The sports car market may not be in the rudest health right now, but there’s more choice out there than you might expect. Fast, purpose-built coupes of all shapes and sizes are available, and we reckon these are the 10 best out there.
We have front and mid-engined cars on the menu, and cylinder counts ranging from four to eight. Prices, meanwhile, start comfortably under £30,000, topping out well over £100k.
Which will it be for you?
1. Alpine A110
The reason the Alpine gets so much praise heaped upon it isn’t because it’s any faster or more capable than its peers. In fact, it’s one of the slowest cars here.
No – the Alpine A110 is the best new sports car you can buy today because it disrupts the trend of ever-more powerful, heavier and over-tyred coupes. It gives you just what you need, and no more. As a consequence, it’s seriously light, and a joyous thing to throw around.
It’s like a very modern, more cosseting Lotus Elise. And if you really must have more power, there’s the A110 S, which adds more power and ability without completely screwing up the recipe.
2. Porsche 911 Carrera
With the Porsche 911 Carrera growing bigger, heavier and becoming more refined, some have accused it of straying into grand tourer territory. But drive one hard and you’ll soon discover it’s still a pure sports car. Not only that, but it’s one that can dice with supercars quite nicely.
A switch to turbo power for the 991.2-generation car may have irked the purists, but Porsche has made the 9A2 3.0-litre engine even better for the 992. The unit is incredibly responsive for a turbo engine, and it sounds brilliant in its upper reaches.
Whichever version of the 992 you go for, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. If it was us, though, we’d go for a rear-drive Carrera 2 in coupe form. The power of the Carrera S is tempting, but you just don’t need it on the road.
3. Mazda MX-5
We were already big fans of the ND MX-5 when Mazda facelifted it in 2018. What the Japanese company did to the car, however, went beyond the usual nip and tuck – instead, it went down the route of good old-fashioned N/A tuning for the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G engine.
New pistons, con-rods, valve springs and more raised the rev limit to 7500rpm – 700rpm higher than before – and the power from 168 to 181bhp.
Even with the extra grunt, the MX-5 remains – as the A110 – a low-powered, lightweight riposte to the class, and although the cheapest variants have been discontinued for 2020, it is still very affordable.
4. Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman
Once upon a time, the Porsche Cayman/Boxster twins might have been placed ahead of the 911, rather than a few spots behind. The problem is the gruff and uninspiring flat-four the 718 Boxman has been lumbered with.
Previously, the only way to avoid this is by going for a Cayman GT4 or a Boxster Spyder, both of which are fitted with the same naturally-aspirated flat-six. Thankfully, Porsche has now slotted it into the updated 4.0-litre GTS versions of the 718s, although the price is high – the cheapest is the Cayman, and that’s over £64,000, a similar price to the original GT4.
If you opt for one of the fours, however, you will find the engine to be plenty punchy, and the chassis the engine lives in is probably the best out there. Aside from the Alpine, nothing in this corner of the market comes close to the polish of the 718’s dynamics.
5. Aston Martin Vantage
The new Aston Martin Vantage may be priced more like a supercar, but since it’s supposed to be a Porsche 911 rival, it makes the cut as a sports car. The only trouble is, by most measures, that it’s not quite as good as the 992.
There’s plenty to like, however. It’s probably the best-looking modern Aston Martin, it sounds suitably butch, and it’s a riot to drive both on road and track.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox can’t quite match the immediacy of rival dual-clutch systems, but there is a manual option arriving on the Vantage configurator soon.
6. Toyota GT86
One of only two naturally-aspirated vehicles here, the Toyota GT86 is probably the most enthusiast-focused mainstream sports car on the market right now. It’s light(ish), has a sensible amount of power from its unusual flat-four, looks good and isn’t that expensive.
However, a car that’s ideal for enthusiasts isn’t going to be a huge sales success – the GT86 has always been a slow seller for Toyota, despite a succession of limited edition models keeping it in the press. Thankfully, the Japanese manufacturer has persevered, and there’s talk of a follow-up.
As for the current version, the exceptional updated MX-5 mentioned further up the page has dented its appeal slightly, but if the drop-top body and/or cutesy looks of the ND aren’t for you, the GT86 is worth a look. They’re a rare sight on the road, but if you want even more exclusivity, there’s always the option of the Subaru BRZ sister car.
7. Toyota GR Supra
There’s no getting away from it – the GR Supra isn’t quite the car we hoped it would be. The ‘A90’ is heavy, its engine sounds uninspiring, and it’s far more of a BMW than initially expected – Toyota’s input looks to have been tiny compared to its German partners.
But it’s a great-looking, fast, brand new circa-£50k sports car at a time when interest in such vehicles is tanking. There’ll always be a nagging feeling that the fourth-generation Supra represents a missed opportunity, but we’re glad it’s here, and there’s no questioning its capability, nor its penchant for drifty tomfoolery.
Plus, the latest Supra is already proving to be a great platform for modifications, with various big-name companies already offering upgrades.
8. BMW Z4
Unlike the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ siblings, we’ve separated the GR Supra and BMW Z4 into separate points, simply because they’re such different ownership prospects. Yes, the Z4 and Supra drive very similarly when you compare them, but since one’s a cabriolet and one’s a coupe, and because they look so distinct from one another, they’re chalk and cheese.
Diverging further, the Z4 is available with a 2.0-litre inline-four in two levels of tune – the Supra isn’t available with an I4 in the UK, and the lower power version hasn’t come to Europe at all. That’s a shame, as the lighter Z4 ‘30i’ is the pick of the range.
9. Jaguar F-Type
In the past we’ve questioned whether or not the Jaguar F-Type can really be described as a sports car – it’s too heavy and not quite as sharp to drive as we’d originally hoped.
But the right ingredients are all there, it looks the business, and the supercharged V8 versions make a noise that can only be described as ‘pure filth’.
It gets better, as Jaguar has just revealed a comprehensively updated version which we’ll be driving soon. It’s been given a whole host of chassis upgrades, which might just end the ‘is the F-Type a sports car?’ debate for good.
10. Lotus Evora
With the Elise and Exige firmly in track weapon territory, we’d argue that the (marginally) softer Evora is the Lotus that best fits the sports car bill. It’s easily the most engaging car on this list, and one of the most exciting. So, you might be wondering why it’s last.
This is because it’s incredibly dated. The Evora has been kicking around in one form or another for over 10 years, and particularly on the inside, that shows. This is an issue when some of the fancy versions are sold for six-figure sums.
As such, the Evora is an extremely niche choice. But if you rate driver involvement above everything else, this is the sports car to go for.