PH Service History: Living the dream

Given endless funds I'm sure most of us have a dream garage or, if constricted to just one notional bolide, a dream car, one that we consider to be perhaps the best in the world. Would it be a Chiron or a Pagani, a 250 GTO or a Type 35? Maybe it'd be a P1 or an F1, or a DB5 or an F40? Maybe it'd be a Humber Super Snipe.

But could we buy the best car in the world if limited to a more down-to-earth budget of just £10k? Nope, don't be daft, that won't buy you a supercar, not even half of one, or indeed anything rare or exotic, not even some half-baked replica. But if you look through our classifieds you might be able to pick up a used example of what are generally regarded to be the best sports cars in their particular class for that sort of money. You might, in short, be able to choose from some of the best cars in the real world.

If you're looking for a fast convertible, for example - and for this dosh you're obviously not going to get anything with a prancing horse or raging bull on it - then you can do no better than the Porsche Boxster. Sweeter than a 911 and nimbler than a gazelle being chased by a lion, the Boxster is the trump card in the Porsche pack, the sweet spot. Our money buys this 2005 model with a 280hp 3.2-litre flat six engine, mounted amidships. Performance is in the order of 5.5 seconds for 0-62mph, top speed is 166mph, and on the road it'll be sublime - the steering of a Boxster is precise and beautifully weighted, the grip strong and the handling wonderfully sweet. You'll savour, too, the delicious howl from that engine.

Next, you might want a similar drop-top, but smaller and easier on the pocket, something that's so highly regarded it's sold more than just about any other sports car worldwide. Gotta be the Mazda MX-5. It doesn't really matter which version of this diminutive drop-top you choose, you'll enjoy driving them all. A £10k budget will buy you this 2012 Mk3.5 car, and what you'll get is a quick-steering, sharp-handling roadster powered by a lively 158hp 2.0-litre engine, enabling 0-62mph in 7.6sec and a blowy top speed of 132mph.

But those figures tell only half the story. Even this largest of MX-5s feels lithe, and a quick roof-down punt along a sunny country lane will stir your senses, its unburstable quality matched only by its unbeatable charm. Reported problems are few, and there are plenty around. Another thought: shop carefully and you could probably have an example of each, Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3, for your £10k.

What if you need a luxury automatic coupe, then, something in which to waft around town and swank across Europe? If you're after limo-like comfort and innovative safety aids in a sporting carriage, the Merc CL is the only car for you - it's got all of that as well as real dynamic capability. You can waft along in the CL500, with its near-silent 302hp 5.0-litre V8 engine. Live a little, though, and you could bag the 500hp 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12 CL600 version, which will whoosh from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds. Both go, stop and handle beautifully, are wonderfully made and leave nothing out of the equipment list. Our £10k buys this 2006 version of what is almost certainly the best luxury sporting car in the world. Probably.

Now, as far as hot hatches are concerned, there are so many good ones to choose from it could make your head spin. Think Megane RS, Clio RS, Fiesta ST and Civic Type R, but of them all it's surely the VW Golf GTI that must be the best all-rounder in the real world. In fact it could be all the car you need wrapped up in one elegant and understated bundle. The Mk6 version packs a smooth 208hp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine under its bonnet, which means 0-62mph in a swift 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 149mph. There's strong grip and accurate steering and the handling is a joy: eminently chuckable, instantly recoverable and immense fun. No other hot hatch can match its overall competence, possibly no other car. For £10k, you'll get this 2009 five-door with desirable 18-inch alloys.

Others? Sporty four-door saloon? Picking between Impreza and Evo requires the wisdom of a Solomon and the driving skills of a Cackett, as well as more room than we have here to discuss it. So I might not ignite that debate, except to say you'll probably be happy with either and you'll find plenty for £10k. With an RS4 or an M5 still outside our budget, what else remains? I quite like the idea of a refurbished Type R Accord, if you can find one, with plenty of change left over for maintenance...

What about an ordinary size coupe? The Audi TT seems to have that category all sown up, and likewise you'll easily bag a good 'un for our chosen budget. Alas the GT86 is still just a tad too expensive, but personally I'd be half-tempted by an old Renault Alpine GTA, which you should be able to pick up for this money - check out Lewis Kingston's buying guide from earlier this week here.

Finally, what if you need a car to transport the family around while your sporty number's being serviced? Maybe you need the best 4x4, the best all-round SUV for £10k? The Range Rover has been ploughing its own furrow since 1970, combining the qualities of a smart and refined upmarket town car and a hugely capable and capacious off-roader. It can pull like a train and glide like a swan, although it still comes as a shock to discover that the chic, stolid and innovative Rangie handles like a boat. It also comes as a shock to learn that something so tough can be so fragile - its unreliability will make you weep. But for £10k, you could put this V8 diesel Vogue SE from 2006 on your driveway, and for perhaps 50 per cent of the time you would want for no more.

So, no, you won't get your dream sports car for £10k, and you won't get the most collectable or the most sought-after supercar, but never fear - you can still get some extraordinarily good cars, almost certainly the best cars of their type, and the good news is you don't need to be rich.





Words: Mark Pearson


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (123) Join the discussion on the forum

  • jakesmith 04 Feb 2018

    I’ve just got a 987 Boxster S as pictured for £10.5k. What a car! Feels every part the £50k it cost new. Not sure I’d describe its handling as sweeter than a 911 but that’s another topic.
    Incredible value for money

  • adma23 04 Feb 2018

    What a brilliant article. Real world and real budget fun. It would be great to apply a nerdy excel sheet sort of data sheet at the end with estimated yearly costs for each one (servicing, maintenance, insurance) as initial Capex only says half the story (sometimes less). Keep them coming!

  • Craikeybaby 04 Feb 2018

    I enjoyed this article!

    Can you still get an Elise for £10k?

  • STattam 04 Feb 2018

    Craikeybaby said:
    I enjoyed this article!

    Can you still get an Elise for £10k?
    You can get a vx220 for that budget.

  • Cambs_Stuart 04 Feb 2018

    Good article.
    Any of these would be far more fun than a new kitchen.

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