Top 10 best affordable sports cars 2023

Open gallery Close News by Matt Saunders 13 mins read 17 March 2023 Follow @TheDarkStormy1 Share

Dependable sources of real driver entertainment that can be procured on a real-world budget aren’t quite as easy to find as once they were, but affordable sports cars do still exist in 2023.

They may not be as numerous as before and many don’t seem as affordable in this inflationary times, but they exist, and they’re cars that demand to be seized and cherished.

These are Autocar’s top 10 affordable sports cars. Among them are mid-engined two-seaters, front-engined roadsters, big-engined muscle cars and lightweight specials. The one thing they share is an affordable asking price – £50,000 or below in most cases, and quite a long way below in some – and the capacity to light up your motoring as often as the mood takes.

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Some of these cars could easily serve as daily transport; for others, that would be the case only for the genuinely enthusiastic. But every one of them delivers large for a relatively small outlay, and every one merits your attention if you love little more than an empty road and the time to simply enjoy it.

1. Alpine A110

Every significant constituent part of the Alpine A110 driving experience, from the rasping turbocharged torque of its engine to the immersive poise and panache of its handling, is all about fun. It brings to life journeys and roads that rivals wouldn’t and possesses dynamics for which your affection can only grow as you explore them more closely.

Anatomise the car and you will find an all-aluminium body, a mid-mounted engine and double wishbones for the suspension at each end. All are generally the preserve of supercars and lay the foundations for the four-cylinder Alpine to feel much more than the sum of its parts. 

The standard A110 arrived in 2017 to a rapturous welcome from critics and owners alike. The later Alpine A110 S brought a power rise from 248bhp to 288bhp (and it has subsequently climbed to 296bhp), firmer suspension and bigger brakes. Various special editions, including the plush Légende GT, have come and gone. And now there’s the range-topping, extra-specialised Alpine A110 R. But none has supplanted the entry-level A110 in our affections, which has such an enticing and delicate kind of poise, grip and body control.

Rarely does a car come along so devoted to driver involvement, and so singularly effective at it, even among affordable sports cars. The last time was probably the Toyota GT86 of 2012 – a car to which we also gave a five-star recommendation for its supreme fitness to the purpose of sucking the marrow out of every mile. The A110 is quicker, more agile, more effusive and ultimately even more fun. It deserves no less of an ovation.

Save money with new A110 deals from What Car?

2. Porsche 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman

Even with its downsized four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, and even as we near its replacement by an all-electric Boxster and Cayman in 2025, the Porsche 718 remains by some distance the most complete mid-engined sports car on sale. Misgivings about the way the car’s crank is now turned have been voiced from plenty of quarters since 2016 and have now been persuasive enough that Porsche has returned a flat-six engine for the range-topping Cayman and Boxster GTS versions. But whether fitted with a four- or a six-cylinder motor, be in no doubt: the Boxster and Cayman have always been, and remain, excellent sports cars.


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The 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre turbo flat fours that were pressed into service in the car in 2016 attracted particular criticism for sounding toneless; for lacking smoothness, crispness of response, linearity and operating range; and for coming up short on the purist driver appeal typically associated with Porsche. Later, Porsche retuned the car’s 2.0-litre engine for WLTP emissions compliance and released the Boxster T and Cayman T, whose unresponsiveness made a controversial situation worse.

However, in one of the most unexpected industry U-turns in recent memory, in 2019 Porsche reintroduced a naturally aspirated flat-six engine in upper-level GTS, GT4 and Boxster Spyder models. It’s a superb engine by any standards – based on the 3.0-litre unit in the ‘992’ 911, only enlarged to 4.0 litres and shorn of the turbos. The long-geared manual ‘box it’s partnered with doesn’t flatter it nearly as well as it should, but you can avoid it if you plump for a two-pedal PDK or if you have the budget to progress all the way up to the super-short-geared, PDK-only, savage but brilliant Cayman GT4 RS.

At the other end of the model spectrum, both Boxster and Cayman remain practical, ever-engaging to drive, and plenty fast even in four-cylinder form. The 718 still has it all – and it takes a car of once-in-a-generation dynamic brilliance to beat it.

Save money with new 718 Cayman deals from What Car?

3. Ariel Atom 4

Anyone with a £50,000 budget to spend on something in which they just want to enjoy themselves would be remiss in the extreme to overlook one of the most direct and glaringly obvious solutions to their brief: the utterly brilliant Ariel Atom 4.

This lightweight two-seater is part motorbike, part car, part tubular curio. Clearly it’s not a car with any real practical use whatsoever. But while demanding plenty of commitment from its driver, it’s superbly involving and characterful. Our favourite lightweight sports car, the Atom keeps it focus squarely on the essentials. A windscreen is an optional extra – and if you don’t go for one, a helmet is an absolute must. 

But huge pace and almost unrivalled excitement are this car’s crowning glories. The former comes from the car’s turbocharged Honda four-cylinder engine, which can be turned up as far as 350bhp in a car weighing little more than 600kg. But the latter isn’t just about superbike-baiting acceleration. The Atom’s chassis is singularly adjustable, and it can be made so easily to work every bit as well on a bumpy, flowing B-road as on a track day – something you can rarely say about cars of the Atom’s rampant outright circuit pace and visceral physicality.

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