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Best cheap rear-wheel drive cars: Top 10

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, rear wheel drive and a well-balanced chassis. Garnish with a limited slip differential and mix (preferably in noisy tyre-smoke filled circles!). 
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, with cars like the Toyota GT86 and Mazda MX-5 starting at more than £20k. Head to the second hand market however, and you can pick up a something fun and capable of some sideways fun for the price of a Dacia Sandero. We’ve identified ten cars that meet our requirements for rear-wheel drive fun on a budget.
With a mix of GT cars, family-friendly sports cars and ultra-budget convertibles, there is a rear driven choice catering for all tastes in our list. There are obviously many other performance bargains on the market. Take a read through our list, and let us know if you think we’ve missed anything in the comments. 

Nissan 350Z
Cars like the old school 350Z roadster 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, buy really deserve the manual transmission. Early 276bhp cars are now under £5000, while the run-out 309bhp models are around twice that price.  

Take a look at used Nissan 350Zs for sale in the classifieds 
True, this particular choice does not come equipped 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.

Take a look at used Jaguar XRRs for sale in the classifieds
With its big V8 and what many would call a crude rear-drive chassis, the 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
Now in its fourth generation, and staying steadfastly true to its original formula, the MX5 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, so who knows, your budget buy may end up costing a lot less than you would have thought. 

Take a look at used Mazda MX5s for sale in the classifieds

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?’ One in good condition can be found from £12,000.

Take a look at used Caterhams for sale in the classifieds

There’s no cheaper way of getting behind the wheel of a Porsche than by way of a 924. Base models may be a bit underpowered, and some Porsche purists stick their nose up at the VW-based mechanicals, but the engineering under the skin is pure Porsche. Well-made and constantly updated over the years, the turbo models have some real poke, but for a real bargain the early 2.0-litre cars can be had for sub-£2500 and are perfect for weekend fun.

Take a look at used Porsche 924s for sale in the classifieds

Bargain basement rear-wheel drive does not come much better than this. 150mph performance and a sub-7.0 second 0-60 is not super quick by today’s standards, but when that can be had for less than £2000 it becomes a lot more noteworthy. Some of the sport models came equipped with an M3-esque body kit and desirable limited slip diff. Engines are strong, eminently tuneable and overall reliability is good, making them great as a track day toy or a practical daily runner with enough grunt to have some fun on the daily grind.

Take a look at used BMWs for sale in the classifieds

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. Few can argue with its price, 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. 

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

Mid-engined, nimble and with timeless lines: find a good MG TF and you will have one of the best bargain convertibles around. Not without its flaws (watch out especially for head gasket issues) the sporty TF is a development of the original MGF from 1995. Decent 1.8-litre models from 2002 onwards can be had for as little as £1000, although properly sorted examples are generally worth considerably more. Most people want the quick TF160, or even the post-2005 models, which came with a few updates and improvements.

Take a look at used MG TFs for sale in the classifieds
No top ten rear-wheel drive list would be complete without a TVR. The Chimaera was TVR’s 1990s take on the re-invigorated sports car genre, and in base 4.0-litre form is just about containable on the road. Not quite the super bargain like some of our other cars on this list, with prices starting at around £10,000. One thing you can be sure of is the massive grin that will be pasted on your face after every drive. Decent reliability completes a very desirable package.

Take a look at used TVR Chimaeras for sale in the classifieds

Words: John Tallodi

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