10 Best Driver’s Cars Under £10,000

If you’re looking for the ultimate driving thrills, look no further than our list of the best 10 driver’s cars under £10,000.

Do you love sheer driving pleasure? Do you love to feel like you and your car are as one, perfectly connected and in sync? If that’s what you’re looking for, then you need a real driver’s car in your life. We’re talking cars that make every journey a joy, that make you want to go out for a drive, and cars that offer levels of excitement you didn’t think were possible. Whatever your budget, you can buy yourself a sensational machine, and we’ve picked a fantastic selection and each one is a winner – here’s our list of the 10 best driver’s cars under £10,000.

Best 10 Driver’s Cars Under £10,000

Modified MX-5 NA - 10 best driver's cars under £10,000

Mazda MX-5 NA/NB
From £1000

Kicking off our list of the 10 best driver’s cars under £10,000 is the Mazda MX-5. The MX-5 has become such an integral part of the landscape in the automotive world that it’s easy to forget how brilliant it is. The model’s now in its fourth generation and has been a global smash since 1989, and if you want the best driving experience, it’s the first-gen NA and second-gen NB that you want. Many owners consider the NB to be more of a facelift of the NA rather than a completely new model, and the two are very similar.

The NA is lighter, has slightly better steering, a little more room inside and offers a more raw and pure driving experience; the NB is a fraction heavier but also has a tiny bit more power, is stiffer, and is a little more cramped inside. The other big difference is finding one – there are far fewer NAs available than NBs, so you have far more choice with the newer car, and the NA is definitely becoming something of a collector’s car, and values are rising for the best examples. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed because the MX-5 is a delight to drive. Perfect steering, a fantastic gear shift, a superb driving position, and a playful but very controllable rear end make it a dream, and it absolutely lives up to the hype.

Make sure you check out our MX-5 NA buyer’s guide for tips on finding the perfect car.

TUNED RENAULTSPORT CLIO 182 - best 10 driver's cars under £10,000

RenaultSport Clio 172/182
From £1500

Renault has a history of producing some exceptional hot hatches that deliver driving thrills as few other cars can, which meant we had to include one on our list of the best 10 drivers’ cars under £10,000, but it also made choosing one very difficult. You’ve got the excellent Clio 197, the OG Megane RS 225, and the ballistic 250/265 Cup, but, for sheer driving thrills, that raw, white-knuckle ride that you only get when you’re absolutely wringing every drop of performance from a screaming four-pot while you hurl it down a country road, it’s the Clio 172 and 182 duo that simply have to make it onto this list. Yes, they are a little old now, yes, the driving position leaves a lot to be desired, and yes, they can be a little flaky, but these two are cars that beg to be driven hard, and you just won’t be able to get enough. There’s a reason values are holding so well, and you’ll find them up for the same money as the later 197 model.

In terms of performance, there’s little to choose between the 172 and 182, but the latter has revised styling and twin exhausts, a wider track, some suspension tweaks, and more equipment, making it the one to want, but you’ll have a blast with either car. There’s a reason these two were forever popping up in best driver’s cars group tests against far more formidable machinery, and they always held their own. Simply put, the 172 and 182 are an absolute riot and everything you want in a driver’s car.

Read our Clio 172/182 tuning guide to learn how to get the most out of this awesome hot hatch.

VW Golf GTI MK5 - best 10 driver's cars under £10,000

From £2000

The MK5 Golf GTI is both a superb driver’s car and an exceptional bargain and deserves its place on our list of the best 10 driver’s cars under £10,000. After the lacklustre MK4, it single-handedly revived the Golf GTI, and even today it’s still a great car to own and drive and a bargain to boot. The turbocharged 2.0-litre TFSI offered a healthy 200hp along with 206lb ft of torque that gave the GTI a decent turn of speed and effortless in-gear punch and impressive cross-country pace. It looked good and has aged very well, it features some very nice sports seats that hold you in all the right places, and beneath you sits a superb chassis that makes driving the MK5 GTI an absolute pleasure.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to modding options, too, and the MK5 will take it all in its stride. It’s such a hugely entertaining all-rounder, the kind of car you can happily take by the scruff of its neck and have so much fun with, and it’s hard to believe you can pick these for so little money. It’s an absolute bargain and a fantastic driver’s car, and you need a MK5 GTI in your life.

