches every one of ’em – we’ve upped our cap to £40,000.
But there are more affordable cars, too: Ford’s Puma ST, a hot crossover, comes in at under £30,000 and the Hyundai i20 N looks every inch a hot hatch bargain in this company, costing less than £25,000.
Then there’s our wildcard; the one it’s not really fair to put up against the rest because, well, for one it’s not entirely new, and two, it doesn’t have to consider, like the other cars do, the daily commute, the weekly shop or the reality of a role as family transport.
But the chance to have a Caterham Super Seven 1600 around, even if only as an affordable driver’s car benchmark, is rarely one to miss when the location is as good as this. And so to Scotland.
Crikey, it’s spectacular up here. It’s not often that our choice of location overshadows the stars of our show, but for this year’s two-day BBADC shootout we have to take a moment on arrival to drink in our surroundings. The schlep up from the south has been a long one, but we quickly realise it’s very much worth the effort from our elevated position just down the road from the Scottish ski resort of Glenshee.
Mountains tower over us while streams cascade down their rocky sides and feed the meandering Shee Water river way below, snaking alongside which is the main reason we stuck our pin in this part of the map and made the epic trek north: the Old Military Road. Tracing its roots back to 1749, this sinuous stretch is one of the last of British Army General Wade’s routes that criss-cross this corner of the country, designed to move soldiers and artillery around more effectively in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.