BMW M2, 2017, 49k, £30,000
Let’s start by stating the obvious. If you’re a regular visitor to PH, you’ve probably considered buying a BMW M2. This is a good impulse. We won’t imply perfection, but there’s little doubt the manufacturer struck gold when it decided to produce a relatively straightforward rear-drive coupe with a 365hp straight-six and manual gearbox. In fact, since its launch in 2015, the decision has looked increasingly prescient; just imagine how refreshing the M2 will be to drive in 2035. Even better, its popularity right out the gate means that prices have slipped under the £30k benchmark for early, pre-Competition models – and that’s what we have here, wearing average miles and Jet Black paint. Transmission choice in the M2 can be as divisive as a Marmite taster session, but truth be told the car is mega whether you buy it with two pedals or three.
Ford Mustang, 2017, 18k, £29,990
If the M2 was a gawd bless BMW moment, the outgoing Mustang did much the same thing for Ford. Furnishing the car with a 5.0-liter V8 was likely an easy business decision in North America, but opting to sell it in the Old World with a large naturally aspirated engine – and building it in Limey-pleasing right-hand drive, too – was a bold and unexpected choice. It was rewarded with widespread approval; the Mustang might not handle exactly like a European sports car, but there’s simply too much here to hold a meaningful grudge. Not least the starting price, which made the V8 famously accessible. Accordingly, sub £30k cars are not hard to find. Here’s one with low miles and the back box deleted. That might not earn you much love from the neighbors – but you’ll probably be too spellbound to care.
Porsche Boxster, 2012, 32k, £27,495
It rather goes without saying that the Cayman has been the stock answer to the £30k Porsche conundrum, and while it’s certainly valid – and oft-repeated in these pages – it does sometimes unnecessarily push the Boxster out of the picture. Sure, if you’re mainly concerned about the edge of the handling envelope, the coupe is the superior choice. But you can’t have a GTS or GT4 for modest money, and if you’re settling for the entry-level 2.7-liter flat-six in the 981, there really is a lot to be said for going topless. Prime among them is the fact that you’re not going to be going much quicker than a well-sorted hot hatch anyway, so you might as well make the most of the wider Porsche experience and hair-ruffling effect, which is really quite wonderful . Especially with a manual gearbox and in Agate Grey.
Lotus Evora, 2009, 48k, £28,500
As with the Cayman, the go-to Lotus for most modest money shoppers is the Elise. And we wouldn’t dissuade you from following through on the inclination: familiarity will never ever breed contempt as far as Lotus’s lightweight is concerned. Nevertheless, we would urge caution if you are planning big miles or everyday use; the Elise is forgiving only up to a point. Cue the Evora, Lotus’s noughties-era attempt at beating Porsche at its own game. Larger, plusher but no less lovely to drive, the car is a treat. And sure, low volume and absurdly punchy pricing when new hinder its availability now somewhat – the more desirable 400 variant remains resolutely north of £50k – but the presence of a rare and very well-equipped Launch Edition model at less than £30k is well worth considering.
Toyota GT86, 2018, 16k, £23,950
It would be very tricky to make a case for the GT86 if its replacement were rolling from Toyota’s factories in typical stack ’em high fashion; after all, the GR86 is a mostly brilliant attempt to right the model’s wrongs and is great value, too. But its limited availability is a boot to the groin of any sports car enthusiast, and is almost certain to ensure that the car changes hands for well over the odds – probably for years to come. The one silver lining to that prediction is that the comparative affordability of the GT86 means it earns a reprieve in the sunshine. And there is still an awful lot to recommend it – not least the fact that you’re going to get a whole heap of change back from £30k. Here’s one with just 16k on the clock in Pure Red from a franchise dealer.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage, 2007, 44k, £31,995
Having watched the pennies so diligently, we’ve allowed ourselves to splurge on the final stocking filler. The V8 Vantage is not the fastest or prettiest or most desirable car Aston Martin has ever made, but it is absolutely more than the sum of its parts. True, as a sports car, it’s arguably easier to like at hot hatch money than when it was new, but that’s mostly by the by. The Vantage was always an idiosyncratic thing to drive, especially with the lower-powered 4.3-liter V8, but on the charm scale it is roughly equivalent to Roger Moore’s eyebrows, post-Martini. There simply isn’t anything else like it these days, and even if there were, it wouldn’t be badged Aston Martin or look anywhere near as timeless. A modern classic to its core in Titanium Silver and with the six-speed manual gearbox. And all for the price of a new diesel Skoda Octavia.