loading Loading please wait....

Best cheap rear-wheel drive cars: Top 10

Best cheap rear-wheel drive cars: Top 10 Classic and Performance Car

Looking for a bit of the RWD fun? Here are ten affordable ways into the world of sideways motoring

A traditional petrolhead’s recipe for happiness generally consists of a characterful petrol engine, a well-balanced chassis and rear-wheel drive. Garnish with a limited slip differential and a manual transmission for perfection.
While there’s no shortage of engaging rear-drivers at the top of the new car market, those on a budget have a much more limited outlook. Brand new cars like the Toyota GT86 and Mazda MX-5 start at around £20k, but take a look on the second hand market and you can pick up a something fun for considerably less than £10,000. 
We’ve identified ten cars that meet our requirements for rear-wheel drive fun on a modest budget. With a mix of big-power GTs, two-seater sports cars and the odd estate, there’s a rear driver for any occasion.

SEE RELATED: Top 10 4x4 performance cars

Nissan 350Z

Nissan 350Z
Cars like the old-school feeling Nissan 350Z are rare beasts nowadays. A torquey naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6 engine and beefy controls are quite at odds with many of today’s more anodyne offerings. Its looks are still fresh and the right colour combo can really make the Zed stand out. Both coupe and convertibles are great choices, but really deserve the manual transmission. Early 276bhp cars are now under £5000, while the run-out 309bhp models are around twice that price. If you fancy something a little newer, the later 370Z is also a quite affordable – if slightly less characterful – option.

Jaguar XKR

Jaguar XKR

True, the Jaguar XKR doesn't come with a manual gearbox, but don’t let that dissuade you from what is a very muscular 370bhp super coupe. Combining Jaguar’s traditionally compliant ride with some real grunt makes for the perfect cruiser, and now one can be yours for the price of a new Jag’s carbon ceramic brake discs. Its looks have aged particularly well, and while there may be quicker ways to get from A-to-B, in either convertible or coupe form the supercharged XKR remains one of the most stylish. Good ones are around the £8000 mark, which will get you a well-maintained 2002 car.

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Boxster
Just like the 914, 944 and 968 that have all endured the countless hours of torment from snobbish 911 owners, the Porsche Boxster has passed through the ‘that’s not a real Porsche’ phase, and is now largely appreciated by enthusiasts for what it is – a great performance car at a very reasonable price. Early Boxsters can still just about be found for £6000, although above £8000 your options become much more plentiful. As always, with lower mileages and more powerful versions prices prices quickly rise, but do your research and shop around to find the right car for you. Second-generation 987 Boxsters are also the now approaching the sub-£10k mark, if you’re in the market for a slightly newer feeling, equally well-rounded car.

Vauxhall Monaro

Vauxhall Monaro
With its big V8 and what many would call a crude rear-drive chassis, the Vauxhall Monaro has all of the ingredients for some seriously anti-social behaviour. Charming in an old bruiser kind of way, it pays little heed to refinement and focuses solely on turning its rear wheels into vast clouds of smoke at every opportunity. Early cars had a 5.7 V8 with newer models getting an increase in capacity to 6.0L. Either one will do, especially with one of the relatively popular supercharger conversions! They can be found from around £8500, which by sheer coincidence is approximately the same amount the average driver could expect to pay in fuel each year.

Take a look at used Vauxhall Monaros for sale in the classifieds

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX5

Now in its fourth generation, and staying steadfastly true to its original formula, the Mazda MX-5 is the perfect convertible for those on a budget. Prices for the Mk1 and Mk2 models start from less than £1000, however even the third generation models, with no corrosion issues, can be had from as little as £3500. Facelifted post-2006 2.0-litre Sport models, with standard LSD, are closer to £6000. Mint condition first generation cars are now going up in value – with a premium paid for completely original examples. The MX-5 also enjoys a thriving tuning scene, with companies such as BBR offering various tuning packages – transforming a relatively mild road car into a fire-breathing turbocharged monster for a modest outlay.
Caterham 7

When Colin Chapman designed a car, the fundamentals generally had lasting appeal. Case in point: the Lotus Seven. After years of tinkering, the chassis blueprints were sold to Caterham in the early ‘70s, and the sports car company hasn’t looked back since. The tubular steel frame and exposed suspension quarters have helped the Seven become the track-day car of choice, and with engines from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall all making appearances, the only real choice for buyers is, ‘how much performance can I handle?’ Values generally stay very strong, so one in good condition with a decent amount of performance can be found from about £12,000. 

Smart Roadster and Coupe

Smart Roadster/Coupe
Admittedly the Smart Roadster may not be the first car that springs to mind when considering a sporty weekend toy, but it does have rear wheel drive and enough power to have some fun – especially in the wet on the standard narrow tyres. Although expensive when new, few can argue with its price today, as these quirky two-seaters start from just £1500. The tiny 0.7-litre engine is turbocharged, which means 80bhp is at your disposal. Not a whole lot, but enough to propel the light body up to 113mph and great fun down a narrow country lane. The gearbox can be an irritation at times, but take the Smart for what it is and it can still be a great thing to own. For something with a bit more poke and stand out looks, go for the Brabus version with a more interesting 101bhp on tap.

Take a look at used Smart Roadsters for sale in the classifieds

BMW M3 E36 and E46


We couldn’t put together a list of affordable rear-wheel drive performance cars without including a BMW. And what better example than the straight-six BMW M3, either in E36 or E46 form. In reality, there are many affordable BMWs to choose look at – from £500 and up – but the M3 was the absolute pinnacle of the 3 Series range, not to mention one of the greatest performance cars of its era. The older E36 is still the cheaper option, although maintenance costs should not be underestimated. Finding a solid E46 is potentially easier, but the newer car can cost just as much (if not more) in maintenance – so please do your research and make sure a specialist has a look at any potential purchase. 

Honda S2000

Honda S2000

Honda builds some of the greatest engines in the world, and the incredible naturally aspirated VTEC unit in the S2000 is arguably the making of the car. Along with a precise gearchange and razor sharp handling, the S2000 is a joy to drive – although we’d recommend finding one of the later models for its more predictable on-the-limit chassis setup. 

Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

Mercedes E55 AMG

While the great thing about this car is its brilliant 5.4-litre supercharged V8 engine, you can also pretend that it’s the perfect family cruiser in five-door estate form. When it was launched, the W211 was a huge step up from the previous E-Class in terms of quality, and it still shows today. Although the later turbocharged E63 is ultimately the more capable machine, the earlier supercharged car is arguably the more characterful. 

Nissan 350Z Classifieds

Octane, the essential read for every classic car enthusiast.
Try 5 issues of octane today for just £5 and receive a free welcome gift!
Evo, the world’s premier performance car magazine. Try 5 issues of evo today for just £5 and receive a free welcome gift!