It’s finally here. The Ford Mustang is making its way to British shores in right-hand drive form for the first time, and we couldn’t be more excited. So imagine our surprise when we found out the EcoBoost model would be on sale for £28,995. Making 310bhp from the 2.3-litre four-banger, and wearing a simply iconic name plate, this got us thinking: can you get more performance for the money?
The simple answer: no. Nothing on sale in the UK today costs less and makes more power, but our search wasn’t in vain, as we turned up a collection of absolutely riotous performance cars you can buy with a £30,000 budget, and still have change left over for fuel.
First up, and lagging only slightly behind the ‘Stang in the performance stakes, is this ubiquitous slice of JDM culture: the Subaru WRX STI. The 2.5-litre Boxer engine makes 296bhp, and with an epic all-wheel drive system laying down the power, 62mph from dead takes just 5.2 seconds.
When we drove it last year we found the interior a little bit bland, but there’s absolutely no questioning the performance. An absolute weapon with a history as rich as that of its American friend.
Okay, yes, the Volkswagen Golf R is a smidgen over £30k at £30,150, but since no one actually pays the list price (and if you do you should take a crash course in bartering) we reckon we can include it. Like the Subaru it puts its power down through all four wheels, but it does so in a decidedly more civilised manner.
Again, like the Japanese car, the Golf R has 296bhp. This comes from a 2.0-litre engine, mated to a slick six-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox, which contributes to a blisteringly-quick 4.9sec 0-62mph time (opt for the manual, and you can add 0.2sec to that sprint).
The first of a our front-wheelers, the Astra VXR has something of a reputation as an unruly beast. Its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 276bhp, which is a lot of power for the front wheels to deal with. The torque steer and handling have been vastly improved for this version, but it still retains that bad boy character and looks ace.
At around £27k, it’s slightly less sophisticated than some of its competitors, but costs a little bit less too. Which leads me onto…
The mature alternative to the ballistic VXR… but don’t let that fool you. This thing is quick, and it puts its power down with such an incredible efficiency you’ll spend your first hour with the car seeing if you can upset the front end. Full lock, second gear, full throttle, it tracks straight and true.
Highly impressive, considering it matches the VXR in the numbers game, with 276bhp from a 2.0-litre TSI unit. The DSG auto is simply superb too, and I’d genuinely have one over the manual. (Don’t hate me!).
Another ridiculously capable FWD hot hatch, the Megane RS Trophy perhaps leans a little too far towards track special for everyday use, but my word it’s fun. The because race car interior touches such as an Alcantara steering wheel and massive bucket seats instantly make you feel like you’re in something serious.
The front grip is, quite frankly, phenomenal. The sticky front tyres and trick differential feel like they could handle a hell of a lot more power. Not that the Megane RS is a slouch; 271bhp from a 2.0-litre four-pot. To be honest, unless you’re taking this on the track regularly you should opt for the slightly softer 265. Believe me, your back will thank you.
The old kid on the block has just been given a refresh, and it’s improved in all the areas it needs to. It’s not quite the finished product, but it’s damn close, and at £25,995 in top-spec ST-3 mode it’s got a lot of kit without breaking the bank.
It’s slightly lacking on power compared to some of its rivals here - in 2.0-litre inline-four petrol guise it makes 247bhp - but it’s dominated UK hot hatch sales (with the Golf GTI) for years now, and with good reason.
So we’ve already had one car marginally over the budget, but at £30,850 the BMW M135i is pushing a bit too far past the £30k limit. Still, it deserves an honorary mention, since for the price of a decent laptop over budget you can get something more powerful than Ford’s finest pony.
The Bimmer puts its 322bhp through the rear wheels, so it’s got a ‘proper’ layout while retaining that hot hatch practicality.
Which of the above cars would get your £30k?