Summer means warmer weather, lighter evenings and also cleaner and salt-free roads.

With that in mind, it’s an ideal time to venture into the world of performance cars.

New sports models can be expensive —  but driving thrills doesn’t have to mean big bills. Here’s our top five performance cars we recommend for a modest budget of £5,000.


BMW’s stylish Z4 might not be the obvious choice for drop-top motoring, but it’s fantastic to drive and is helped along by a range of quality engines.

This budget stretches to the most powerful engine, aside from the ‘M’ variants — a 3.0-litre petrol unit. It’s capable of a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 152mph, which puts it in similar territory to the Porsche Boxster.

One we found: 2004 BMW Z4 3.0i SE Roadster, 95,000 miles – £4,500

Subaru Legacy

When people think of Subaru, it’s nearly always the Impreza that springs to mind. However, there’s another option from the firm which still offers ample thrills on the road — the Legacy. It’s a model known for its sedate Estate and Outback versions, but there was also the rather impressive 3.0 R Spec B model.

The ‘R’ is offered as a saloon or an estate, and both offer spirited performance, but it’s definitely not in the same territory as the likes of the Audi S4. Whether it’s summer or winter, the Legacy’s all-wheel-drive will always come in useful.

One we found: 2009 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Spec B 4dr, 90,000 miles – £4,500

Mazda RX-8

Few sports cars are as affordable as the RX-8, with good examples of Mazda’s rotary-powered four-door coupe available for under £2,000 — a sizeable chunk under the £5,000 budget.

Unfortunately, you might end up using that leftover cash on running the Mazda as it has an enormous thirst for both petrol and oil. It’s also worth looking out for a fantastically-maintained model with an immaculate service history, as they are known for being horrendously unreliable if not cared for properly.

But even when looking out for the best examples with the more powerful 228bhp version, you won’t have to spend more than £2,500.

One we found: 2004 Mazda RX-8 1.3 4dr, 45,000 miles – £2,500

Renaultsport Clio

Few hot hatches are as highly acclaimed as those that come from Renaultsport. With a £5,000 budget, you can choose between the fantastic 2001-2005 car, or the 2006 model seen here.

Despite the new ‘197’, Clio being heavier and bigger than the car it replaced, its extra 15bhp ensures there is still plenty of zing. It’s enormously fun to drive, but also incredibly good value for money.

One we found: Renaultsport Clio 2.0 VVT 3dr, 70,000 miles – £3,900

Porsche Boxster

(Stephan Lindloff)

Despite the Porsche Boxster starting to appreciate in value, you can still find examples sneaking in under the £5,000 marker. While the budget won’t stretch to a good example with the more desirable 3.2-litre petrol engine, the 217bhp 2.7-litre petrol unit is more than fast enough to deliver spirited performance.

Top-down motoring also makes it ideal for the warmer months, with the advantage of a quick-folding electric roof, should the weather take a turn for the worst.

One we found: 2003 Porsche Boxster 2.7 2dr, 95,000 miles – £4,995