With winter well and truly over and the warmer weather setting in, now is probably the best time to treat yourself to a frisky used car for summer. Below, we run through five picks from the used car market that will help you to make best use of all that sun-warmed tarmac.
1 - Toyota MR2 (2000-2006)
Shop for a little wind-in-the-hair fun at around the £2k mark and you might automatically pick a Mazda MX-5. However, you shouldn’t overlook the Toyota MR2, especially this pretty and desirable thirdgeneration model.
This two-seat, mid-engined roadster weighs just 975kg. Power comes from a 138bhp, 1.8-litre VVT-i engine, with the dinky drop-top seeing off 0-60mph in 7.9sec and hitting 130mph. Later models went from five-speed gearboxes to six, and handling is peachy.
The MR2 is notoriously tyre sensitive, though, so check pressures and condition carefully and fit only makes that are known to suit it. Parts can be pricey, too.
2 – Subaru Impreza Turbo (1992-2000)
You can take your pick of Imprezas at this price, but this amenable and adaptable first-generation car is considerably better looking than the later models and reeks of World Rally Championship success.
That handsome body conceals a low centre of gravity, aided by a neatly balanced 208bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre flat four engine. There’s permanent four-wheel drive, too. Expect 0-60mph in 5.8sec and 137mph flat out. On top of that, the steering is quick, roadholding is strong and the handling lives up to its rallying image.
Most will have been driven with some abandon, so shop carefully and watch out for bent or stolen cars.
3 – Fiat Panda 100HP (2006-2010)
You expect a Panda to be lightweight and frugal, but in sporty 100HP trim it’s unexpectedly good fun, too. All dolled up and hunkered down with 15in alloys and flash side skirts, it certainly looks the part, and with a 99bhp 1.4-litre twin-cam engine under the bonnet, we’re talking 0-62mph in 9.5sec and 112mph.
But the figures don’t reveal how much of a hoot this diminutive hipster is. The engine loves to be revved and it makes a fruity noise when doing so. The hot Panda bucks like a bronco on pockmarked roads, but the steering is quick and you can chuck it into corners in a carefree way and recover it with ease.
For £2k, the 100HP is a desirable and quirky future classic.
4 – Honda Accord Type R (1999-2002)
It doesn’t look much different from a regular Accord, but the Type R’s fizzy rear wing and sharp 17in alloys hint at its potential for fun.
Under the bonnet is a magnificent and unburstable 209bhp 2.2-litre VTEC engine. It helps to push the car from 0-60mph in 6.9sec and on to more than 140mph. The handling is top drawer, with wrist-flick-quick steering being its forte. The interior is a subtly sporting delight, too, with hugging Recaros, a Momo steering wheel and white dials.
Finding a good example can be tricky, though. Watch out for gearbox issues and check for cambelt changes. Unmodified Type R Accords are highly sought after.
5 – Mercedes-Benz CLK 430 (1999-2002)
A big, brawny Benz doesn’t sound like a recipe for fun, but consider the facts: here is a stylish and well-equipped midsized coupé into which a formidable 275bhp 4.3-litre V8 has been dropped.
That means it’ll sprint from 0-60mph in just 6.3sec and race on up to its limited top speed of 155mph. It’s good to drive, too, on 17in alloys and low-profile rubber and with eager steering, meaning corners are dispatched with ease. Inside is an opulent and relatively hushed interior with plenty of kit and space for two whole adults in the back.
There are plenty of things to watch out for when buying an old Merc, and finding this first-gen CLK won’t be easy, but it’s still a bit of V8 fun; think of it as an AMG-lite. Prices hover either side of £2k, depending on condition.