Best buys most fun to drive: Hard to look past the VW Golf GTi

Our choice of the most fun cars to drive that (sensible) money can buy right now

 

Best one: Volkswagen Golf GTI

After a while, it’s easy to forget about the Golf GTI and to become distracted or seduced by the likes of the Renault Megane RS, Ford Focus RS, Peugeot 308 GTI 270 or some such. You start to think that the Golf just can’t be as good as you thought it was. And then you drive one again. And then you remember that, yup, it really is that good. The difference between a standard Golf and the Golf GTI is like the difference between a good prosecco and the best possible champagne you can lay your hands on. Both are nice, but one is special. The GTI is special. It has really great steering feel, tremendous chassis balance, more then enough power (especially if you go for the 245hp version, which also gets a trick front diff) and yet is practical, useable, and even economical enough to use every single day.

Best model: GTI 5-door 245hp for €40,995 Price range: €38,195 to €43,795. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 144 to 150g/km Sum up: We want one and so do you

Worthy Contenders

Porsche 718 Boxster GTS

Okay, so there’s a value question here. Is the Boxster GTS really worth the extra cash compared to a standard model, or the extra-power Boxster S? Because it busts through the €100,000 barrier, which is a lot of money, and it’s only packing an extra 15hp, plus some stick-on graphics and mildly re-styled bumpers. And I guess if we’re being properly objective, then no it’s not worth the extra, as the standard car is still mega-fun to drive. But then you try the GTS and you quickly realise it’s addictive. You know that hei-hei salt they put on chips that makes you insatiably crave them? Well, it’s nothing compared to the pixie dust they’re sprinkling on the Boxster GTS in Zuffenhausen. The GTS feels as sharp as a ninja blade, as forgiving as a Samaritan, and as much fun a playground filled with jelly beans. It’s quite simply one of the best cars, to drive, at any price. All it really needs is a more inspiring engine note.

Best model: 218 Boxster GTS for Approx €120,000 Price range: €76,135 to Approx €120,000. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 158 to 205g/km Sum up: This really is as good as it gets

Mazda MX-5

Okay, so here’s an example of just how brilliant to drive the Mazda MX-5 is, and we’re talking about the basic 1.5-litre version. Goodwood is one of the most brilliant racing tracks you’ll ever see and it’s virtually unchanged in its layout since the 1960s, preserved and used every year now for the fabulous Revival Festival. It’s a fast, flowing circuit, with a couple of very hairy corners, but one to which the MX-5 seems astonishingly well suited. In fact, with a little practice, you can coax the Mazda to get around Goodwood, the place where the likes of Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart first made names for themselves, without needing to brake, expect for the tight chicane that completes the lap. A whole lap, no brakes, just chassis balance and steering response from the top-most of drawers. That’s how good the MX-5 is.

Best model: 1.5 Roadster GT for €29,995 Price range: €27,995 to €36,695. Finance from €267 per month. Co2 emissions: 139 to 161g/km Sum up: €267 a month for one of the best sports car you can drive. Why aren’t you driving one right now?

Toyota Yaris GRMN

You can’t buy one of these. And even if you could, it would cost you in the region of €42,000 which is silly, because it’s a Yaris with some black-and-red stickers. And even if you thought that was still worth spending the cash for, it has a rock-hard ride, and it’s really awkward to get people in and out of the back seats. And anyway you can’t buy one because Toyota only made 400 and they’re all sold. But you should still try to get one, because that GRMN badge stands for Gazoo Racing: Meister of the Nurburgring, and that means this Yaris, with its 210hp supercharged engine, has been tweaked and tuned by the guys who created Toyota’s 1,000hp Le Mans TS050 car. And it is huge fun to drive, feeling like a 1990s touring car, shrunken, and let loose on the public road. Noisy, tiring, thirsty, and expensive. And we want another go, please.

Best model: Only one model for approx €42,000 Price range: Approx €42,000. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 170g/km Sum up: Proof that Toyota can get a little nuts when it needs to