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Parkers Pick: Affordable Dream Cars

  • Affordable dream cars that cost less than a new supermini
  • All are usable examples in working condition
  • Includes verything from supercars to vans

What car would you buy if you had a £10,000 windfall to make the most of?

Whether it's a company bonus, reclaimed PPI or some hard-earned savings, you might no longer need a practical commuter car. Or, you could have simply sold your executive express in search of something more enjoyable.

The Parkers team discusses its choice of dream cars, and it’s a surprisingly diverse selection...

If you're looking to change your car, we've got all you need: 

Keith Adams, Editor

Alfa Romeo 156 GTA

Alfa Romeo 156 GTA

The motoring world might be in love with the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio right now, but there's something magical about the 156 GTA. It's plenty fast enough with 250hp to play with and has all the soundtrack you'd ever want. It's still great value for a car wearing this badge, and carrying so much emotional baggage.

2011 Saab 9-5 Aero

Saab 9-5 2010 model

I make no bones about loving Saabs – I have two of my own – and there's something quite special, and a little sad, about the final 9-5 launched when Spyker owned the company. It might be as large as the QE2, but it's good to drive, effortlessly fast, and still looks like a million dollars.

Keith WR Jones, Continuity Editor

Jaguar XJS Coupe – 1976-96

jaguar XJS 6.0 V12

In a world where our cityscapes are bristling with high-riding, front-wheel drive SUVs propelled by tiny, turbocharged engines, a low-slung, V12-powered Jaguar XJS Coupe is the perfect antithesis. I prefer the smoother facelifted ones, with the engine expanded to 6.0 litres to overcome the strangulating catalytic converter. Plus flowing buttresses.

Subaru SVX Coupe – 1992-96

Subaru SVX 3.0 H6 AWD

Twenty-five years after British sales of the ‘Japanese XJS’ began and the SVX still looks astonishingly fresh, with its contrast-colour roof and those concept car-aping windows-within-windows. It’s no sports car, but an intriguing grand tourer with Subaru’s well-regarded all-wheel drive system; as happy on an Autoroute as an Alpine pass.

CJ Hubbard, Parkers Vans Editor

BMW Z4 Coupe (2006-2008)

BMW Z4 Coupe

Why the Z4 Coupe? I just love the way it looks – like a cubist Shelby Daytona Cobra – all the sweeter for the astonishing improvement over the ungainly roadster version that it sprang from. The creamy metallic urgency of BMW’s non-turbo straight-six engines is the sugar on top. A proper budget-friendly dream machine.

Nissan 300ZX Z32 (1990-2000)

Nissan 300ZX

I’ve been captivated by the second-generation 300ZX since reading the original reviews in the far distant past – where it was praised for its immense twin-turbo V6 power and high-tech active rear-wheel steering chassis. The aging of such complexities make them a brave buy these days, but that exotic shape remains severely tempting.

Adam Binnie, Deputy Reviews Editor

Honda Integra Type R (DC2)

Honda Integra UK

Decent examples of the Honda Integra Type R are getting to be few and far between so you can expect to spend circa £10,000 on a tidy, unmodified car. It’s just about the best handling front-wheel drive car money can buy. And that’s not damning it with faint praise, it’s a superb drive. With only 190-odd-horsepower, you have to wring out every bit of the available 8,700rpm.

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX8

The RX-8 is a bit thirsty - later facelifted R3 cars are better, and in exchange you get a thrilling rev-hungry rotary engine that requires a merciless thrashing every time you start it in order to keep it in tip-top shape. The redline is tantalisingly close to 9,000rpm – you’ll need a committed prod of the accelerator to unlock all 232hp. Luckily the mechanics of the engine means it’s super-smooth in use and delivers a howling note too.

Gareth Evans, Reviews Editor

Nissan 350Z GT 

Nissan 350Z

Nissan's burly sports car had a howling V6 petrol motor, near-perfect weight distribution and rear-wheel drive, so it handled brilliantly. Couple that with bulbous styling and the RAYS alloys in the optional GT Pack, and you’ve got yourself a whole lot of style and performance for not a lot of money.

Fiat Coupe Turbo

Fiat Coupe Turbo

An oft-underrated machine, the Coupe Turbo was an extremely fast car in its day, and one that’s bound to shoot up in value before long. Its distinctive styling sets it apart in a world of generic hot hatchbacks and its 2.0-litre engine delivered explosive performance. Sure, you had to wait for the turbocharger to wake up, but it was worth it for the savagery that ensued thereafter.

Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer

Audi S8 (D2)

If you like a decent car chase movie, you might recognise the Audi S8 from Ronin. The 340hp, 4.2-litre V8 engine brings plenty of performance while a luxurious cabin is perfect for relaxing in. The bespoke alloy wheels and silver door mirrors are instantly recognisable and finding one in green would be the icing on the cake. All for less than half our £10,000 budget…

Range Rover (L322)

Range Rover L322

The Range Rover. Luxurious enough for the Queen and now it’s available for £10,000. There are heated leather seats all round, over a dozen speakers and a TV. The torquey 3.6-litre V8 diesel brings pace and attainable running costs while managing to sound decent too. What more could you want?

James Dennison, Junior Staff Writer

E46 BMW M3 (1999-2005)

BMW M3 E46

I’ve only driven one – rather ropey – example on track, but even after my brief exposure I knew it was special. The howling 3.2-litre straight-six engine is a free-revving masterpiece. £10,000 buys you a decent, if slightly leggy, manual gearbox example. The SMG semi-automatic versions are pricier and eye-wateringly expensive to mend if they go wrong.

Renault Clio 182 Trophy

Renault Clio 182 Trophy

Powered by a naturally-aspirated 182hp 2.0-litre engine it’s still got the speed to keep up with modern hot hatches, but it’s the cornering and outright agility that make the little Renault really special. Point-to-point across your typical British B-road it is enormously good fun. The Trophy gained Sachs remote reservoir damping, proving devastatingly rapid even against opposition costing five times as much. Good examples can be had for well under £10k, but get in quick as prices are increasing all the time!

Christofer Lloyd, Finance Editor

BMW M5 E39

BMW M5 E39

A potent turbo-free V8 engine, a six-speed manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive are absent on the new BMW M5 but present and correct on the 1998-2003 model. And that’s what makes it so appealing – a properly engaging muscle car, with a feisty 400hp motor, luxurious interior and sleek but aggressive lines.

BMW 130i

BMW 130i

This unassuming hatchback packs a mighty but lightweight 3.0-litre engine that outpunches a similar age Porsche Cayman for around half the price. With power to the rear tyres, weighty steering and a super-keen engine, it drives like a sports car. Choose a well-equipped model and it feels luxurious too – all from £4,000.

Richard Kilpatrick, Features Editor

Volkswagen California

Volkswagen California camper

A motorhome isn’t practical everyday, but offers the promise of new destinations. Although the ideal is the 1980s T3 Syncro, values have rocketed. Our £10,000 budget will secure a reasonable T4 Westfalia California; the T5 is still an expensive proposition; both are more refined than their rear-engined predecessors.

Chrysler 300C Hemi Touring

Chrysler 300C Hemi Touring

Returning to a car I had to give up has a lot of appeal for common-sense motoring. Chrysler’s clever, simple 5.7-litre V8 engine gives the 300C character beyond the cost. It wasn’t particularly luxurious or nimble– and it’s a rare car, too, with as few as 75 RHD models sold here.

Tom Goodlad, Staff Writer

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (Mk 1)

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

With 10 grand to spend, my heart will always go for a Mk1 VW Golf Cabriolet. It’s not fast and it’s not modern, but I’ve hankered after one since before I passed my driving test, and would happily lavish money and love on one to keep locked in the garage to be used on a summer’s day in (just not in all-white like the picture above).

Volkswagen Golf R32 (Mk 5)

Volkswagen Golf R32

Thinking with my head (ish), I’d go for the Mk5 VW Golf R32. What’s not to love about a sensible hatchback with a singing 3.2-litre V6 petrol under the bonnet and centrally-mounted twin tailpipes? That sound!

Audi S4 Cabriolet

Bending the rules of picking two cars (I'm allowed, this is just hypothetical stuff), I’d consider combining the two (sort of) and go for an Audi S4 Convertible.

Burbling, muscular 4.2-litre V8 under the bonnet and the ability to drink in all of that aural wonder with the roof down. it brings together the all-weather security of Quattro all-wheel drive (like the Mk5 Golf) and the chance to put the roof down (like the Mk1).

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