Porsche may be famed for its long-lived 911 sports car, but even the less pricey Cayman is more than rapid enough for all but the most demanding of car buyers. It’s not just speed that the Cayman has on its side, though, as it subscribes to the less-is-more school of sports car design, with its lightweight construction and sharp handling.

Last year we drove the £49,000 Cayman S, which packs a meaty 321bhp 3.4-litre motor, but now we’ve got our hands on the entry level 2.7-litre Cayman, to see if this model can offer the same thrills for less than £40,000.

The entry-level Cayman competes against focused performance machines including the Lotus Evora and Alfa 4C, along with more mundane coupes such as Audi TT and the high-performance TTS.

What is it?

The Cayman is Porsche’s junior sports car, which features a snug two-seat interior and a mid-engined layout, with the motor crammed behind the driver. Unusually for a sports car, it also has two boots – one deep load bay underneath the bonnet and a shallow second boot behind the engine under the hatchback.

This most affordable Cayman is Porsche’s cheapest model alongside the basic Boxster roadster and strives to offer a very engaging driving experience, with a low driving position, throaty note from the engine and plenty of power – all without jeopardising comfort or breaking the bank.

What is it like to drive?

The Cayman may be the cheapest model in the range, but no one could feel short changed by the level of performance or roadholding that this car offers. The engine fires with a satisfying bark and pumps out a scintillating exhaust note when worked hard.

Despite pulling harder and harder as you work the engine, the Cayman is equally happy trundling around town in sixth gear and the engine is perfectly quiet on the motorway, with just a little road noise from the large tyres making itself heard in the cabin. In manual form the heavy clutch and weighty gear change will remind you that you are in a sports car, but this all adds to the experience for keen drivers. Similarly, the heavy, direct steering provides plenty of feedback, letting the driver take corners at speed – and with confidence.

Considering the Cayman’s sharp handling and strong grip, however, it is still very comfortable, with a smooth ride that irons out all but the worst bumps. The engine is equally smooth, spinning up from very low speeds to the red line cleanly – all accompanied by a throaty, musical howl. The gears are particularly long, though, with second stretching to around 80mph, which blunts acceleration somewhat.

Dominating the dashboard is a huge rev counter, with a smaller analogue speedometer alongside. With small 5mph markings and 25mph increments marked, the speedo isn’t very easy to read, though there is a useful digital speedometer in the rev counter. Impressively for a machine that offers true sports car acceleration, during our testing, the Cayman returned more than 30mpg with a mix of fast A and B roads and traffic-heavy urban roads, meaning that fuel bills should be reasonable.

What is it like inside?

With two seats and a slim, pared back dashboard, the Cayman’s interior lets the driver focus on the act of driving. It feels well put together with soft leather seats in our test car, a leather dashboard and a good view of the road ahead.

All the parts you touch feel built to last and nicely tactile, with the spherical gear knob fitting perfectly in the palm of your hand and the steering wheel sitting nearly vertically, for a racing car-style feel.

Is it practical?

The Cayman has a low-slung cabin, though it is more practical than most sports cars. The low position of the seats makes clambering in and out a little tricky for less flexible people, though both forward and rear visibility is very good for this class of car, meaning that the Cayman is very easy to thread through city streets.

The seats are also comfortable and supportive around bends too, while the two boots offer a useful amount of space for this class of car. There could be more storage space in the cabin, however.

Should I buy one?

If you’re after an exciting-to-drive but relatively practical sports car for around £40,000, the Cayman is an incredibly strong option. It offers all the same thrills as back-to-basics models including the Alfa Romeo 4C and Lotus Elise, while truly being usable everyday, with high comfort levels, reasonable refinement and strong real-world fuel economy.

The Cayman might not be the easiest car to drive, with a heavy clutch and gear shift and weighty, direct steering, but it is these traits that make it such an scintillating sports car. As a result, the Cayman is a very easy car to recommend for those with £40,000 burning a hole in their pocket.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Porsche Cayman in our classifieds here.

The facts

Porsche Cayman

List price: £39,694
Engine: 2.7-litre, six-cylinder petrol
Power: 271bhp
Top speed: 165mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 23.9mpg (urban), 44.1mpg (extra-urban) 33.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 195g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested

Pictures: Porsche