If the events of the last 18 months have stirred your ‘live for the moment’ juices and you’re looking for an entertaining way to spend the money you might otherwise have used for overseas holidays, let us provide some four-wheeled inspiration… Speculating on the cars in the used market that might become investments is, of course, an imprecise art and one you’ll encounter with every ‘bona fide future classic!’ claim in the classifieds. So, no guarantees any of these will offer a significant return down the line. But we can be sure you’ll have some fun along the way, and at least stand a good chance of breaking even. Setting the budget cap to £10,000 here are some we’d be considering…
The eight best sub‑£10K investment cars to buy in 2022
Renault Clio 172 Cup
With just 500 examples sold in the UK and a rock-solid reputation as the benchmark hot hatch of its era the Clio 182 Trophy is already a collectors’ car. Rarity and respect are good bases for a solid investment but if you’re still in the market for a bargain the 172 Cup can be bought for half as much and is, arguably, an even better car. True, it doesn’t get the trick Sachs dampers or Recaro seats that set the Trophy apart but it’s nearly 80kg lighter (in part due to the lack of ABS) and arguably even more hardcore to drive (ditto). In Mondial Blue paint and on silver Speedlines it’s also beautifully understated and while most have been driven hard those that haven’t will attract discerning hot hatch fans priced out of the Trophy. Get in there while you can.
Porsche Boxster (986)
Porsche’s turn of the millennium styling language fell out of favour for a while but, 25 years on, an early 986 Boxster with the orange indicators and the ‘fried egg’ headlights looks ever more appealing, and there are plenty around at temptingly low prices. True, those early 2.5s had a modest 204PS (150kW) and if you want meaningful performance you’re better off holding out for the later 260PS (191kW) 3.2-litre S. But with opportunities to go quickly increasingly limited there’s growing appreciation that performance should be measured in quality as much as quantity. While they can be cheap to buy upkeep can prove costly so history is everything on a used Porsche. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that the early, purest examples of any particular model often end up being among the most sought after.
BMW Z4 3.0Si
Money may be one motivation for seeking out the ‘next investment classic’ but there’s also the satisfaction of finding those undervalued and under-appreciated cars before the market wakes up to them. And the BMW Z4 3.0Si coupe is arguably one of them. It’s perhaps helped by the thunder being somewhat stolen by the M3-engined Z4 M version but, even if not as dramatic, the 3.0Si is still a beautifully sleek and distinctive looking coupe with a lovely straight-six engine and manual gearbox option. And while prices are on the rise you can still find them for less than £10K. With looks this good and fundamentally sorted foundations of a great engine in a rear-wheel-drive chassis it can only be a matter of time before demand starts exceeding the remaining supply.
The TT has become such a cornerstone of modern Audi’s image it’s sometimes hard to remember just how important it was when it first arrived back in 1998. And how fresh those original first-generation cars still look. Though there are plenty around – some of them very cheap indeed – those with an eye to future values would do well to be picky. £10K might just land you a limited-edition Quattro Sport with the extra power and nice Recaro seats and the V6 version that launched DSG gearboxes to the world also has curiosity value. But our money would go on a regular manual 225PS (165kW) Quattro coupe with the lowest miles and best history we could find. That with the famous ‘baseball’ interior fully lives up to that style icon promise and, even now, is arguably peak TT.
Smart Roadster/Roadster Coupe
People will tell you the sluggish ‘robotised manual’ gearbox kills any fun promised by the Smart Roadster’s appealingly dinky looks. But, with a bit of application, it’s not the deal-breaker many think, and a simple lift between the shifts as you would if you were pressing the clutch pedal yourself is enough to make it more viable. And if you learn to left foot brake the go-kart feel promised by the looks truly is realised. With 81PS (60kW) propelling less than 800kg of car and an amusingly boosty power delivery it over-delivers on the fun, the 101PS (74kW) Brabus version rapid enough to be genuinely entertaining. Nearly 20 years on it still looks futuristic, its small footprint arguably more on-message than ever and – hopefully – increasing the values of those that survive.
Mercedes-Benz W124 E-Class
A change of pace for a moment among all this sporting machinery, and a chance to sink back into the cossetting comfort of a high point in the modern Mercedes canon. The contemporary BMW 5 Series may well have caught the imagination of keen drivers but there’s more to the W124 than the grey slip-on image may suggest, whether that be its commendably aerodynamic bodywork, quirky features like the clever single wiper and asymmetric mirrors or sharper than expected handling. Many have been shipped overseas by methods fair or foul to live on as million-mile taxis and, as the numbers dwindle, pricing varies hugely according to condition and caution should be exercised. But it’s not impossible you could yet find a saloon or – even better – estate to smoke about in or even restore, should you so wish. With a loyal following and shrinking supply there will always be a queue of buyers ready to take it off your hands when you’re done, too.
One of those ‘you’ll miss them when they’re gone’ cars, the third-generation MR2 has been commonly dismissed as impractical and underwhelming when compared against more glamorous alternatives like the Lotus Elise or even the Vauxhall VX220. True, you’ll have to pack very light if you’re going out for anything more than a day out. But, if not as exotic, the MR2 matches the lightweight thrills of the Lotus with a sub-tonne kerbweight, against which the 140PS (103kW) of the revvy 1.8-litre engine is plenty. Other than the well-documented issue of disintegrating catalytic convertors on earlier cars reliability is typically Toyota, running costs will be cheap and as recognition grows values can, literally, only go one way.
Plenty of column inches have been lavished here already celebrating the charms of Honda’s first serious foray into electrified motoring, be that for its slippery styling, shared production line with the fabulous NSX or the lovely ‘light touch’ driving style of its featherweight build. A hybrid pioneer, the original Insight is arguably still one of the more convincing applications of the technology before modern PHEVs subverted it into being more about tax efficiency than saving fuel. There aren’t many around but a quick scan reveals they can be found for just under our £10K threshold and, as appreciation grows for more socially conscious expressions of car enthusiasm, it looks like a smart buy. And a cool thing in its own right.
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