Whether you’re talking turbos or superchargers, nothing else comes close to delivering the thrills that some serious boost can – here’s our list of the 10 best forced induction cars for under £15,000.
There’s nothing like the sensation of hitting boost and feeling a turbocharged or supercharged car just launch itself towards the horizon, it’s something everyone should experience in their motoring life. And everyone can experience that because you don’t need to spend a shedload of money to park a piece of forced induction fun on your drive, and here’s our list of the 10 best forced induction cars for under £15,000 that you can buy today.
10 Best Forced Induction Cars For Under £15,000
BMW E9x 335i
Perhaps, predictably, we had to feature a 335i on our list of the 10 best forced induction cars under £15,000, because when it comes to boosted cars, it’s hard to beat. For starters, it represents incredible value for money, you’re getting so much car here, and the E9x platform is just fantastic. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six N54 under the bonnet is awesome out of the box, serving up 306hp and 295lb ft of torque, but it comes alive with some mods.
Around 400hp is no more than a pair of downpipes, an intercooler and a remap away, which means more power is very easy and affordable to achieve, and the sky is the limit, as long as your budget is limitless. The N54 can be problematic, with coil pack failures, high-pressure fuel pump issues and rod bearing failures to be aware of, but those wouldn’t be enough to put us off. The 335i is an awesome car: fast, fun to drive thanks to its exceptional chassis, practical, and with four body styles to choose from, there’s a 335i out there for everyone.
Make sure you check out our BMW E92 335i tuning guide for some advice on how to unlock some more performance.
Subaru Impreza ‘Blobeye’ WRX STi Type UK
The Subaru Impreza is a modern motoring legend. It’s a true performance icon, a rally refugee that found its way onto people’s driveways, and a car that is associated with some of the greatest drivers from recent times. Naturally, we had to have one on the list because who wouldn’t want to own an Impreza? The more recent models haven’t quite had the appeal of the earlier iconic saloons, and there are more models out there than you can shake a stick at, so choosing one is tricky. What you want is a WRX STi, and while the Hawkeye is the last of the Impreza-based models, the 2.5 engine it is powered by is considered problematic and has a lot of issues.
A rebuilt forged one is considered by the community to be one of the best engines around, but finding one will be a challenge. Therefore, it’s the slightly earlier Blobeye WRX STi that would be our pick. The 2.0-litre engine might be a little short on torque compared to the 2.5, but it’s a much tougher powerplant that will handle modding with ease. The one to have is an ’05-on wide-track version, and the ’55-plate cars are considered to have the best seats.
Most of the cars you’ll find are 265hp Type UKs, which are slightly watered-down versions of their Japanese counterparts, but that’s not an issue if you’re planning on doing some modding (obviously), and you might be lucky enough to find a 305hp Prodrive Performance Pack-equipped model. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed, and this is an awesome rally legend that you will love driving.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-300 SST
From one rally legend to another with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Depending on how old you are, you will likely have different opinions of which generation is peak Evo – for us, it’s got to be the Evo VI: it’s not the fastest or the most tech-packed model, but it’s the one that gets us most excited. Sadly, they’re a little out of our price range, but the Lancer Evo that we can afford is the last of the line Evo X. It’s fair to say that the Evo X, the last of the Lancer Evos, failed to get fans fired up and is widely considered by many to be the generation when Mitsubishi dropped the ball, and it is the least-loved Lancer model. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad car, far from it, it’s just very different to what came before it, so, understandably, Evo enthusiasts weren’t keen. As its name implies, the FQ-300 that we can afford comes with 300hp, fed to all four wheels via either a five-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The latter was the most popular, and with that ‘box on board, the Evo X will sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, so there’s plenty of performance to enjoy here. A raft of electronic chassis aids meant the handling was otherworldly, and grip was outrageous, but some complained that it felt like the car was doing the driving for you, but it’s a minor gripe. There’s ample potential for modding, the servicing intervals are very reasonable, and there’s not too much to worry about in terms of potential issues, either, meaning owning own should be a pretty painless experience. It might be the unloved Lancer, but if you’re new to Evos and want a fast and ferociously capable car, the Evo X won’t disappoint.
