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These are the best affordable sports cars of the 2010s

By Chris Thompson, 10 Apr 2020 Features

Best budget performance cars feature

Want to go fast or have fun on a shoestring budget? Look no further

Each year, MOTOR runs an event called ‘Bang For Your Bucks’ (or BFYB for short), and it’s one of the best ways to decide how to get… er, the most bang for your buck.

But over the last decade, some of the competition’s winners have become renowned as genuinely excellent bargain driver’s cars, while some that didn’t find BFYB glory have come into their own as good ownership prospects.

Of course, any list like this will have an element of subjectivity to it, so if you think there’s anything that should’ve been included, hit us up in the comments at the end of the article!

Thrills without the bills on MOTOR Bang For Your Bucks

Any Holden VF/VFII Commodore SS

New: $44k (manual ute) to $64k (auto Motorsport Edition)
Now: $20k (2014 models, high km) to $90k (Motorsport Editions, delivery km)

BFYB results: Standard SS ute took 1st place in $0-50k and SS-V Redline ute took 2nd place $50-100k in 2017. SS-V Redline sedan 2nd outright in 2016, while SS ute took 1st for $0-50k.

BFYB 2017: SS-V Redline ute results

Why: The VF/VFII SS has become, on the used market at least, a bit of a ‘spend what you can’ sort of car. You can get one for not much, but access to that V8 (the 6.0-litre in the VF is great, but the VFII’s 6.2-litre LS3 is a beautiful thing) at any price is worth it. Spend bigger and get a well-looked after Redline if you can.

Ford Fiesta ST (2013–2018)

New: $27,500 (in 2017)
Now: $14k to $25k

BFYB results: Outright winner in both 2014 and 2015. Returned in 2016 to take 5th in the $0-50K category.

MOTOR comparison: Fiesta ST v Polo GTI v Clio RS

Why: Aside from its clear value advantage and its BFYB domination, the Fiesta ST is a car which MOTOR’s Dep Ed Scott Newman Swears by. Three doors, a punchy turbo four, a chassis ready to play, and for less than the price of some pretty pedestrian cars.

Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ

New: $31.5k (manual GT) to $39k (auto GTS)
Used: $15K (early manual GTs) to 30K (near-new auto GTSs)

BFYB results: Took 5th in 2017; 14th in 2018 as a $39,400 GTS Performance Pack. Judges always rated it highly.

MOTOR comparison: 86 Performance Pack v BRZ tS v MX-5 RF Limited Edition

Why: Okay, so the BFYB numbers aren’t really in the 86’s favour, but that mostly comes down to the fact it’s just not that fast. What it is, however, is incredibly fun. So much that one judge gave it a podium vote both years it competed, and the others had it 4th or 5th.

It's a car that has a significant place in every conversation about ‘fun’ cars here in the MOTOR office, and for good reason. Get yourself the basest, cheapest one you can (in good condition) and give it a couple of track mods with the money you’ve saved. Bargain blast.

Renault Clio IV RS

New: $29,290 (RS200, 2015); $39,990 (Trophy, 2016); $30,990 $32,490 (Cup, 2019)
Used: $14K (Sport) to $24K (Trophy)

BFYB results: 1st place in $0-50K and 2nd overall in 2015 as RS200. 5th place in $0-50K as more expensive Trophy in 2016.

MOTOR comparison: Clio RS200 v Cooper S v Abarth 595C

Why: The Renault Clio RS is not particularly expensive. The Renault Clio RS is relatively quick. The Renault Clio RS loves to have fun on a twisty road or on a track. Brutal BFYB algorithms like the Clio RS. We like the Clio RS.

Okay, we did originally say it was a tad pricey for the car you get (a small hatch with very basic features) but now that you can pick up a cheapie on the classifieds? Go for it.

Peugeot 208 GTi (2012-2018)

New: $29,990 (2015) or $35,990 (30th Anniversary, 2016)
Now: $12-18K (standard) or $21,500 (30th Anniversary, one found)

BFYB results: 5th in $-0-50K category, 2015. 2nd place in $-0-50K category in 2016 as 30th Anniversary Edition.

MOTOR comparison: 208 GTi 30th Anniversary v 205 GTi

Why: Much like the Clio, the low-cost, high-fun 208 GTi provides a convenient little package to both live with and thrash on the weekend.

Now that the new price isn’t the only way to pick one up, bargains can be had – but if you can stretch to a 30th Ann. Edition, do it. The more recent ‘Edition Definitive’ also supplies the same upgrades but will set you back plenty more for being newer.

BMW M135i

New: $62,900 (2016)
Now: $24K to $40K

BFYB results: First place in $0-50K in 2015, 9th in that category in 2016.

MOTOR comparison: M135i v AMG A45 v S3

Why: Get yourself a hot hatch you can drift! Yep, while the AWD heroes like the A45 and Focus RS look to drift modes to help slide, BMW’s almost-M hot hatches let you do it with your steering wheel and your right foot regardless.

They’re not the best lookers, but the M135i and even the M140i can be had relatively inexpensively – they weren’t even particularly pricey when new!

Mazda ND MX-5

New: $35,890 (manual 1.5-litre) to $49,900 (auto RF GT)
Used: $22K (sub-50,000km models from ~2015) to $42K (2018 RF Limited Edition)

BFYB results: 7th in $0-50K 2017, but 5th overall in 2019.

MOTOR feature: Bob Hall on the MX-5, 30 years on

Why: The MX-5 has endured as one of the all-time great sports cars for the last 30 years, and the ND generation is true to the NA’s simplicity while managing to remain relevant in a modern market.

If you want unfiltered fun, this is up there with the Toyota 86. Though it’s not as sharp a handler (primarily due to softer suspension), it’s got a more linear engine and the option of dropping the top.

2016-18 Ford Mustang GT

New: $57,490 (2016 manual) to $59,990 (2016 auto)
Used: $35K to… however much you want, many have been tuned and modified

BFYB results: 8th in 2016, sub-$50K category.

MOTOR comparison: Mustang GT v 370Z NISMO

Why: Tonnes of people bought new Mustangs in the first years of its on-sale time in Australia, which means tonnes of people are also selling relatively new cars with low-cost and easy-to-find parts. The updated version also means chances of those who want an upgrade with the intention of ditching the old one.

High supply, low prices. You can pick up a decent condition Mustang and save a pretty penny, while still getting to enjoy everything its first owner coughed up the cash for.

Volkswagen Polo GTI (Mk5)

New: $27,490 (manual, 2017) to $29,990 (DSG, 2017)
Now: $10K (early models, 100,000km+) to $24K (~2016, sub-50,000km)

BFYB results: 3rd $0-50K in 2015, outright winner in 2016, 2nd place $0-50K in 2017, 4th overall in 2019.

MOTOR comparison: Polo GTI v Fiesta ST v Clio RS v 208 GTi

Why: The Polo has consistently proven it’s able to balance the line between very sensible and very fun for half a decade of BFYB attendance, bar one year. It’s almost always been on the podium, and now that you can pick up a well-loved car for just north of the $10K mark, it’s time to start considering one as a cheap weekender or track car. Just don’t let the maintenance bills bite – sometimes cheap cars ain’t cheap.

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