With the cost of fuel still taking its toll on the residual values of high-powered machinery, now is a great time to take advantage the effortless pace and good economy of sporty diesels.

330d Just look at what you can find for less than £15k.

Our pick is the pre-facelift BMW 330d saloon. The 155mph compact exec can hit 60mph in 6.5sec and still return over 40mpg. This 55-plater looks like an ex- company car if we ever saw one, but it’s great value at £15k, especially as it has only covered 32,000 miles since new.

If you want a bit of French hot hatch flair, there’s the current-gen Renault Megane 175 Renaultsport. The diesel-powered Renaultsport will do 600 miles between fill-ups and is now turning up in classifieds at attractive prices. This 57-plate, 26,000-mile example has shed £6000 in just one year and can be snapped up for a very reasonable £13,000.

The 330d’s arch rival, the Mercedes C320 CDI, is also a cracking second-hand buy, with examples of the previous model now selling at family hatch prices. The seller of this previous-gen C-class is asking a mere £13,500. It’s on an 06-plate with 36,000 miles and there’s even the remaining balance of the manufacturer’s warranty. Wunderbar.

Renault 175 The 170bhp Skoda Octavia VRS is an even cheaper offering. It might lack the brand kudos of the BMW and Merc, but it’s still a solid performer. Running costs are low (expect around 45mpg) and so are used values, so have a look at this 56-plater with 34,000 miles, which is on offer with air conditioning and Skoda service history for just £11,000.

The safe money is with another one of the VW Group’s products, the Seat Leon 2.0 TDI FR. It hasn’t been savaged by depreciation, having lost just £7000 of its £18k list price in two years. We managed to track down a current-model FR, a 41,000-mile 2006 example on an 06 plate selling for £11,000.