Are you a smart person? Do you make sensible decisions? Do you like buying reliable cars? If so, it’s best to skip this bit because this is not the car for you. The Mitsubishi GTO (its Japanese name) or 3000GT (how the official UK cars were designated) is an OG Gran Turismo JDM performance machine, but, it’s one that never quite achieved the same legendary status as its contemporaries, like the Supra, RX-7 etc. But this means you can pick one up for a fraction of the price of one of those. First things first, the GT/O is not a sports car – as its name suggests, it is more of a grand tourer and is perfectly suited to covering large distances in comfort with minimum fuss. Under the bonnet sat a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 making between 280hp and 324hp in the facelifted UK models with the fixed headlights (our personal preference), and even with a kerb weight of over 1700kg, performance was brisk. The GT/O came loaded with tech (unless you opted for the pared-back, hardcore MR model): 4WD, four-wheel steering, active aero, adjustable suspension, and most of it breaks, meaning big bills are commonplace and the potential for serious borkage puts a lot of people off. There are a lot of potential problems, but the engine will take 450hp without breaking a sweat given the right mods, and 4WD makes the GT/O an incredibly capable all-weather performance machine and one that’s guaranteed to get you noticed.
Make sure you check out Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO buying and tuning guide.
Nissan Z32 300ZX
Another ’90s JDM performance machine that hasn’t quite managed to capture the hearts of enthusiasts in the same way as its peers, the 300ZX still has a lot to offer and a lot going for it, and it definitely deserves a spot on our list of the 10 best forced induction cars under £15,000. The styling won’t be to all tastes, and it lacks the visual drama of the Supra or the elegant subtlety of the RX-7, but it’s still a sleek shape that makes the 300ZX look fast even when it’s standing still. And it is fast, thanks to its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, pushing out 280hp and 283lb ft of torque, enough for a sub-six-second 0-62 time.
All UK models and some Japanese ones came equipped with HICAS four-wheel steering for enhanced agility, and with all that power and a keen RWD chassis, the Nissan is a very entertaining drive. While we only got the 2+2 Targa as an official import, there was also a two-seater hardtop model produced, which is very rare and desirable. The VG30DETT engine can handle around 400hp on stock turbos, injectors, intercoolers and ECU, and is good for around 500hp on stock internals, so there’s plenty of modding potential. However, it’s not all good news, because the 300ZX is complicated, plenty of things start failing with age, and the general consensus is that the engine bay is horrible to work on. Everything is packed in there so tightly, which means a lot of things often have to get taken apart before you can get access to what you want to work on, and that means big bills are often never far away. Owners swear by them if they’ve been properly maintained, though, so buy one that’s been properly looked after by an enthusiast, and there’s no reason it won’t serve you well.
VW Golf GTI MK5, MK6 and MK7
Since the MK4 Golf GTI gained a turbo and a whole lot of fans in the process, VW realised it was on to a good thing, and every subsequent generation of GTI has enjoyed turbocharging, and fans have enjoyed driving and modding them, so we had to include it on our list of the 10 best forced induction cars under £15,000. Recommending a GTI is very easy, but choosing which GTI to recommend is really hard because with our budget we’ve got such a huge range to choose from, so we’re going to recommend three. The MK5 was a huge improvement over the MK4; it was the car that revitalised the Golf GTI, and it’s an absolute bargain these days, with the cheapest cars available from around £2k. It’s great to drive and has plenty of modding potential, though it’s an older car now and does have its fair share of issues that can turn a cheap purchase into an expensive one.
The MK6, which you can pick up for under £7k, was an evolution of the MK5 and seemed like only a mild reworking of the previous car. Beneath the surface, however, there were plenty of changes, and it’s the MK6 that gets the nod from enthusiasts between the two. There are some issues to be aware of, the most serious being cam chain tensioner failure on earlier models, which is pretty catastrophic, so you need to get it replaced with the redesigned version before it grenades your engine.
And finally, the MK7, which you can pick up for around £10,000. This was a huge leap over the MK6, with an all-new platform, and that meant a far more modern interior, a better driving experience, and arguably the best Golf GTI you could buy – at least until the MK8 appeared (though a lot of fans prefer the MK7.5). Naturally, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to modding, and it’s reliable too, with just a selection of issues to be aware of. So there you go, three amazing Golf GTIs to suit every budget, and whichever one you choose, you’re certain to love it.
Ford Focus ST MK3
Fast Fords and turbos go together like strawberries and cream, and if you want a boosted blue oval, you have so much choice it’s unreal, but for us, it’s got to be the MK3 Focus ST. Where the MK2 ran a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo, which had plenty of character but also its fair share of faults, the MK3 switched to a sturdier 2.0-litre four-pot turbo making 250hp in standard form, along with 265lb ft of torque. Sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox (but no LSD), which meant a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds, and the Focus ST is a seriously rapid hatch.
You want the ST-3, which was the highest-spec trim level available, and the most popular model, which actually makes it the cheapest to buy. While the Focus came in for some criticism for its cheap-feeling cabin and the fact that it could feel a little unruly when pushing on, it was and still is a very entertaining and engaging car to drive and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
In terms of mods, the MK3 ST is very well-catered for and can handle 300hp with ease, and in terms of what to look for there really don’t seem to be any major issues that would send your wallet running for the hills, so that’s good news too. As a supremely entertaining all-rounder and an extremely competent Golf GTI alternative, the MK3 For Focus ST definitely deserves your attention, and it won’t disappoint.
