The best cheap fast cars

  • Having fun and saving money aren’t always mutually exclusive
  • Here are six new models that won’t break the bank
  • Hatchbacks, fastbacks and even a convertible

A fast and fun car doesn’t have to require a big budget – there are plenty of ways to enjoy your time behind the wheel without having to resort to an overdraft-troubling monthly payment, from hot hatches to small convertibles and sports cars.

>> Best convertible cars

Admittedly, the days of hot hatchbacks being real bargains, or two-door-roadsters being piled high and sold cheap are long gone. That’s why we’ve had to stretch this list of cheap fast cars in both directions – some of the models on it aren’t particularly fast, and some aren’t particularly cheap. They are, however, performance-focussed, brilliant fun and cracking value, factors we reckon are more important anyway.

Of course, there’s no point buying a car cheaply if it then bankrupts you trying to make the most of it – so everything on this list offers reasonable running costs as well as a decent reliability record.

Scroll down to see the best cheap fast cars on sale today. You can click the links below to jump to your favourites.

The best cheap fast cars in 2021

Under £20,000

Volkswagen Up GTI 

Volkswagen Up GTI 2020 cheap fast car

Pros: Compact, chuckable size

Cons: Not very fast, dull engine noise

0-62mph: 8.5 seconds

Economy: 50.4-51.4mpg

The Volkswagen GTI name is the most recognisable in the hot hatchback business, and the Up is the smallest of the breed. It’s a rare example of a city car that’s been given the hot hatch treatment, and we’re big fans of the way it’s been done.

>> Fast cars, cheap insurance

The Up GTI isn’t going to set any records, but it’s impressively nippy for such a small machine – and it’s hugely fun and packed with character. It’s tiny enough to make light work of slogs in crowded cities, but comes into its own when you put your foot down. It also looks great, with its wheel-at-each-corner stance, red highlighting and tartan seats. Top-notch value seals the deal.

Price new: From £15,275
Lease this car: 
From £217 per month

Under £25,000

Ford Fiesta ST 

Ford Fiesta ST 2020 cheap fast car

Pros: More fun than some £50K sportscars

Cons: Not as boldly styled as last car

0-62mph: 6.3 seconds

Economy: 40.4mpg

A former Parkers Car of the Year award is nothing to be sniffed at, but what do we like so much about the Ford Fiesta ST? Well, it’s certainly quick, with 200hp in a comparatively small and lightweight body meaning great performance. It’s also practical – you can squeeze five adults in, it’s as easy to park as any Fiesta, and it’s cheap to buy and run.

>> Want a used fast car?

The best part, though, is just how much fun the Fiesta ST is to drive. Whether you’re nipping through town or enjoying a great piece of road, it’s utterly sublime – responsive, satisfying and incredibly capable, as we found out during our long term test. If your budget can’t stretch to this model the previous Fiesta ST was also superb, and is one of the best fast cars under £10,000.

Price new: From £22,775
Lease this car: 
From £347 per month

Mazda MX-5 

Mazda MX-5 2018 cheap fast car

Pros: Perfect balance of perfomance and handling

Cons: Not much headroom for tall drivers

0-62mph (1.5-litre): 8 seconds

Economy: 44.8mpg

A leading name for affordable drop-top motoring since the 1990s, the Mazda MX-5’s fourth iteration is its best yet and remains one of our favourite cheap sports cars. Opt for the 180hp 2.0-litre petrol engine and this dinky roadster has more than enough pace to satisfy the keen driver.

>> Fast cars that are cheap to run

You can get an RF model, with a folding hard-top, but we prefer the simplicity of the cheaper soft-top roadster. A small boot and cosy interior mean you’re not likely to use an MX-5 as your only car, but as a tool for the weekend getaway or simply something to cruise around in on a sunny day, it can’t really be beaten.

Price new: From £23,800
Lease this car: 
From £339 per month

Under £30,000

Toyota GT86 

Toyota GT86 2020 cheap fast car

Pros: Handling balance, easy access oversteer

Cons: Slower than some diesel hatchbacks

0-62mph: 7.4 seconds

Economy: 33.2mpg

The GT86 launched in 2012 as the total antithesis to the hot hatchbacks of the time. You see, while most cars were getting bigger, heavier, and more powerful, Toyota concentrated on one thing above all else – fun.

That’s why the GT86’s four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine develops just 200hp – much less than many hot hatchbacks. It’s still quick, but performance isn’t the main attraction. That’s the rear-wheel drive chassis, making the GT86 incredible fun to sling around on a back road. Its simple construction means it’s very well priced, and used models can be real bargains, too. It’s a great cheap performance car and a perfect budget sports car.

Price new: From £25,769
Lease this car:
From  per month

Ford Focus ST 

Ford Focus ST 2020 cheap fast car

Pros: Can use it every day, exciting steering

Cons: A bit everyday to look at

0-62mph: 7.4 seconds

Economy: 52.3-53.3mpg

As you can find out by reading our long-term report, the Ford Focus ST is a great example of the hot hatchback breed. These cars really can do it all – acting as practical shopping trolley during the week and B-road blaster at the weekend.

>> Cheap fast estates

With 276hp on tap, the Focus ST really is no slouch – 0-62mph takes less than six seconds, top speed is a remarkable 155mph and Ford’s trademark chassis prowess means it drives like a dream.

Price new: From £29,955
Lease this car: 
From  per month

Renaultsport Megane RS 

2020 Renault Megane RS cheap fast car

Pros: Hugely exciting chassis

Cons: A bit of a handful, firm ride

0-62mph: 5.5 seconds

Economy: 33.2mpg-34.9mpg

Renault’s RS (Renaultsport) division has made some of the greatest performance hot hatchbacks and cheap fast cars of all time. The latest Megane RS can cost over £70,000 in some of its guises – eek – but the basic model is still very fast and incredibly good value.

A turbocharged 2.0-litre engine puts out 280hp, and the brand’s expertise in this field certainly shows through with the way the Megane drives. It’s not the most forgiving, but if you’re a bit hardcore you’ll absolutely love it.

Price new: From £28,995
Lease this car: 
From  per month

Further reading:

>> Best sports cars to buy in 2021

>> Best fast cars for less than £10K

>> Parkers Car Finance of the Year Award 2020