The TT is no longer just a fashion item; it’s a design icon. In Mk2 form, it’s also an accomplished sports coupé.
It’s beautifully built, its cabin is a work of art and it’s relatively cheap to run. On top of that, extensive use of weightsaving aluminium makes this version a capable handler. A smooth 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine packs a 149mph punch, and 0-62mph takes just 6.4sec. The TT also has strong grip, entertaining handling and a near-comfortable ride.
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You can have your TT in coupé or roadster form, with front or four-wheel drive and with a manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. For absolute speed, there’s the rip-snorting TT RS. Pay about £15k for a good 2012 model.
3. BMW M135i (2012-present)
Never judge a book by its cover. The 1 Series may look about as exciting as a pair of slippers, but this hunkered-down M135i version goes like a hare out of a trap. It’s also a truly lovely thing to drive.
Up front is a rorty 315bhp 3.0-litre straight six engine. Put your foot down and it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.9sec and on to a top speed of 155mph; within that speed range are huge reserves of instantly available power.
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A rear-drive chassis means the M135i steers with precision and handles superbly; it’s tremendous fun on a twisty back road. Inside, there’s an excellent driving position and room for kids in the back. You can now buy a 2013 example in three or five-door form for about £17k.
4. Toyota GT86 (2012-present)
Driving pleasure isn’t all about straightline speed or cornering on rails, as the GT86 proves. It’s a low-slung, rear-drive hipster, powered by a crisp 197bhp 2.0-litre flat four, and it’s good for a decent 140mph and 0-62mph in 7.4sec.
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However, the fact that it’s quite quick, reasonably cheap and not bad to look at is almost completely irrelevant. This car is all about feel, driver involvement and cornering — mostly sideways, which it does at the slightest provocation. Dab a brake or punch the throttle midcorner and, thanks to its well-sorted chassis and low-grip tyres, you can take known corners at almost any angle. The steering is linear and accurate, too.
The five-star GT86 is the stuff of petrolhead dreams. It’s priced from about £15k for a 2012 example.
5. Porsche 911 3.6 Carrera (2005-2012)
Some traditionalists may decry its rearengined layout, but there’s no driving experience quite like the iconic 911. Gone are the old tail-happy antics in corners; this modern 997 generation is stable, precise, refined and exhilarating.
There’s power and speed, too. Its lusty 321bhp 3.6-litre flat six propels it to 177mph and from 0-62mph in 4.8sec. Speed freaks can seek out the S version, with a 3.8-litre engine and even more oomph. Drive goes through a six-speed manual or a five-speed Tiptronic (PDK in later models) to the rear wheels or, in Carrera 4 models, to all four wheels.
It won’t be cheap to run, but £18k will buy you an early example of one of the definitive driver’s cars.