Make sure you check out our Ford Focus ST Mk3 buyer’s guide.
Mercedes W211 E55 AMG
Do you like V8s? We’ll help you out here, the correct answer is yes. Do you like superchargers? Again, yes. Would you like to own a supercharged V8 for the price of a MK7 Golf GTI? Looks like that’s three in a row. Now, we are not suggesting that owning an E55 AMG would be in any way, shape or form a sensible purchase, but we’re here for a good time, not a long time, and life is too short for it to be spent being sensible. And, actually, the E55 is probably one of the most sensible ways into supercharged V8 ownership, so it had to be on our list of the 10 best forced induction cars under £15,000. The W211 E55 was powered by a 5.4-litre M113K V8 bolstered by the addition of an IHI Lysholm-type twin-screw positive displacement supercharger, which took power to 476hp with 516lb ft of torque, which meant a 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds. The E55 was actually the lightest of all the M113K-equipped models, making it the quickest 55 you can buy.
As fast as the E55 is in stock form, it doesn’t take much to take the performance to the next level, and a smaller supercharger pulley, upgraded intercooler pump, larger heat exchanger, and a remap will get your E55 to around 550hp. In terms of reliability, the powertrain is pretty solid, with the biggest issues being electrical gremlins, the Airmatic air-ride struts failing at a cost of around £1k each, and the SBC brake-by-wire pump failing, with a repair service available for £375. The W211 E55 AMG is an epic sleeper with seriously addictive V8 thrust, and it’s an awesome experience.
Renault Megane RS 250/265
The second-gen 2010-2016 RenaultSport Megane is considered by many to be one of the best used hot hatches you can buy, so it had to make its way onto our list, and for our budget, you’ll be able to pick between the 250 and 265 models. The second-gen Megane RS was heaped with praise upon launch, picking up a bunch of best hot hatch awards, and owners absolutely love them.
The MK2 car came with a turbocharged four-pot making 250hp and 251lb ft of torque in 250 guise, mated to a six-speed manual, which delivered a 0-62 time in 6.1 seconds, while in 265 form those numbers rose to 265hp, 265lb ft of torque and the 0-62 sprint now took six-seconds dead. Performance was certainly impressive but what really impressed was the absolutely exceptional chassis. It served up the perfect blend of ride comfort and handling delight, and it made the Megane RS an absolute joy to drive, and one of the most fun and exciting hot hatches you could get your hands on when it was new. There was also a Cup version of both that came with a lower, stiffer suspension setup, thicker anti-roll bars, and a mechanical LSD.
The engine is tough, and can take 300hp without any fuss, and the rest of the car is equally solid, with only minor things to look out for. The only big issue is gearbox whine, which, if caused by worn diff bearings will be down to leaking driveshaft oil seals, and that will most likely mean a new ‘box. If you’re looking for a thrilling hot hatch that will make you smile every time you get behind the wheel, the Megane RS is a turbo tearaway that you need to try.
Make sure you check out our Megane RS 250 buyer’s guide.
Audi B5 S4
We wanted to include a fast boosted Audi on our list of the 10 best forced induction cars under £15,000, and while we toyed with the idea of it being a C5 RS6, as much as we love them, we simply couldn’t recommend one in good faith knowing how fragile and problem-prone they tend to be. We’ve also had plenty of hot hatches on our list, so we wanted something saloon-shaped, and we followed our heart straight to the B5 S4. There is something so right about the way this car looks – the smooth, simple shape, the unfussy design, the iconic Avus wheels, and the subtle sleeper styling. It all works so well, and this is a car that has aged very gracefully indeed. Under the bonnet, you will find a 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and quattro 4WD, and while its outputs of 265hp and 295lb ft of torque may seem a little meagre by modern standards, 0-62 in 5.7 seconds is still nothing to be sniffed at.
Naturally, there’s plenty more performance to be found, and just stage 1 software will get you to around 300hp, and adding uprated intercoolers will help you hit 320hp. 340hp is about the limit for the stock turbos, and as turbo failure is the biggest concern with B5 S4s and replacing the turbos is an engine-out job, you might as well upgrade them while you’re at it… Do that, and you can comfortably hit over 400hp with supporting mods, and then you’ll have one hell of an S4 to enjoy. Owners have proven the B5 S4’s reputation for fragility to be unfounded, turbos aside, so just be prepared for age-related wear and tear and general maintenance, and should have a pretty smooth ride. The B5 S4 deserves a lot more love than it gets, and this is a modern classic in the making – best get in there before values skyrocket.