2. Audi TT 2.0 TFSI (2006-2014)
The TT is no longer just a fashion item; it’s a design icon. In Mk2 form, it’s also an accomplished sports coupé.
It’s beautifully built, its cabin is a work of art and it’s relatively cheap to run. On top of that, extensive use of weightsaving aluminium makes this version a capable handler. A smooth 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine packs a 149mph punch, and 0-62mph takes just 6.4sec. The TT also has strong grip, entertaining handling and a near-comfortable ride.
See Audi TT for sale on PistonHeads
You can have your TT in coupé or roadster form, with front or four-wheel drive and with a manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. For absolute speed, there’s the rip-snorting TT RS. Pay about £15k for a good 2012 model.
3. BMW M135i (2012-present)
Never judge a book by its cover. The 1 Series may look about as exciting as a pair of slippers, but this hunkered-down M135i version goes like a hare out of a trap. It’s also a truly lovely thing to drive.
Up front is a rorty 315bhp 3.0-litre straight six engine. Put your foot down and it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.9sec and on to a top speed of 155mph; within that speed range are huge reserves of instantly available power.
See BMW M135i for sale on PistonHeads
A rear-drive chassis means the M135i steers with precision and handles superbly; it’s tremendous fun on a twisty back road. Inside, there’s an excellent driving position and room for kids in the back. You can now buy a 2013 example in three or five-door form for about £17k.
4. Toyota GT86 (2012-present)
Driving pleasure isn’t all about straightline speed or cornering on rails, as the GT86 proves. It’s a low-slung, rear-drive hipster, powered by a crisp 197bhp 2.0-litre flat four, and it’s good for a decent 140mph and 0-62mph in 7.4sec.
See Toyota GT86 for sale on PistonHeads
However, the fact that it’s quite quick, reasonably cheap and not bad to look at is almost completely irrelevant. This car is all about feel, driver involvement and cornering — mostly sideways, which it does at the slightest provocation. Dab a brake or punch the throttle midcorner and, thanks to its well-sorted chassis and low-grip tyres, you can take known corners at almost any angle. The steering is linear and accurate, too.