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30,000 - 55,000 part 1

  • What Car?'s 'fun 50'
  • From a Fiat 500 to a Ferrari 458...
  • ...we've got all budgets covered
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10 Subaru WRX STI
Price 32,995
Target Price 32,995
Used from 16,000

Iconic status doesn't come easy, but over the years the Subaru WRX has earned it. Not just through the amazing reputation Subaru carved out on the rallying circuit, but also by producing road-going cars that inspire awe.

This latest, the WRX STI, continues the tradition. The immense traction
from its four-wheel-drive system is matched by huge levels of grip, so the car clings to the road in all conditions. The Impreza has a more forgiving ride than rivals such as the Mitsubishi Evo, too.

The engine is the real star of the show, though. Sure, it might be a little gutless at low revs, but work it hard and the acceleration it delivers is electrifying. The noise it makes a delicious throaty burble means it also has loads of character.

Subaru WRX STI review
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9 Porsche Cayenne 3.0d V6
Price 42,990
Target Price 42,990
Used from 40,890

Ever wondered which is Porsches best-seller? Surely its the iconic 911 or the brilliant Boxster? Nope. Youre looking at it.

Why? Well, it could be the Cayennes unique combination of brash 4x4 looks, desirable Porsche badge and big-car practicality. It could be that, being a Porsche, its also great fun to drive.

The Cayenne is a great big bruiser, but it still handles amazingly neatly for such a car. You get plenty of poke from our favoured 3.0-litre diesel engine, so you can make the most of its abilities and not be declared bankrupt whenever you do.

The latest Cayenne also comes with a lush new interior that makes it as enjoyable to sit in as it is to drive. No wonder its such a big hit.

Porsche Cayenne review
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8 BMW 330d SE
Price 32,550
Target Price 30,306
Used from 13,750

More diesel-engined BMW 3 Series models were sold in the UK last year than Ford Mondeos. No wonder: having engines such as the 330ds 3.0-litre diesel under the bonnet makes it a range with more thrust than most. That engine is no longer one of the smoothest, but it cranks out 241bhp and a heaving 384lb ft of torque. All that urge gives you options: you can give the manual gearbox a workout to leave most other traffic trailing, or you can just let its low-rev muscle do the job.

BMWs engineers hit the sweet spot when setting up the suspension in SE trim. The ride is soft enough so that the car isnt deflected by bumps, and its firm enough to ensure that theres no unseemly bobbing and swaying from the cars body.

The interior is roomy and feels worth the money, and the car is packed with tech to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 output. So you can look great, have fun driving and save cash, too.

BMW 3 Series saloon review
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7 BMW 330i Convertible
SE
Price 39,990
Target Price 37,514
Used from 16,955

We're always going on about how great the 3 Series is (see above), but how can you make it even more appealing? By choosing the drop-top.

Impressively, the Convertible has all the virtues of the regular 3 Series. The interior is still stylish and classy, the inside is still practical (as practical as open-top cars go) and its still brilliant to drive.

The Convertible is a bit heavier than the saloon or Coup and the suspension is softer. This changes the driving characteristics slightly, but the handling is still sharp, the chassis is balanced and the steering is quick. Refinement is also great whether the roof is up or down. The 330i has a 268bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine, too, so youll never go short of strong acceleration.

BMW 3 Series Convertible review
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6 BMW Z4
2.5 sDrive2.3i
Price 30,425
Target Price 28,066
Used from 22,930

The Z4 truly is a car for all reasons as well as all seasons. For a start, whether you put the roof up or down, itll look stunning. If its parked, passers-by stop to admire; if you join a queue of other cars, theyll move out of your way.

You will find you come upon other traffic quite quickly, because the noise of the 201bhp 2.5-litre six-cylinder engine on full throttle is so hard to resist. Its an engine that thrives on plenty of revs, too.

It works well with the chassis. Higher-powered Z4s tend to become unruly when you up the pace, but the 2.5 delivers an ideal blend of torque and smooth responses.

The cabin is snug, but theres enough space for two, and nothing is barely more than a hands stretch away. Youll have to pack light if you want to put the roof down, though, because stowing it takes up a fair bit of the boot. Theres space for a weekends luggage otherwise.

BMW Z4 review
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