- Credit: cars-data

The five best convertible sports cars for £5k or less

Prepare yourself for next summer with these bargain classics!

41w ago
7.3K

The 1990s and 2000s were great for the automotive industry; many manufacturers were rolling out completely new sports cars, or giving updates to older ones. Since then, some of these cars have fallen in price, but are still worth every penny. Here are a few of the best convertible sports cars from that era, for 5 grand or less.

Credit: Auto Express

Credit: Auto Express

1. BMW Z3

The two-seater Z3 was BMW's first modern mass-market roadster, released in 1995 for the 1996 model year. It was initially offered only with a basic 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, but, inevitably, the meatier six-cylinder powerplants were offered, with a respectable figure between 148 and 228 horsepower. The arrival of this new engine option coincided with the release of the Z3 Coupe, with its rather strange-looking 'bread van' shape giving it the 'clown shoe' nickname.

Credit: Motorious

Credit: Motorious

But the most interesting model comes with the Z3 M, sold in both coupe and convertible form from 1997, until its discontinuation half a decade later. It had flared wheelarches for a cooler, more aggressive stance, was even more fun to drive, and had an astonishing figure of 321 horsepower - 100 horsepower more than the ordinary 3-litre model. Some Z3s can still be had for less than £5k, but prices are rising quickly, especially for the highly coveted 'M' models.

Credit: CarThrottle

Credit: CarThrottle

2. Mazda MX-5 (NB)

Yep, you guessed it: an MX-5. But this is the NB, the second generation of Mazda's beloved sports car and, in my opinion, it's the best of the bunch. Produced from 1998 to 2005, it looked great and featured many improvements to performance, whilst staying true to the the 'lightweight, well-balanced, fun sports roadster' ethos introduced with the first-gen model. Despite growing in size and having more features, it still only weighed 1060 kilograms.

Credit: Australian Car Reviews

Credit: Australian Car Reviews

The most potent of the base model 1.8-litre powerplants produced 152 horsepower, which was more than sufficient to make this car fun, even at low speeds. This little roadster proved that lightness was more important than power if you wanted fun. Prices are low, with the low mileage, immaculate condition models selling for £4,000 or less. The time is now to buy one of the greatest sports cars of all time at such a low price.

Credit: Mercedes-Benz Public Archives

Credit: Mercedes-Benz Public Archives

3. Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

The first SLK model from Mercedes, introduced in 1996, was known internally as the R170, and was based off of a shortened C-Class platform. The design was supposed to be sporty, light and compact (sportlich, leicht and kurz in German), which is where the name comes from. It certainly lived up to its design brief, producing anywhere from 134 horsepower with the standard 4-cylinder, to a mighty 349 horsepower courtesy of a supercharged V6.

Credit: Classics World

Credit: Classics World

It was light and compact too, making it a blast to drive anywhere and at any speed. It may weigh more than an MX-5, but it was almost as good in many aspects, and notably better in a few. Its more luxurious interior and retractable hardtop put it in a different class altogether. Although in 2004 it was replaced by the slightly cooler R171, which has a V8 option under its AMG guise, the R170 SLK the car to choose if your budget is a bit tighter.

Credit: VWVortex

Credit: VWVortex

4. Porsche 986 Boxster

The first generation Boxster, dubbed internally as '986', was also built between 1996 and 2004. It was Porsche's first roadster since the 550 Spider of the 1950s, but just because these two cars are so far apart doesn't mean that they forgot how to make a good car. Initially powered by a rear-mounted 2.5-litre flat-6 unit - similar to the 996's boxer engine - the size for the base model's powerplant grew to 2.7 litres in 2000, and then to 3.2 litres for the premium 'S' model.

Credit: cars-data

Credit: cars-data

The Boxster S produced about 250 horsepower, about 30 horses more than the 2.7-litre, and was definitely worth the extra '6-and-a-bit' grand over the £30,000 base model. Until 2003 with the introduction of the Cayenne, the Boxster was Porsche's best-selling model - more people got the car dubbed 'the poor man's 911', than the actual 911. If you're lucky, you can get the S for under five grand, but if not, just settle for the ordinary 986 Boxster. You'll have fun either way.

Credit: Parkers

Credit: Parkers

5. Toyota MR2 (W30)

This little mid-engine marvel was first sold in 1984, and the third generation MR2 of 1999 was a true return to form after the heavier and more powerful W20 of the rest of the 90s. It weighed just less than 1000kg, and its inline four engine provided an adequate 138 horsepower. With this 1.8-litre unit mounted in the middle, the W30 MR2 had excellent weight distribution stability, and this engine positioning also helped towards the great proportions of this cute roadster.

Credit: Classics World

Credit: Classics World

Although feedback for the new MR2 was mixed as many people liked the more powerful second-gen car, everyone could agree that the handling was practically perfect. However, despite praise from many - including Tiff Needell himself - the W30 MR2 suffered from a lack of sales and production had permanently ceased by 2007. A good-condition model of this plucky, characterful little car can be had for easily less than £3,000. What a car, and what a bargain.

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Comments (7)

  • For me the Z3 has it, the coupe. I just love the way it looks, and I’m sure would be a hoot to drive. Also looks like you could get granny’s chest of drawers in the boot when required.

      9 months ago
  • No VX 220? Or Exige?

      9 months ago
    • Both are cool cars, but not really in the price range I was looking for (>£5k)

        9 months ago
  • Miata because it's always the freaking answer.

      9 months ago
  • At this price range it has to be the Toyota. The Boxster is objectively the best car but a £5,000 one is going to not be in the best shape. Both the SLK and NB MX5 have a reputation for rust. The Z3 is probably good at this price but pretty sure the Toyota will be more fun if less practical.

      9 months ago
  • The Boxster really is in a different league to the others here. Incomparable build quality, that flat 6 wail and astonishing handling. Some 987’s can be had for not much more and they’re even nicer :)

      9 months ago
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