Our favourite sports cars need to offer an exciting driving experience, with accurate, well built controls, but they need to be just as easy to use on a daily basis, too.
Visibility, ease of access and low-speed refinement might not seem that important on a great road when the sun’s out, but they’ll rush up the list of priorities on a cold morning commute in the pouring rain.
The best sports cars are great all-rounders, but they won’t appear on this list if all those qualities come at an eye-watering cost. We don’t expect them to be cheap, but we do expect them to represent good value. Sports cars are often bought by those with spare cash, but no one likes throwing their money away.
The cheapest Boxster has won the Best Sports Car category in our Car of the Year Awards for two years on the trot. It might cost only half as much as its bigger brother, the 911, but you aren't getting only half the fun. The light, precise gearchange makes the most of the mighty engine, and the Boxster stays remarkably flat through corners and grips amazingly hard.
Pick of the range: 2.7
The best of the rest
BMW Z4 Roadster
The Z4 Roadster offers a proper sports car experience. Our favourite version has a 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, which gives it strong and flexible performance. On standard suspension, the Z4 offers a great blend of comfort and agility - avoid the M Sport set-up that spoils this. A folding hard-top roof comes as standard and the cabin is loaded with kit.
Pick of the range: sDrive 20i
The MX-5 gives you all the fun and style you'd want from a roadster. It's solidly built and affordable to buy. Don’t expect the most refined drive, nor the cheapest running costs, but do expect no-frills open-top motoring at its best. It’s guaranteed to put a big smile on your face, and the bullet-proof build quality makes it an eminently sensible choice.
Pick of the range: 1.8i SE
The Cayman is one of the best-handling sports cars available at any price, as well as one of the most useable. This S model offers blistering performance, although we’d be just as happy with the entry-level car. The Cayman changes direction effortlessly and all the controls feel beautifully weighted.
Pick of the range: 3.4 S
The ones to avoid
Nissan 370Z Nismo
This version of the 370Z is barely any quicker than the standard car. Granted, its stiffer body and suspension make it a useful track-day car, but they make it less suitable as a road car. Refinement and visibility are poor, which don’t help matters. Its list price is also worryingly close to the vastly superior - if fractionally slower - Porsche Cayman.
Lotus Exige S Roadster
If you want an exhilarating road and track car, and are willing to sacrifice almost everything else in the process, then the Exige S might appeal. For everyone else, a Porsche Boxster S would be a much, much better choice. The Lotus is awkward to drive at most speeds, its cabin is woefully basic and dated, and it sheds its value far too quickly.