Be sure to check out our MK5 GTI buyer’s guide and tuning tips.

TUNED HONDA CIVIC TYPE R EP3 - best 10 driver's cars under £10,000

Honda Civic Type R EP3
From £4000

If you’re talking about exceptional driver’s cars, you’ve got to have something from the Honda Type R stable, and at this price, it’s got to be the EP3 Civic. You can pick up an FN2 for the same sort of money, but despite its spaceship looks and futuristic interior, it’s the second-gen EP3 that’s considered to be the better car by owners and enthusiasts.

Affectionately known as the breadvan, the EP3 serves up serious driving thrills thanks to its absolutely electrifying chassis. Then you’ve got that slick-shifting close-ratio six-speed gearbox with that high-mounted gear knob, and of course, there’s a frantic VTEC lump under the bonnet, with the Euro-spec K20A2 delivering 200hp at a heady 7400rpm. Best of all, it’s a Honda, and that means that even though it’s a Type R, it’s a solid car that will last a long time if properly cared for. The base EP3 is an absolute bargain, but we’d spend a little more to find a 30th Anniversary or Premier Edition, worth it for those sexy red Recaros alone. This CTR is an epic hot hatch and an incredible driver’s car.

Read our EP3 and FN2 buyer’s guide here.

Porsche 986 Boxster S
From £5000

You’d be surprised how many Porsche models you can pick up for less than £10k, but the best of the bunch is arguably the 986 Boxster, specifically the S. You can find later 987 models and fixed-roof Caymans, but there’s not a lot of choice, and you’ll be able to pick up a better 986 for your money. The original 986-generation Boxster is, without a doubt one of the best cars the company has ever built. The 3.2-litre Boxster S serves up 250hp (258hp from 2003) and came with a six-speed manual (swerve the disappointing Tiptronic auto), red calipers with vented cross-drilled discs, stiffer anti-roll bars and springs, leather seats, white gauges and climate control.

The 986 Boxster S is an absolute blast to drive – the handling really is supernaturally good, and it pulls off the improbable trick of being precise without being overly firm; it’s frantically eager but comfortable too, making it an exceptional all-rounder that’s also exceptional to drive. The 986 is not without its faults, so do your homework before you get too excited, but buy a good one, and you will have one of the best Porsches ever made, and at this price, it’s an astonishing bargain.

Ford Fiesta ST Mk7 Tuning guide

Ford Fiesta ST MK7
From £6000

The MK7 Fiesta ST won pretty much every award that it was eligible to be considered for. From 2013 right up to 2017 it was hooking silverware with plaques saying ‘Best Hot Hatch’, ‘Car of the Year’, you name it. And deservedly so, as Ford managed to deftly pull off the 205 GTI trick of taking a mundane hatchback, shoving in a hot engine, and doing incredibly surprising things to the chassis. No wonder everyone loves the ST, it’s so universally lovable.

The intelligent little 1.6-litre EcoBoost motor delivers 180hp (200hp on overboost), and, while it’s as quiet as a church mouse around town, it roars like a lion when you’re approaching the red line. The nimble chassis responds to every input instantaneously, and it’s incredibly involving and makes every drive special – it’s just so much fun, and Ford really pulled a blinder with this little car. It looks good too, with aggressive styling that really makes it stand out, and the cabin features some lovely chunky Recaros that are comfy and supportive. With strong performance, lots of modding potential and a simply sublime chassis, the ST MK7 is an absolute winner.

Check out our ST MK7 buyer’s guide and tuning guide.

Mini R58 Coupé JCW
From £7000

When it comes to sheer driving fun, very few cars out there come close to any of BMW’s spicier Mini offerings, and within this price range, you are spoilt for choice. The supercharged first-gen R53 is an incredible bargain and an absolute riot to drive, but we’re going to opt for the more-rounded second-gen offering in Coupé form. Why? Well, it might be a bit more grown up, but the R56 is a big step up over the R53 in terms of interior quality, it’s a nicer car to spend time in and a better all-round car that you can enjoy driving even when you’re not in the mood for madness.

