The sports car market may not be in the rudest health right now, but there’s more choice out there than you might expect. Fast, purpose-built coupes of all shapes and sizes are available, and we reckon these are the 10 best out there.
We have front and mid-engined cars on the menu, and cylinder counts ranging from four to eight. Prices, meanwhile, start comfortably under £30,000, topping out well over £100k. If these don’t inspire you, ask yourself why - or see our picks for the best supercars instead.
Which will it be for you?
10. Lotus Emira
Much as we love the Lotus Elise and Exige (and the Evora, albeit not quite as much), the sports car game has moved on. Luckily, so has Lotus, and the Emira is a cracking, very modern sports car. OK, maybe it’s not quite as intense, direct and slightly scary as the hardcore Exiges, but it’s still pretty darn fun, with exquisite balance and loads of grip.
We’ll take the 400bhp supercharged V6 option, with the manual gearbox. Touring chassis for road use. Please and thank you.
Oh, and while it’s not sexy to say it, the Emira’s interior is much better than Lotuses of old, which when you’re doing lots of miles in a car is actually moderately important. Shut up, it is. No, YOU’RE old.
9. Jaguar F-Type
In the past we’ve questioned whether or not the Jaguar F-Type can really be described as a sports car - it’s too heavy and not quite as sharp to drive as we’d originally hoped.
But the right ingredients are all there, it looks the business, and the supercharged V8 versions make a noise that can only be described as ‘pure filth’.
And what’s more, it’s now better than ever. Having been on sale for nearly a decade, Jaguar has made continuous improvements to the F-Type and the final version, introduced at the end of 2022, is the best one. It treads a beautiful balance of savage, sharp performance while still being tremendously comfortable at a cruise. It’s a shame Jag dropped the manual gearbox, though..
8. BMW Z4
Unlike the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ siblings, we’ve separated the GR Supra and BMW Z4 into separate points, simply because they’re such different ownership prospects. Yes, the Z4 and Supra drive very similarly when you compare them, but since one’s a cabriolet and one’s a coupe, and because they look so distinct from one another, they’re chalk and cheese.
Diverging further, the Z4 is available with a 2.0-litre inline-four in two levels of tune - the Supra wasn’t initially available with an I4, and the lower power version hasn’t come to Europe at all. That’s a shame, as the lighter Z4 ‘30i’ is the pick of the range.
7. Toyota GR Supra
There’s no getting away from it - the GR Supra isn’t quite the car we hoped it would be. The ‘A90’ is heavy, its engine sounds uninspiring, and it’s far more of a BMW than initially expected - Toyota’s input looks to have been tiny compared to its German partners.
But it’s a great-looking, fast, brand new circa-£55k sports car at a time when interest in such vehicles is tanking. There’ll always be a nagging feeling that the fourth-generation Supra represents a missed opportunity, but we’re glad it’s here, and there’s no questioning its capability, nor its penchant for drifty tomfoolery. Even the 2.0-litre Supra is worth considering and all versions are a step more attractive since a manual gearbox was introduced.
Plus, the latest Supra is already proving to be a great platform for modifications, with various big-name companies already offering upgrades.
6. Aston Martin Vantage
The latest Aston Martin Vantage may be priced more like a supercar, but since it’s supposed to be a Porsche 911 rival, it makes the cut as a sports car. The only trouble is, by most measures, that it’s not quite as good as the 992.
There’s plenty to like, however. It’s probably the best-looking modern Aston Martin, it sounds suitably butch, and it’s a riot to drive both on road and track.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox can’t quite match the immediacy of rival dual-clutch systems, and while a manual option was briefly introduced, it was then dropped again. Boo.
5. Toyota GR86
The Toyota GT86 of a decade ago proved that you could have a tonne of fun on the road if you built your sportscar around feel rather than mad, unusable amounts of power. And the GR86 follows that same philosophy. It’s an absolute cracker, with razor-sharp handling, 231bhp from a fizzy 2.4-litre, four-cylinder boxer engine and a brilliantly satisfying manual gearbox.
The interior is… well, it’s OK. Better than the GT86, but still with plenty of hard plastics. Crucially though, it’s got a great driving position, which is something so many other cars overlook. Get in, settle down, plonk your hands on the wheel and your feet on the pedals and it’s like you’ve plugged into the road. Seriously, you will have more fun on a B-road in the GR86 than you will in cars that cost twice as much.
The only downside? It’s sold out. So keep your eyes on the classifieds.
4. Porsche 911 Carrera
With the Porsche 911 Carrera growing bigger, heavier and becoming more refined, some have accused it of straying into grand tourer territory. But drive one hard and you’ll soon discover it’s still a pure sports car. Not only that, but it’s one that can dice with supercars quite nicely.
A switch to turbo power for the 991.2-generation car may have irked the purists, but Porsche has made the 9A2 3.0-litre engine even better for the 992. The unit is incredibly responsive for a turbo engine, and it sounds brilliant in its upper reaches.
Whichever version of the 992 you go for, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. If it was us, though, we’d go for a rear-drive Carrera 2 in coupe form. The power of the Carrera S is tempting, but you just don’t need it on the road.
3. Mazda MX-5
We were already big fans of the ND MX-5 when Mazda facelifted it in 2018. What the Japanese company did to the car, however, went beyond the usual nip and tuck - instead, it went down the route of good old-fashioned N/A tuning for the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G engine.
New pistons, con-rods, valve springs and more raised the rev limit to 7500rpm - 700rpm higher than before - and the power from 168 to 181bhp.
Even with the extra grunt, the MX-5 remains – as the A110 – a low-powered, lightweight riposte to the class, and although the cheapest variants have been discontinued, it is still very affordable.
2. Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman
Once upon a time, the Porsche Cayman/Boxster twins might have been placed ahead of the 911, rather than a few spots behind. The problem is the gruff and uninspiring flat-four the 718 Boxman has been lumbered with.
Previously, the only way to avoid this is by going for a Cayman GT4 or a Boxster Spyder, both of which are fitted with the same naturally-aspirated flat-six. Thankfully, Porsche has now slotted it into the updated 4.0-litre GTS versions of the 718s, although the price is high - the cheapest is the Cayman, and that’s over £73,000.
If you opt for one of the fours, however, you will find the engine to be plenty punchy, and the chassis the engine lives in is probably the best out there. Aside from the Alpine, nothing in this corner of the market comes close to the polish of the 718’s dynamics.
1. Alpine A110
The reason the Alpine gets so much praise heaped upon it isn’t because it’s any faster or more capable than its peers. In fact, it’s one of the slowest cars here.
No - the Alpine A110 is the best new sports car you can buy today because it disrupts the trend of ever-more powerful, heavier and over-tyred coupes. It gives you just what you need, and no more. As a consequence it’s seriously light, and a joyous thing to throw around.
It’s like a very modern, more cosseting Lotus Elise. And if you really must have more power, there’s the A110 S, which adds more power and ability without completely screwing up the recipe. A more hardcore R exists as well and though it's impressively capable, we still think the standard car does it best.