Car enthusiasts will often tell you that the best cars come from days gone by. They say modern cars are too big, too heavy, and lack the immediacy of response you get from older cars.
That may be true in many cases, but there are still plenty of exhilarating lightweight performance cars that hark back to a rose-tinted era. Here’s our pick of the best…
If you’re looking for an affordable drop-top sports car, there are few better than the iconic Mazda MX-5.
While some may argue it lost its way over the years, Mazda has hit back with a car that returns to its roots. In entry-level 1.5-litre form, it weighs less than a tonne, and despite lacking power, is great fun on a twisty back road.
The GT86 shares a spirit with the MX-5, but the Toyota offers a much more driver-focused experience. It’s also only available as a coupe, so those who want the wind in their hair should look the Mazda’s way.
But opt for the Toyota and you have one of the best sports car bargains on the market. It’s a simple car that delivers brilliantly at what it does. And if 197bhp isn’t enough, there are plenty of tuning options to get more out of that Subaru-sourced engine.
Porsche 718 Cayman
In the premium sports car market, the Porsche Cayman has been top dog for decades. It’s easy to see why – handsome looks, loads of kit, and a fantastic driving experience are all combined in one well-made package.
And while the Cayman is the quintessential sports car, Porsche has expanded the range into a family of ‘718’ models, meaning you can opt for slower versions that are more usable everyday, convertible Boxster and Spyder versions that are perfect for a summer’s day road trip, and hardcore cars like the GT4 that are ideal for a track day. There’s something for everyone in this range.
You might not recognise the name Alpine – pronounced Al-peen – but there’s plenty of history behind it. It was a famous sports and race car manufacturer founded in 1955, and is perhaps best known for the rally success of its A110 model.
It ceased making cars in 1995, but the name was revived in 2017 with a new version of the A110, built by Renaultsport. It’s one of the purest sports car driving experiences on the market today.
If you’re not too fussed about outright performance, instead looking for something that’ll put a smile on your face, look no further than the Morgan 3-Wheeler. Built to revive the iconic three-wheeler built between 1932 and 1952, it’s like nothing else on the road.
As the name suggests, it only has three wheels – two at the front, one at the rear – so grip isn’t particularly high. That does make it incredibly good fun to drive, though, and with its totally unique styling and outboard engine, you’ll certainly turn heads.
Caterham Seven 620S
There are countless Caterhams you could choose from, but right now our pick would be the recently updated 620S because it’s right at the sharp end of the firm’s this-thing-is-trying-to-kill-me driving experience spectrum. It’s the perfect antidote to those who argue cars are getting too big and heavy.
To give some context, this is essentially the race version of the Seven, tamed a little for the road. Emphasis on ‘little’…
In the super-lightweight, super-pure driving segment alongside the Seven sits the Ariel Atom. Its development is much more sophisticated than its styling suggests – to the untrained eye it looks scaffolding on wheels.
But under the minimal body work sits the ferocious engine from a Honda Civic Type R, while that scaffolding is actually just the chassis that’s normally hidden from sight by unnecessary addendum like doors.
One of the most serious sports cars out there, the little-known BAC Mono takes the ‘race car for the road’ ethos to the next level. The company says its Mono sports car is ‘aimed at drivers who seek a purist driving experience’, so don’t expect creature comforts.
What you can expect, though, is supercar-esque performance, a central driving position, and one of the most capable track cars on the market.