5 Affordable Performance Cars For Young Drivers
A short list of performance cars that won't cost the earth to purchase, maintain and insure
1. Renaultsport Twingo 133
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Renault's performance division have a reputation for producing fast, fun and affordable hot hatchbacks and the Twingo 133 is certainly no exception. Although its 1.6 litre naturally aspirated four-pot may seem meagre by modern standards, the car's superb chassis more than makes up for the Twingo's relative lack of power - it really is capable of embarrassing far more esteemed sports cars through the bends. Despite its superb driving experience, though, this pocket-sized performance car remains an affordable prospect for young drivers, with prices for well maintained Renaultsport Twingos starting at around £2,750, rising to over £4,000 for low mileage (sub-60k) examples with a full service history. This seems fantastic value for money, especially when you consider that the car is in insurance group 20E and costs just £205 per year to tax which, by the standards of naturally aspirated hot hatchbacks, is fairly reasonable. It's fair to say, then, that the Twingo 133 has all bases covered for budding car enthusiasts.
2. Citroen Saxo VTS
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The Citroen Saxo VTS became the chariot of choice for boy racers during the late 1990s and it's easy to see why - with a kerb weight of just 935kg, the car's 120bhp was more than enough to give this featherweight French hot hatch a fearsome reputation. The Saxo's merits don't end there, either, as the styling is purposeful, without appearing garish, the steering is precise and its 280 litre boot puts many modern rivals to shame in terms of practicality. All of this means that the Saxo VTS still has many admirers, including Richard Hammond, who was so fond of Citroen's baby hot hatch that he decided to buy one for himself a few years ago. Good examples of these change hands for under £2,500 and, with just 170 left on the road (as of 2020), prices look set to rise in the near future. All things considered, then, the Saxo VTS seems a smart choice for the discerning young motorist.
3. Mazda MX-5 NA
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The original Mazda MX-5 is a superb small convertible with all of the style and handling precision of a classic British sports car, combined with the bulletproof reliability that we have come to expect from Japanese automakers. Prices for first-generation MX-5s are rising fast but, even so, just £3,000 could buy you a mint example with less than 120,000 miles on the clock. It also won't cost the earth to run - after a quick search on some price comparison websites, we found that a first-generation 1.6 litre MX-5 would cost a 17 year old less to insure than some 1.4 litre Vauxhall Corsa models, although this may vary depending on where you live, how many miles you drive per year and countless other factors. Even so, this is astonishingly good value for money and, as such, the Mk1 MX-5 should be a genuine consideration for any young car enthusiast that wants a sports car experience for a knock down price.
4. Mini Cooper (R50)
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It's been over two decades since the new Mini was released, yet you'd never tell just from looking at it - Frank Stephenson's design looks just as fresh today as it did back in the year 2000. The design isn't the only aspect of the car that's aged well, either, as the Mini's superb ride and handling characteristics are still capable of giving far newer rivals a good run for their money, which makes buying the Mini Cooper over the base model Mini One all the more justifiable, as the extra 35 bhp allows you to fully exploit the car's superb chassis. Even in sporty 'Cooper' guise, though, the Mini remains cheap to buy and insure, as you can pick one of these up for as little as £1,000 (although be prepared to pay closer to £2,000 for a low mileage example) and, despite being in insurance group 21, insurance prices are fairly inexpensive, especially when you consider the sporting credentials of this pocket rocket. There's no denying that the Mini Cooper is a fantastic little car - it's great fun to drive, the design has withstood the test of time and it has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it one of the most appealing cars on this list.
5. Porsche 924 2.0
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Released in 1976, the Porsche 924 was initially discredited by the motoring press due to its underpowered 2 litre engine, which produced a mere 125bhp and originated from a humble Volkswagen van. However, the relative undesirability of the 924 means that good examples can be picked up for as little as £4,000 and, unlike most classic Porsches, cost very little to maintain, as many parts are interchangeable with Volkswagens from the same era. Furthermore, insurance on the 924 is surprisingly cheap (even for young drivers), but do bear in mind that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the car's fuel economy is poor - expect no more than 25 mpg. Although other more modern cars on this list could be bought and insured for slightly less money, the Porsche 924 seems worth the extra expense for the badge alone.