10 used cars for £5k or less we found this week
This week, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: do I feel lucky?
Yeah, we know. The RX-8 probably should have come with an expiry date, like milk, bread or British Prime Ministers.
But unlike the sour and mouldy things we just mentioned, the RX-8 is absolutely worth salvaging, time and again.
Even in full street trim, the RX-8’s sub-1,400kg mass is perfectly distributed across both axles. The 8 is also technically mid-engined, with a 1.3-litre, 200-odd horsepower rotary sitting just behind the front axle. There’s uncanny front-end grip, a 9,000rpm rev limiter (which you can walk up to 10,000 or more by lightening the rotors and retuning the ECU) and top-tier parts like multilink rear suspension and a carbon fibre driveshaft. And it’s a four-seater, so you could even consider it as a fun second car with the ability to do school runs and weekend trips. Y’know, when it works.Advertisement - Page continues below
Old Jaguars don’t have the greatest reputation for reliability. Water is also wet and fire is hot.
Because of this flimsiness, prices of used Jags have dawdled in the doldrums since time immemorial (or at least since the XJ first hit the used market). As a result, the kind of people who’d buy an old Jag were perhaps not the upstanding individuals you would want to, say, trust with your tax return. Which then, in turn, made old four-door Jags even less desirable prospects.
But, because we now live in a world that’s already gone mad, even crummy old Coventry cats are now apparently worth more than some derisive laughter and a quick rendition of ‘Jaaaaaaag’ as you head off to live a fruitful life without it.
The good news is that Ford-era XJs are still available for pretty decent money, despite having the superior AJ6 straight six (yeah, we said it; fight us), classic Jag looks – and space – and all the luggggzury you’d expect from a... well, you see where we’re going.
Alfa Romeo Brera V6
Well, it’s happened. Even the 75 – the boxy, plasticky and perennially unloved Alfa Romeo (y’know, the one that isn’t the Arna) has now had its Travolta-in-Pulp-Fiction moment and rebounded back from laughing stock to legitimacy.
And while that’s not tremendous news for more moderately monied classic car buffs (i.e. most of us), it doesn’t mean there aren’t still Alfas worth buying with the sums we have available.
The V6 Brera, despite missing out on the famed Busso V6 and rear-wheel-drive layout of the 75, does have one thing the 75 lacks. And we hardly have to spell out what that is.
So sure, the Brera’s about as sporty as a game of darts, but surely a superlatively gorgeous, all-wheel-drive, 250bhp V6-powered Italian coupe is something of a decent base on which to build something sporting? Like a Brera Alleggerita, perhaps?Advertisement - Page continues below
Land Rover Discovery 3 or 4 (or LR4, for the Americans)
What’s that old saying? Something about how a Land Rover will get you anywhere, but a Land Cruiser will get you back again?
Yes, just listing the faults of the Land Rover Discovery would take up more time and space than this entire article format even allows. But we’re about to make something of a point, so strap in.
The point, as with everything else on this list, is that the fundamental car is good enough to still be worth buying – regardless of its faults and foibles. That means being unique, enjoyable and loveable enough that, when it does break (which it will), the cost of repair, replacement or radical workaround doesn’t feel like a dead loss on something you only care about for its ability to perform a function.
So for everything it can do, pretty much everywhere – and how good it makes you feel to be along for the ride as it does it – we’ll happily say that Disco does not, in fact, suck.
Mini Cooper S
Say what you will about modern Minis or their The Eagle Has Landed–spec ‘Britishness’, you have to give them credit where it’s due.
If you think Mini, you think small. You think fun. You think rorty, perhaps, or boisterous. Or estate agent. What you do not tend to think is ‘Sword of Damocles’. But owning a used Cooper S – particularly the earlier supercharged ones – is really a case of when, not if, something will go egregiously and expensively wrong.
Don’t get us wrong – when it’s all working properly, the post-facelift R53 Cooper S is not just the best-looking modern Mini, but the best overall. It handles brilliantly, reacts instantly and sings... well, not sonorously, but definitely throatily. It’s actually a decent contender for the most personable modern Mini ever made – probably down to the fact that it has a genuine personality. But, much like... well, a person, R53s need quite a bit more care and attention than your average machine.
The original TT really was a case of Audi catching lightning in a bottle. To this day, nothing looks like the original – not even later Audi TTs. Which does feel like something of an air ball on Audi’s part, but then it’d probably be easier to create a sequel to Reservoir Dogs.
Was it the best to drive? The quickest? The most reliable? Able to break free from associations with Trinny and Susannah? Well, no. But as Philip J Fry once taught us, when you look this good...
BMW E39 Touring
What makes a classic BMW? We’ll dispense with suspense and just answer: a straight six petrol engine, tucked behind a reasonably sized double-kidney grille, which exclusively drives the rear axles. It’ll need superlative handling for its class, but should also make sure its prowess isn’t broadcast to all and sundry by wearing bodywork that’s reserved and tasteful.
Now, does any car fit that description better than the E39 530i Touring? Well, possibly, given that the E46 330i Touring also exists. But as we’re descended from Dutchmen, we’ll pick the bigger of the two.Advertisement - Page continues below
Audi A6 Allroad
Hang on a flipping minute... two Audis?
Yes indeed. When it comes to motoring money pits that you’re paradoxically happy to empty your coffers into... well, the Allroad hardly towers above all in that regard – Land Rover still exists, after all – but it’s certainly on the next hoist over from the Disco, also getting its air suspension replaced at extraordinary expense.
But should you get it sorted (or just give up and replace the whole lot with regular springs), the old Allroad is simultaneously an estate that can hang with SUVs, an SUV for those who don’t like them, and a big comfy family wagon for those who care not for such petty distinctions.
Think of it like a posh Subaru Outback, just without the ‘I live in Portland with my collection of dogs, Chuck Taylors and plaid shirts’ vibe.
R129 Mercedes SL
Combining low price, high aspirations and a moderate chance of a bank-busting bang under the bonnet shouldn’t be that hard. In fact, we’re pretty sure the car history of most Top Gear staffers is little more than a litany of just that.
But then everything’s expensive these days. The hilarious yet harrowingly costly old hooptie is now ‘an appreciating classic’ or some other version of that hateful phrase. Even Lancia Betas – the joke too obvious to even make anymore – is now apparently a 15-grand proposition.
But what if we still want that wondrous combination of depreciation and trepidation found in the driver’s seat of truly interesting – if perhaps ill-advised – automotive purchases?
Enter the R129 SL – an aging, extraordinarily complex luxury car with a litany of specific and patented parts – and the ‘Price Low to High’ functionality of your preferred used car website.Advertisement - Page continues below
Yes, it’s the car possibly most remembered (at least in a Top Gear context) for being just one more example of how British Leyland managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Because the Dolly Sprint was actually home to any number of good ideas that were hardly guaranteed from a four-door saloon in the Seventies. Alloy wheels, for less unsprung mass. An overhead camshaft, four-valves-per-cylinder architecture designed in concert with race engine builder Coventry Climax. Italian design – from Giovanni Michelotti, no less. But then it was built by a company with one foot in the grave and two hands held up to a brazier.
So the end result was, in typical BL fashion, about as flaky as a popular corn-based breakfast cereal. But the underlying promise of the Dolly is still there. For £5k, we’d be getting a clean Dolly (not the Sprint), fitting a Honda S2000 drivetrain in the little Triumph – for proper historical heresy, of course – then trying to make it look as much like the one in this pic as possible...