A new year means a fresh start. The reset button has been hit and there are 12 shiny new months reaching out ahead of you, every one of them packed full of potential.
You could view the passing of one year and the arrival of another as an opportunity to put that ill-advised used car purchase firmly behind you, or it might be the excuse you need to finally buy the sports car you’ve been promising yourself. This is our guide to the used driver’s cars – be they hot hatches, roadsters, fast saloons or sports coupés – that absolutely should be on your shopping list in 2018.
We really have focused on driver’s cars here too – machines that, in one way or another, are truly fantastic to pedal along. Every single car over the next few pages meets that criteria.
So you won’t find any heavyweight German barges that qualify simply for the loveliness of their woofy V8s, nor will you see any curious French tat that’s quite interesting to look at but utterly woeful when driven at speed.
No, this is a collection of great driver’s cars – and no exceptions. We have, however, kept at least half an eye on pragmatism and good sense. We’ve avoided hopeless money pits wherever possible, shunning anything that might spend more time up on a ramp than on a great B-road. While it is very possible to buy a Lotus Esprit for £25,000, for instance, most people, if not all, would be much better served by a newer and more modern sports car from the same manufacturer. In this case, then, it’s the Exige that gets the nod.
Well, that was the intention. We have, alas, given into temptation and disregarded our own advice on more than one occasion. You will not struggle to identify these lapses.
We’ve split this guide into five cost- based categories, within which we’ve selected our four favourite driver’s cars. You’ll find plenty of variety, temptation and intrigue within each, and along the way, we’ll drop in some helpful advice from our team of used car experts too – hints and tips that will steer you towards the right car and away from the wrong one.
The entry-level category is for cars costing £2000 or less, which demonstrates an important point: you don’t need a banker’s pay packet to bag yourself a genuinely fun and rewarding driver’s car in 2018.
Renault Sport’s reputation as a master hot hatch builder is every bit as deserved as Porsche’s standing in the hardcore sports car sector. It’s a reputation that was built on brilliant front-driven hatchbacks like the Clio 182, a car so capable along a twisting B-road that many sports car drivers have been humbled at its hand.
If you can find one within budget, the model of choice is the 182 Cup, which sits 10mm lower and on stiffer springs than the standard version. Any 182 will be a blast to drive, though, and you’ll find a tidy car at this price.