Crucially, though, it’s still incredibly fun, and it’s the more focused Coupé in 211hp JCW form that would be our choice because it’s that little bit sharper than the hatch, though if you need rear seats, the hatch is still fantastic. The torquey turbo motor makes for effortless performance, and riding that wave of mid-range thrust is seriously addictive, but it also loves to rev and delivers an addictive top end. This is a car you can really grab throw down the road, and it makes you feel like an absolute hero thanks to its absolutely sensational chassis. The R58 JCW is a car that will never fail to make you smile, and it’s so much fun it should be illegal.

BMW E82 135i Coupé
From £7500

Long gone are the days when you could grab yourself a sub-£10k M car, but you can still bag something with a BMW badge on the bonnet that’s going to be a blast to drive, and our choice is the E82 135i Coupé. Normally, whenever there’s any sort of list where it qualifies, we’d throw an E9x 335i in there, but the smaller, lighter 1 Series Coupé offers that extra bit of involvement and outright driving fun, which is why it’s on our list of the 10 best driver’s cars under £10,000.

Not only have you got a keen RWD chassis to enjoy, but you’ve also got 306 turbocharged horses to put through it courtesy of the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six N54 under the bonnet, and when paired with the snappy six-speed manual, it’ll hit 62mph in just 5.3 seconds. Best of all, more power is easy and affordable to achieve, and 400hp is just a handful of mods away. Throw an LSD on your shopping list, and you’ll be able to experience the 135i at its peak, and it’s a sensational sports car. The N54 is a little problematic, 1 Series build quality is a little flaky, and you won’t be spoilt for choice when shopping for a car within this price range, but it’ll all be worth it because this baby BM is big on driver pleasure.

Check out our tuning guide to the N54 and N55 here.

Toyota GT86
From £10,000

Just barely squeaking into our budget, we couldn’t put together a list of the best 10 driver’s cars under £10,000 and not include the Toyota GT86. Built in partnership with Subaru, which produced the identical BRZ, the aim with the GT86 was to create a simple, lightweight car that had been designed purely with driving enjoyment in mind, and it ticked all those boxes.

Weighing just over 1200kg, the GT86 is extremely light by modern standards, and it’s powered by a 2.0-litre NA four-cylinder boxer engine courtesy of Subaru, which produces 200hp at 7000rpm. That might not seem like a lot in a world where 300hp turbo hot hatches are commonplace, but the GT86 was all about handling and fun, rather than outright performance. The engine needs to be revved to get the most out of it, but that just means you get to spend more time with your foot flat to the floor. The chassis is an absolute delight and delivers sensational handling, the steering is direct and communicative, and the whole experience is just so old-school in its simplicity. If you’re looking for massive power and performance, you won’t find it here, but if you’re looking for good old-fashioned driving fun, you’ve come to the right place.

Subaru Impreza WRX ‘Blobeye’ STi Type UK 
From £10,000

The Subaru Impreza is a legendary machine, and this 4WD turbo rally monster had to be part of our list. But which to choose? There are more Impreza variations out there than you can shake a stick at, and it can be a bit overwhelming, but arguably the best one within our budget is the WRX STi Blobeye. You can pick up the later 2.5 Hawkeye for similar money, but they have some serious engine issues, so we’re playing it a bit safer.

Now, Blobeye WRX STis do sit right at the top end of our budget, and we are going in at the bottom end of the price range, but you can definitely find a properly cared-for car, and if it’s been owned by an enthusiast and they’ve looked after it correctly, you shouldn’t let high mileage put you off. What you will get for your money is a Type UK, and while it’s not the full-fat JDM model, with 265hp on tap and a 0-62 time of 5.2 seconds, it’s not exactly slow. 4WD means phenomenal grip and traction in all conditions, and the chassis is exceptional, making the WRX an absolute cross-country weapon and a sensational performance machine.

Learn what to look for when shopping for a Blobye WRX STi with our buying guide.

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