While £20,000 is a lot of money, in motoring terms it will only get you behind the wheel of a mid-range Focus. Now, I’m a big fan of the family Ford but even I have to admit that driving it isn’t exactly a thrill-a-minute.
No, for excitement you want the car you always promised yourself and now is the time to indulge yourself with one of these bargain-basement sports cars!
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Ford Fiesta ST
The Ford Fiesta ST’s pin-sharp handling, rorty exhaust note and feisty engine combine to deliver far more fun than seems reasonable in such a tiny package.
A top speed of 139mph might be impressive but it isn’t as impressive as the 0-62mph time of just 6.9 seconds and potential fuel economy of up to 47.9mpg.
The list price is starts at £17,145 but I suspect that you could knock a thousand pounds off that without having to haggle too hard.
Alternatively, you could buy a pre-owned 2015 car with fewer than 10,000 miles on the odometer for just over £12,000.
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If you need a convertible (and why wouldn’t you?), the Mazda MX-5 is probably the answer.
The 1.5-litre engine might only have 129bhp but that’s more than enough in such a light car.
Yes, a more powerful version is available but you don’t need it because the base model handles better and is more fun than it’s fierier sibling, even if it does deny you bragging rights in the pub.
The MX-5 range starts at £18,495 and it is in such high demand that you are unlikely to get a discount. It’s a new model too, so there aren’t many available on the secondhand market either but neither of these things matter because if you need a super-civilized, two-seater sports car for under twenty grand then the MX-5 is on a shortlist of one.
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If the MX-5 is a bit too civilized for you then the Caterham Seven 160 is probably right up your street.
Boasting 160bhp, it comes with rudimentary bodywork, two seats, four wheels and little else; pretty everything else is an optional extra but none of that matters when you slide down behind the tiny steering wheel and buckle up.
You are intimately linked to the Caterham in a way that would cost considerably more to achieve anywhere else – and when you’ve tamed it, a whole world of upgrades is available for pocket money prices.
Yes, it’s hugely impractical but nothing gives the same sensations for so little. Oh, and if you want to save £3,000, why not build it yourself?
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Suzuki Swift Sport
The cheapest and slowest car on our list deserves its place on my list because nothing will make you smile so much for such a paltry sum.
It’s also the go-to car when motoring journalists are asked which hot-hatch they’d buy.
Eight-point-something seconds to reach 60 is nothing to write home about but the little Suzuki zips between bends like a Jack Russell after a rat and stops on the proverbial sixpence thanks to its featherweight build.
The three-door version squeezes under £14,000 and you could probably knock another £500 off that without trying too hard. You could shave another couple of thousand pounds off if you bought a nearly new car from a Suzuki dealer but when they’re this cheap do you really need to?
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The wild card in the pack is the Porsche Cayman, a bona fide sports car of the first order. Our budget will stretch to a 2008 Cayman S with almost 300bhp and a top speed of 171mph but the baby Porsche is about much more than speed; the handling is sublime and second only to the Caterham 160 for the enthusiastic driver.
Yes, there are risks to buying a secondhand high-performance car like this but if you drop your budget to £19,000 and spend the remaining £1,000 on an aftermarket warranty at least you’ll be able to sleep at night.
If you had a £20,000 budget to buy a sportscar, what would be on your list? We’d love to hear your thoughts - email us on firstname.lastname@example.org