The alternative Performance Car of the Year

Published: 31 December 2010

I’ve got one big problem with our PCOTY cars and it’s that I can’t afford any of them. Which got me thinking: is there an affordable used alternative to each car, one with a similar spirit but that's genuinely affordable, say sub-£20k? Here’s what I came up with:

Can’t afford the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera

Buy the Lotus Exige
There are stacks of S2 Exiges for sale for less than £20k, and if you can find £23k, you’re in to the seriously quick supercharged cars. Whatever you buy, make sure it’s got the air con option – you’ll quickly tire of track driving without it.

Can’t afford the Ferrari 458?

Buy the Porsche Cayman
A proper mid-engined sports car with sublime handling that you can use every day, the Cayman is a proper junior Ferrari. They’re now available for less than £20k and if you’re on a budget, a Boxster is even better value.

Can’t afford the Porsche GT2?

Buy the Renault Megane R26R
No, I’m not joking. They might be fundamentally different in engineering terms, but in character, they’re neck and neck. And the reality is that most drivers will drive the Megane harder, and have more fun doing it than they will in the Porsche. Prices for the best hot hatch ever start at around £17k.

Can’t afford the Mercedes SLS?

Buy the Porsche 928 GT
With its quad-cam V8 up front and gearbox slung out over the back, the 928 makes a good foil for the SLS. Don’t forget to budget for some quality earplugs and expect it to break.

Can’t afford the BMW M3 GTS?

Buy the BMW M3 CSL
Okay, you’re going to struggle to find one for £20k, but you should be able to get into a CSL for less than £25k. They’re not just fun to drive, they promise to be decent investments too. And if money’s tight, a stock M3 on Michelin Cup tyres will do 85% of the job for less than £10k.

Can’t afford the Lotus Elise?

Buy the S2 Lotus Elise
You could buy a Mk1 for £7k, but the second generation cars from 2000 look almost identical to the current Elise, start at just £12,000 and are significantly quicker than the new 1.6 we took to France.

Can’t afford the Renault Megane 250 Cup?

Buy the Ford Focus RS Mk1
Why spend £24k on a Megane Cup when you could buy an original Focus RS for a third as much? They’re getting on a bit now but many have been pampered by RS fanatics and are still in fine shape.

Can’t afford the Subaru Impreza Cosworth?

Buy the Subaru Impreza RB320
Our notional £20k budget would get us a seriously evil-looking but heavenly-driving Richard Burns special from 2007, or you could spend less than £10k on the legendary P1.

I’m sure you’ve got some better ideas, so why not let us hear them...

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker