The best-selling cars in the UK are, without exception, hatchbacks, saloons and crossovers. But why is this? After all, practicality is only really a bonus – we all know what really matters is powerful engines, snarling exhausts, sleek looks and sheer driving pleasure.
You’ll find these in the best sports cars on sale today. It’s quite difficult to pidgeonhole exactly what makes a sports car – is it a convertible by default? Can it have more than two seats? Which countries can it hail from?
We’re defining a sports car as one that puts the pleasure of driving above such mundane considerations as practicality, fuel economy or ease of driving. That’s not to say that the best sports cars don’t offer all of these – some do, wonderfully, acting as genuine daily drivers as well as being thrilling to blast down a back road.
We’ve rounded up ten of our favourites, all of which should make you grin like a loon on those rare occasions you can open up the taps, crank up the tunes and go for a great drive.
The Jaguar F-Type is easily one of the prettiest two-door cars on the market today, with sharp, angular styling helping it to really stand out from the crowd, which is just what you want from a sports car, right?
It’s available with a four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine, as well as a large V6 and a fire-breathing V8. Whichever specification you go for, you’re going to be rewarding with a hugely invigorating drive, though perhaps not the sharpest given the company it has on this list.
Porsche 718 Boxster
Yes, we know that the Boxster doesn’t have the naturally-aspirated engine you found in the previous generation car – replaced instead by a turbocharged flat-four, but that’s no reason to dismiss it. The Boxster benefits from one of the best chassis in the business, and is backed up by wonderfully communicative steering.
If you’re after an involving driving experience, then the 718 Boxster is well worth considering. The engine, though lacking the drama of the older unit, is certainly effective – low-down torque can be found aplenty, and this means it’s not tricky to whisk along at a considerable speed.
Sharing a platform and engine setup with the Subaru BRZ, the Toyota GT86 is the smarter looking option of the two. Although this model isn’t steeped in history like some others on this list, it is a great modern day sports car – thanks to its cheap outlay, exciting looks and just-as-exciting performance.
Okay, it doesn’t have the most power in the world – a less than impressive 197bhp – but when you go close to the redline, the GT86 comes alive with a roughty soundtrack that can only excite. With its skinny tyres, you can also push this car to the limit at safer speeds – making it all the more enticing.
As the spiritual successor to the raucous and rather excellent 1M Coupe, the M2 had a lot to live up to on release – and boy does it do that. By taking the rather uninspiring 2 Series and adding a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine, a mean-looking bodykit and M-specific kit, the M2 excites on most roads.
It comes with the expected high-end BMW equipment, but that isn’t the focus here. It can do the sprint to 60mph in 4.5 seconds and top speed of 155mph – and the M2 has the poise of to match on a well-sorted chassis.
Abarth 124 Spider
The Abarth 124 Spider is really a Fiat 124 Spider in disguise, which is really a Mazda MX-5 in disguise… confused? You shouldn’t be. All you need to know about the Abarth is that it mixes a peppy turbocharged engine with a compact and stylish body and sits it all atop a rear-wheel drive platform.
With 168bhp on tap, it’s no slouch, and the interior even has some concessions to luxury within its compact confines. Add on retro styling additions such as a black bonnet, and the Abarth is a compelling beast.
Make no mistake, the McLaren 570S is a bona fide supercar. With a mammoth 568bhp on tap from its 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, it catapults to 60mph in only a little bit more than three seconds. It’s also incredible in the bends, with a stunning chassis tuned by some of the world’s best engineers.
With a starting price of over £140,000, you do have to pay for the privilege of driving a hand-built British supercar – but if you can afford it, it’s a price you won’t regret paying.
Porsche 911 GTS
The Porsche 911 range is baffling at times, with a range spanning from just over £70,000 to well in excess of £150,000. We think that the £103,000 911 GTS is the sweet spot, though, with 444bhp on tap from its twin-turbocharged flat-six engine.
The GTS comes with some choice bits of kit, too, with adaptive dampers, torque vectoring and gorgeous centre-lock alloy wheels all aiding drivability. It manages to balance a comfortable ride with virtually flawless driving dynamics – a tricky thing to pull off.
We do build some fabulous cars in Britain. Norfolk-based Lotus is a great example of a British manufacturer at the top of its game, despite remaining stubbornly true to one formula over its 66-year history – simplify, and add lightness.
Weighing barely more than a tonne, the Exige exemplifies this, with that featherweight nature aiding acceleration, braking and especially handling. Put simply, the Exige is about as agile as a car can be without literally having glue for tyres.
The TTRS may look relatively small and unassuming, but it’s a compact coupe capable of delivering serious thrills. A powerful 2.5-litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet delivers a lot of character, particularly thanks to the sports exhaust. In truth, thanks to the car’s excellent quattro all-wheel-drive system, it’s an impressively easy car and – whisper this – it almost matches the large and more expensive R8 supercar for everyday driving thrills.
Aston Martin Vantage
The previous Aston Martin Vantage was a rather old-fashioned kind of beast – but the new model brings the nameplate firmly into the 21st century with an amazingly contemporary makeover. The all-new car benefits from Aston’s partnership with Daimler, gaining an AMG-sourced twin-turbocharged V8 engine as its motive power.
The new Vantage cracks 0-60mph in just 3.4 seconds and will reach a top speed of 195mph, while its aerodynamic design is equal parts industrial chic and supermodel. We’re looking forward to getting a proper drive in one on UK roads, as it looks set to be an abolute riot.