Best sports cars 2024
Everybody should own a sports car at one point in their life. Whether it's while you're young before a new arrival prompts the purchase of something with more seats, or as a second car for weekends and holidays, a sports car can turn even the dullest of drives into an event.
We're not talking about supercars with six-figure price tags and a gazillion horsepower. Most sports cars are eminently attainable, generally affordable to run and, in some cases, practical enough for the daily commute or a weekend away with your significant other.
Our list of the best sports cars covers many bases, from roadsters to performance coupes, and even a few with space in the back for a couple of kids. Each one is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and turn heads wherever you go.
Best sports cars
This is the best-selling affordable sports car on the planet. Right now, it’s also the only affordable roadster you can buy new in the UK. So it’s fortunate that the Mazda MX-5 is so good. In fact, it’s as much fun to drive as some sports cars costing 10 times the price. It feels like the kind of roadster your parents owned in the 1960s, but with the advantage of modern safety features and the latest tech. The fabulous 2.0-litre engine is our pick of the range, but don’t rule out the cheaper and surprisingly willing 1.5-litre version. Either way, this could be all the sports car you’ll ever need. For a different flavour, try the MX-5 RF, which features a trick electric folding hard-top.
At what point does a sports car become a supercar? At the top of the range, the Porsche 911 Turbo S offers a level of performance to rival the most expensive and exotic supercars, thanks to a 3.7-litre twin-turbo engine developing 650PS. It’ll sprint to 62mph in just 2.7 seconds before hitting a top speed of 205mph. Prime supercar territory, then. Meanwhile, the entry-level Carrera uses a 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine producing 385PS, which is enough to propel the 911’s best impression of an affordable sports car to 62mph in 4.2 seconds. The top speed is ‘only’ 182mph, but in many ways this base 911 is the sweetest model in the range.
The Alpine A110 is arguably the purest sports car you can buy, short of the extremely compromised Caterham Seven or Ariel Atom. A Renault-sourced 1.8-litre turbocharged engine producing 252PS in basic form might sound a bit underwhelming, but the A110 weighs just 1102kg in 'entry-level' guise, which is less than most modern small cars. This featherweight sports car offers the acceleration of a Porsche 911 Carerra and can change direction with the alacrity of a housefly. As a bonus, you even get decent fuel economy, although you’ll be having too much fun to look at the fuel gauge.
Toyota GR Supra
With the brilliant GR Yaris hot hatch hogging the limelight, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the Toyota GR Supra. If you could put a price on aesthetics, the GR Supra would command a six-figure fee, which makes the £50,500 cost of entry seem like a bargain. Look beyond the fast and furious styling and you’ll find a BMW-sourced 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged engine that hits all the right notes. The performance to rival a Porsche, with the soundtrack to rival a symphony orchestra. Cliches aside, the GR Supra is superb to drive, beautifully balanced and comes with a long list of standard equipment.
The Jaguar F-Type is living on borrowed time, but it remains one of Britain's best sports cars. Available as a coupe or a convertible, with a choice of four- or eight-cylinder engines and with rear- or four-wheel drive, you’ll almost certainly find an F-Type that’s right for you. The entry-level R-Dynamic features a 2.0-litre engine and is the F-Type to choose if you’re after reasonable running costs. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the R 75 is powered by a supercharged V8 producing 575PS. Buy one while you still can, because the F-Type feels like a modern classic.
Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman
We offer no apology for featuring a second Porsche on our list of the best sports cars. Forget the quips about the 718 Boxster and Cayman being ‘poor man’s 911s’, or concerns over the fitment of four-cylinder engines. On UK roads, these are as much fun to drive as the more expensive 911. Besides, if you’re after something hardcore, with the soundtrack of a flat-six, you could opt for one of the GTS models. Most buyers, though, will be delighted with the performance of the entry-level 300PS Cayman and Boxster models. Not that there’s anything remotely ‘entry-level’ about a Porsche with a 170mph top speed.
It's not the bargain it once was, but with prices starting from £50,000, it's difficult to think of a car that offers this much theatre and presence for the money. The old 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine has been axed, so all models come with a thunderous 5.0-litre V8 producing up to 460PS. Opt for the automatic version of the Mach 1 edition for a Porsche-rivalling 0-62mph of just 4.4 seconds – not bad for car costing £60,000. Alternatively opt for a Convertible version of either the standard GT or GT California Special to enjoy the V8 soundtrack with the wind in your hair (assuming you still have some).
Just about any BMW with an M badge on it is going to be brilliant, but we’ve opted for the latest M2 because it’s the most affordable way into M car ownership. Okay, it’s not that affordable in the grand scheme of things (it’s not far off the price of a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS), but it is rear-wheel drive – an increasing rarity on M cars – and it can be ordered with a manual gearbox. It’s also tremendous to drive, with extra maturity over the previous model and a clinical approach to pin-sharp handling and relentless speed. It’s also a darn sight more practical than most cars on this list.
The best way to describe the Mercedes-AMG GT is to call it a ‘Mercedes 911’. It’s not quite as focused as Porsche's 911, and with the engine at the front it’s a very different proposition. Nonetheless, it offers a similarly immersive driving experience. All models are powered by different versions of a spectacular hand-built 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which makes all the right noises and delivers thrilling performance. Coupe, Roadster and even a 4-Door Coupe models are available, all offering the kind of unhinged performance we’d expect from the AMG division.
If you liked the idea of the back-to-basics GT86 that Toyota released back in 2012, then buckle up for its successor. The GR86 builds on that lightweight, engaging and usable-on-the-road philosophy and delivers a fantastic rear-wheel-drive coupe at a very attractive price. It also solves the few complaints about the GT86 by upping the power and giving it oomph to match its handling. The downside? At the time of writing, it was sold out, so keep your fingers crossed that some more stock is allocated to the UK. Or keep your eye on the classified adverts.
Are sports cars expensive to run?
While it’s true that a sports car is likely to be more expensive to run than a family hatchback, it might be more affordable than you think. Take the Alpine A110, which could deliver 41.5mpg if you’re not having too much fun. The same is true of the 1.5-litre version of the Mazda MX-5, which offers 44.8mpg in official tests. Just remember that insurance is likely to be more expensive for a sports car, while parts, servicing and maintenance can also be costly.
Does a sports car need to be rear-wheel drive?
Purists say that a sports car must send its power to the rear wheels, but this isn’t necessarily true. The tiny Fiat Barchetta proved that front-wheel-drive sports cars can be fun, while some modern sports cars offer the reassurance of four-wheel drive. The latter is ideal for anyone thinking of running their sports car through the winter. However, on a racetrack, where there’s room to go sideways in safety, nothing beats the feel of a rear-driven sports car.
Will sports cars survive the ban on new petrol and diesel cars?
The brilliance of the electric Porsche Taycan (a car that would feature on a longer version of this list) proves the sports car will survive the death of petrol and diesel engines. The challenge for manufacturers is to balance the weight of a battery pack with the precision and lightness required to make a great sports car. If the Taycan is anything to go by, the future is bright, but the affordable electric sports car might be a little way off. For now, just enjoy the rapid acceleration of even the most basic electric vehicle.