Humans are shallow by nature, we are attracted to pretty and shiny things. We lust after the curves of a Ferrari or crazy angles of a Lamborghini. But beauty isn't reserved for the super-cars, in fact if you know what you are looking for, you can get a stunner for less than a new Fiesta.
Used: Alfa Romeo 159/Brera/SportWagon – £2,000 to £10,000
Mid-2000s Alfa Romeos are an interesting bunch. On one hand, they were all based upon outdated Fiat/GM platforms, meaning FWD and electrics about as reliable as... well Alfa Romeo electrics.
On the other hand, they were some of the most gorgeous designs to grace the roads. The 159, 159 SportWagon and the Brera shared the same basic platform and shared many mechanical parts, and each absolutely blew the competition out of the water on the looks front.
The front fascia is aggressive, but not vulgar like something off of a Focus ST, the sides are muscular and give the cars a powerful stance, but are still soft and curvy enough to intrigue for you for second look. The back differs on all three, and while the Brera won't be up to everyone's taste the 159 is a masterclass in salon and estate design.
What lets them down is the Fiat-based FWD platform, and the infamous reliability – or lack thereof. That being said if you scour through the forums, you will find that it might be blown a little out of proportion. Yes, they are flawed cars, but with proper care and maintenance, they can be quite reliable too, just be prepared to spend some cash first.
For most fun go for the 3.2 V6. While it's not the same Busso V6 as their previous creations, it's rather a GM with not even half as much character as the previous Alfa V6. Performance is nice though. The 1.9 and 2.4 JTD diesel are the most reliable and economical, so if you are looking for a stunning, powerful and economical estate the 159 Sportwagon is a perfect choice.
Quick Alternative: Alfa Romeo Giulia – £20,000 to £44,000
We all know the Giulia Quadrifoglio: it's stunning to look at and goes like stink, thanks to its Ferrari derived twin-turbo V6. Sadly it's out of reach for most of us under 50 due to its steep price tag.
There are however cheaper alternatives. There are also 4-cylinder alternatives in petrol and diesel guise, granted a little less oomph, but it's still a stunner. In the 180hp diesel guise, you can pick up models with less than 10,000 miles for under £20,000. For the more powerful 200hp petrol, you will need to pay a tad more. This 150-mile example is listed for £23,990. Granted it's bottom spec, but it's a practically brand new, stunning looking, RWD saloon. A rare breed these days.
Fiat Coupe – £3,000 - £10,000
Built by Pininfarina, designed by Chris Bangle and sporting a 5-cylinder. For some a match made in heaven for others, trouble to stay away from. Personally, I love it, the design is distinct and it had aged very well – and Pininfarina's build quality is noticeably better than Fiat's.
Once again, it's a car that sports aggressive lines, but it's not trying too hard, it's not vulgar. It's a car that knows what it's about and it doesn't need to prove it. That's what makes a car truly beautiful: a clean, sharp design from front to back, without any unnecessary wings, winglets or other random bits that look like they came from Halfords (sorry Ford fans).
It's got the engine line-up to back up that 'don't need to prove jack' attitude. At the top, there are two 5-cylinder beasts, one N/A and the other turbocharged. The later delivers 220hp and propels the Coupe to 62 in 6.5 seconds and a top end of 155mph. The N/A engine gets only a 154hp, but it's a lot more rev happy.
Oh, and the soundtrack is to die for...
Quick alternative: Abarth 124 Spider – £17,000
God, I love this car. It's stunning, sounds good and drives like a dream. It's what the ND MX-5 should be. And again, it's aggressive but not over the top, while the ND MX-5 looks as though someone gave it a b**ch-slap that caused its 'eye-lids' to swell, the Fiat looks classy and ready to pounce. The 1.4 Turbo sounds surprisingly great, and the black bonnet is just awesome. I would have this over the MX-5 (on which chassis it's based) any day.
You can pick these up from as little £17,000.
BMW Z4 – £3,000 - £10,000
Looking for a stylish roadster/coupe with a premium badge for well under £10,000? The first and second gen BMW Z4 are in the depreciation sweet-spot right now. Admittedly the first gen roadster won't sit with everyone, it's an example of Chris Bangle going a tad far with his ideas.
But I for one quite like it – it's different without going over the top, at least in my eyes. However the first gen coupe and the second gen hard-top convertible are stunners, no argument about it.
It's a perfect coupe through and through: not too long not too short, lines are sharp but aren't too much. It's a car that I personally am very much looking forward to owning in the near future.
For that, I will need some, £3,000 for the first gen convertible and about twice that for the coupe. You can pick up second gen (2009-2016) from as little as £6,500 with well under a 100,000 miles.
Nissan 370Z – £9,000
The Z has a reputation for being incredibly quick and stunningly beautiful, after all, it was inspired by the legendary E-Type. Its latest incarnation, the 370z has been with us for a whole decade now, meaning its performance doesn't quite hold up with its rivals. The looks, however? Well, they are like wine, they get better with age on the Z.
Since it's still in production, the prices vary from £9,000 to £40,000. Go for the early 2009 model, and you will have a stylish coupe that still looks new and fresh for a quarter of the price you would normally have to spend on it. Oh, and the 3.7 326hp V6 is still a treat.
You can also go for the older 350z – it's a bit dated but you can have it from as little as £3,500.
Quick alternative: Renault Laguna Coupe V6 – £2,500
If all you are after is good looks and soundtrack, the Laguna Coupe should be right up your street. Its got the looks and a V6 from the Z but without all the harshness and outright pace of that car. The suspension and looks are aptly softer and more refined in this French coupe compared to the 350 and 370z.
Okay... The front end is a bit, well ehh? It just does't do justice to the rest of the car. And whomever decided to change it from the gorgeous concept was hopefully fired by now. Sorry, not sorry.