They were great when new and are arguably even more appealing at a fraction of their original price today

It's a big one: the best cars in the world. Each model here embodies a different quality which, at some point or another, has led to it being the best car of its type. Take a look at what £10k can get you.

Porsche Cayman (2006-2012)

More than just a Boxster with a roof, sweeter than a 911 and nimbler than a gazelle being chased by a lion, the Cayman is the trump card in the Porsche pack. Our money buys a 2006 model with a 245bhp 2.7-litre flat six engine, mounted amidships. Performance is in the order of 5.8sec for 0-62mph and top speed is 160mph. Dedicated speed freaks can seek out the even quicker 295bhp 3.4-litre S version for not much more.

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On the road, it’s sublime. The steering is precise and beautifully weighted, the grip strong and the handling wonderfully sweet. Savour, too, the delicious howl from that engine. Caymans of this age are well made and generally bulletproof, but always buy with a full history.

Range Rover (2002-2013)

Our Verdict

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The Range Rover has been ploughing its own furrow since 1970, combining so successfully the qualities of a smart and refined upmarket town car and a hugely capable and capacious off-roader. This third-gen version is wonderfully furnished, handsomely equipped and beautifully proportioned.

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It can pull like a train and glide like a swan, although it comes as quite a shock to discover that the chic, stolid and innovative Rangie can occasionally handle like a boat. It also comes as a shock to learn that something so tough can occasionally be rather fragile. But for £10k, you could put a 2006 174bhp 3.0-litre diesel V6 Vogue SE on your driveway, and for 99% of the time you would want for no more. 

Mazda MX-5 (2006-2015)

It doesn’t really matter which version of this diminutive drop-top you choose; from the Mk1 to the latest Mk4, you’ll enjoy driving them all. A £10k budget will buy you a 2012 Mk3 car, and what you’ll get is a quick-steering, sharp-handling roadster powered by a lively 158bhp 2.0-litre engine, enabling 0-62mph in 7.6sec and a blowy top speed of 132mph.

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But the figures tell only half the story. Even this largest of MX-5s feels lithe, and a quick roof-down punt along a sunny country lane will stir your senses, its unburstable quality matched only by its unbeatable charm. Reported problems are few, and there are plenty around. Accept no substitutes; it’s five-star fun in an immensely affordable package.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2006-2013)

If you’re after luxury limo comfort and innovative safety aids, the S-Class is for you — and this fifth-generation model adds bulging wheel arches and night-time vision, as well as real dynamic capability. It’s as good to drive as it is to be driven in. Choose wisely and you’ll waft along in the S 320 CDI, with its near-silent 235bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine, and enjoy 34mpg. Live a little, though, and you could bag the 517bhp twin-turbo 5.5-litre V12 S 600 petrol version, which will whoosh from 0-62mph in just 4.6sec.

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Both go, stop and handle beautifully, are wonderfully made and leave nothing out of the equipment list. Our £10k buys a 2007 version of what is almost certainly the best luxury car in the world.

Volkswagen Golf GTI (2009-2012)

The S-Class may be the most accomplished luxury car you can buy at this price, but the Golf GTI must surely be the best all-rounder in the real world. The Mk6 version packs a smooth 208bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine under its bonnet, which means 0-62mph in a swift 6.7sec and a top speed of 149mph. There’s strong grip and accurate steering and the handling is a joy: eminently chuckable, instantly recoverable and immense fun. With such driver appeal, it’d be easy to overlook its practicality.

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The interior is subtly sporting and the boot will handle the weekly shop. It’s refined, comfortable and undemanding. No other hot hatch can match its overall competence. Problems are few. For £10k, you’ll get a 2010 three or five-door, manual or DSG.


Join the debate


26 April 2016
At least 3 bottomless money pits in there, no thanks.

26 April 2016
The Apprentice wrote:

At least 3 bottomless money pits in there, no thanks.

I couldn't agree with you more here. If you only have £10k to spend on a car and you've got your sights set on a Range Rover or S Class then all I can say is shame on you.

I've owned both and they're woefully expensive to maintain. Granted the Mercedes is generally far more reliable, when an issue does arise (usually suspension or electronic) be prepared to pay for your mechanics sons tuition fees.

But the L322 Range Rover is by far the worst vehicle I've ever owned. I only bought it because it had full dealer history and plenty of receipts but only owned it for 12 months and in that period I had the engine management light on, 2 new batteries, new wing mirror actuator, new radiator, coolant tank, alternator, new O/S air spring and new air compressor. And it's nice to see that they've kept the trend going over to the L405 RR as well, my uncle owns one and it was recalled 3 times in the first 6 months and already suffers from leaking air springs and faulty electronics

26 April 2016
How can any self-respecting car magazine recommend a £10,000 Range Rover as a best buy?!


26 April 2016
I agree, it is quite frankly irresponsible to recommend a £10k Range Rover to people who presumably don't have the wherewithal to afford enormous bills. Three of my close friends have virtually had to 'write off' their TD6 Range Rovers due to Gearbox failure making it uneconomical to repair ....(and apparently its common). All three were low miles FSH 1 or 2 owner vehicles, all three gearboxes blew at 70k miles!

26 April 2016
Never buy an old car with air suspension (this applies even to that paragon of reliability, the Lexus, get steel springs). Never buy a used Porsche unless you have joined the club, done all the research, live near a specialist and have plenty set aside for a rainy day. Never buy a used Range Rover unless it's a Mk1.

26 April 2016
...There are plenty of 'Gansta' types that will buy these. Including M3's and RS4's.

26 April 2016
...There are plenty of 'Gansta' types that will buy these. Including M3's and RS4's.

27 April 2016
Land Cruiser defecates on any Land Rover product from an extraordinary height.

28 April 2016
Although cars depreciate massively in value, running and maintenance costs don't. Paying 10k for a car doesn't make it a 10k car.

18 May 2016
I had an S350 for 7 months. At the time it was a one owner, 12k miles car that was very well taken care of. In the short time I had it the windows started to open or close when they pleased, the electric mirrors folded but failed to open out again, and it developed a strange issue with the gearbox where it would appear that the clutch was slipping losing all power ( although the engine spun happily ). I never came to a conclusion to the issue as the dealer gave me my money back against anything else he had - I cannot imagine what would happen if I had bought something without a main dealer warranty ( which I doubt anything 10k or under would have ! )

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