1. Ford Focus ST (2006-2010)
This Focus ST is a real treat. It’s fast, sounds great, is easy to live with and immensely capable across country. Power comes from a Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that produces 225bhp and 236lb ft, allowing for a 0-60mph time of 6.5sec.
For £5000 you’ll be able to pick up an early 2006 or 2007 example with around 70,000 miles on the clock. Beware of cars with a lumpy idle or ‘invisible’ coolant leaks, because that can indicate cracked cylinder liners.
2. Mercedes-Benz 300D (1976-1985)
It’s a luxury saloon, with a three-pointed star perched proudly on its prow, from an era when the company majored on remarkable quality and engineering. More prominently, besides the W123 generation of 300D looking quietly imperious in the way that only German saloons can, it featured Mercedes-Benz’s OM617 five-cylinder diesel.
This engine isn’t a powerhouse, by any stretch, but it’ll simply soldier on forever. Cockroaches and cars running OM617s: that’s all that will be left in a post-Armageddon world. Mileage is almost irrelevant, consequently, so just buy on condition.
3. Volvo 850 T-5R (1995-1996)
Most T-5Rs for sale might be an odd colour, and the car itself may look like it was designed using just a set square, but don’t doubt the high-performance Volvo. Under the bonnet lies a 2.3-litre five-cylinder engine that, in standard form, churns out 242bhp and 258lb ft.
That allows this subtle-looking front-wheel-drive Volvo to sprint to 60mph in about six seconds. The engine can make much more with a few tweaks, too. The T5-R was sold in limited numbers, but patience will secure a low-mileage one within budget.
4. Fiat Coupé 20v Turbo (1996-2000)
You might immediately think ‘trouble’ and ‘bankruptcy’ but, if you buy a good example, Fiat’s sleek Coupé should prove an enjoyable car to own. Its 2.0-litre five-cylinder engine puts out a stout 220bhp and the flighty Fiat can sprint from zero to 60mph in as little as 6.3sec.
The cambelt needs changing every 72,000 miles or six years, if not sooner, so check that it has been done and make sure the car comes with the red ‘master’ key. You’ll get a beautiful example for £5k and, if cared for, it shouldn’t depreciate.
5. Land Rover Discovery TD5 (1998-2004)
The turbocharged 2.5-litre TD5 diesel engine might not be the most symphonious around but it’s a good choice in a Discovery, producing plenty of low-end torque. It’s an improvement on the older 300 TDi, too, albeit a more complicated, occasionally finickity one.