Irish Times best buys: Sports car and coupes

Whatever your budget or motoring needs, we identify the best in class, a few rivals to consider and what to buy used

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5

 

Best in class: Mazda MX-5

Yes, it’s a mere Mazda. And yes, up against the €55,000 Mustang, the €100,000 Jag and the €60,000 Audi, its €27,995 price tag and 131bhp 1.5-litre engine look a bit puny. Ah but, that’s just looking at the numbers. Let me take you instead to the Goodwod racing circuit, a track so fearsome it once almost claimed the life of the great Stirling Moss. It should be intimidating, but in the little 1.5 MX-5 it became a playground, a track on which almost the whole lap could be accomplished without braking, thanks to the car’s incredibly well balanced chassis. All that and it’s reliable and has a useable boot and it’s even economical in daily driving. Sports car perfection, nothing less.

Best buy: MX-5 Roadster 1.5 Skyactiv-G from €27,995. Prices start at €27,995.

PCP packages start from €304 a month.

Read the review: Mazda’s latest MX-5 to lure Irish buyers again

Also try: Audi TT

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This generation of TT has proven itself far better and more rewarding to drive than its somewhat lead-footed predecessors. Mind you, that kind of depends on which specific version you choose to drive. Go, as many do, for the sensible-shoes 2.0 TDI and in spite of a surfeit of torque, you may as well be driving an A3 or A4. It’s not notably exciting. Upgrade to the TT 2.0 TFSI or, better yet, the 310hp TTS and you’ve got something much more reactive and exciting, and a car which can just about reach out and touch the mighty Porsche Cayman in the enjoyment stakes. It’s still gorgeous too, with a finely chiselled exterior and a rather wonderfully spartan and minimalist cabin.

Best buy: TTS quattro S-Tronic Coupe from €66,550. Prices start at €45,340.

PCP packages start from €459 a month.

Jaguar F-Type

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The F-Type can actually tip over into supercar territory, such is its price tag and the sheer ferocity of both its supercharged V6 and V8 engines. The Coupe is the one to have, primarily because its shape is just so heart-stoppingly beautiful, but you’re hardly going to turn your nose up at a roadster, now are you? V6 S is the best engine - all the power (380hp) that you might need, with the aded appeal of the earhtquake-triggering exhaust note. The incredible V8 (which can be had with power outputs of up to 575hp) is a modern-day AC Cobra and is part sybaritic sports car, part drag racer. A manual gearbox option is available but it pushes up the Co2 levels, so don’t bother. All-wheel drive is also available and adds some useful all-weather ability to the F-Type. As with all current Jags, it does suffer from a cabin which simply does not live up to the price tag.

Best buy: F-Type V6 S AWD Coupe from €119,455. Prices start at €93,340.

PCP packages start from €POA a month.

Wild Card: Ford Mustang

Because it’s cool, that’s why. Are we hopeless Americano-philes? Probably, possibly, but that can’t take the shine off just what a cool car the Mustang is. Just to see one parked at the kerb is an event, and gives one the shiver of hope that at any second, Newman, Redford or McQueen will come bounding down the steps, slip behind the wheel and give chase to the bad guy. It won’t happen of course, but the possibility hangs in the air and that’s the secret of the Mustang magic. Taken objectively, the Mustang is a big, hefty 2+2 coupe with a choice of 2.3 turbo four-cylinder or 5.0-litre V8 engines and a price tag roughly adjacent to what you’d pay for a BMW 4 Series. It’s better equipped than the BMW but one glance at the cabin plastics shows you where the money’s been saved. It’s also not that great to drive, fine up to a point, but floppy and vague if you push too hard. And the V8 is really, really thirsty. We don’t care. Because it’s cool.

Best buy: Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback from €55,500. Prices start at €55,000.

PCP packages start from €POA a month.

Buying used? Mini Convertible

It’s not perhaps the most practical car. Those silly roll-over hoops that stick up behind the back seats ruin the lines and why does it anyway need them? No human can fit in the back seats… Its boot is ludicrously small and the cabin tends towards cheapness unless you find one which has been dipped, covered in superglue, into the options list. And yet the Mini Convertible is still an engaging little thing, with willing turbocharged engines and a sense of affordable fun about it. Buy a post-2006 facelift car and stick with the Cooper model. Watch for water leaks, clonking steering, mis-aligned suspension, and slipping clutches.

Best buy: 2010 Cooper Convertible for circa €14,000