2. Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 K (1996-2004)
We love the mid-1990s. During that period, a glut of new small, posh convertibles and coupés hit the showrooms. First came the BMW Z3 and then the Porsche Boxster, followed by the Mercedes-Benz SLK.
Mercedes’ vision was a mini SL, with a luxurious interior, top-notch build quality and grand touring abilities. Its party trick was a folding metal roof that turned it from sleek coupé to sexy roadster.
See Mercedes-Benz CLK for sale on PistonHeads
The 200 K supercharged four-cylinder model has the best mix of performance and fuel economy. Few major issues are reported but, due to its age, it would be best to get a full checkover from a specialist.
A tidy 2000 example with 90,000 miles will fetch from £2295.
3. Mini John Cooper Works GP (2005-2006)
This limited run of JCW GPs from the mid- 2000s is threatening to become a future classic. Only 500 were released in the UK and it’s based on the first-gen Mini, which is surely the best-looking Mini so far. It gets lowered suspension, an aggressive-looking bodykit, big alloy wheels and red door mirrors, while the rear seats were replaced by a huge strut brace. The JCW GP is quick, with 215bhp on tap, and it's brilliantly entertaining to drive.
See Mini for sale on PistonHeads
Watch out for failing front strut towers and ensure the supercharger is in good condition, because rebuilds are costly.
Having lost less than half their value since new, these little pocket rockets can be picked up from £12,395 with around 50,000 miles on the clock.
4. Jaguar S-Type R (2002-2008)
The S-Type looks as out of place in today’s world as a grandfather clock does to an Apple watch, but spot one with smoked lights and there’ll be a supercharged 4.2-litre V8 engine under the rippling hood. It pumps out 395bhp and will whisk the car to 60mph from a standstill in 5.5sec.
The R has a comfortable ride and plenty of grip, and it corners with little body roll, all of which helps to make this four-door rocketship fun to drive. The rear cabin is slightly cramped for a car of this size, though.
See Jaguar S-Type for sale on PistonHeads
In an otherwise reliable package, areas of concern include rusting sills and worn rear suspension arms.
Early cars with less than 100,000 miles can be picked up from £4995.
5. Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT (2005-2009)
As downsizing really started to take effect, it was still a surprise that a mainstream family hatchback, like this Golf, got an engine with not only a turbo but also a supercharger.
Its 1.4-litre engine develops 168bhp, which means a 0-62mph time of just 7.7sec, yet it returns a claimed 38.2mpg.
It's perhaps not quite as good as a GTI, but the GT still handles keenly and you get the normal - and excellent - Golf practicality and a classy cabin.
See VW Golf for sale on PistonHeads
Some early engines had teething problems with such new technology, but reliability generally appears to be decent enough, although timing belts can cause an issue.
Plenty of GTs are available: we found a 56-plate example with 78,000 miles on the clock for just £3995.