Want something that looks good, or goes well, or – even better – does both, for less than €40,000? Fancy making the switch to electric, and you want punchy performance as part of the deal? Then this list of the top ten sporty, affordable cars available in Ireland in 2021 should help. Here’s the rundown, presented in alphabetical order:
Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI S line (116hp)
CO2: 110g/km 0-100km/h: 9.4 seconds Top speed: 203km/h Starting price: €31,956
Not one of the faster cars on our list – in fact, one of the slowest-accelerating – but the A1 has three bonnet slots on it like an Audi Quattro rally car from the 1980s, it’s powered by a lovely 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and, well… it’s an Audi, isn’t it? Looks great, inside and out.
Cupra Formentor 150 TSI (150hp)
CO2: 155g/km 0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds Top speed: 204km/h Starting price: €36,535
We’ve been mighty impressed by every Cupra Formentor we’ve driven so far, so the entry-level model with the Volkswagen Group’s sweet 1.5-litre TSI engine should be no different. Has a great cabin, sharp chassis and stylish, non-SEAT-derived bodywork.
Ford Fiesta ST-3 (200hp)
CO2: 136g/km 0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds Top speed: 232km/h Starting price: €32,612
Where would a list of great, affordable performance cars be without a Fiesta ST? Not only is this the most powerful and most accelerative car on our list, but it is blessed with one of the all-time great hot-hatch chassis going and it’s got a decent amount of street cred, too.
Honda e Advance (154hp)
CO2: 0g/km 0-100km/h: 8.0 seconds Top speed: 160km/h Starting price: €32,995 inc. incentives
The first of our zero-emissions offers, but do not be fooled by the Honda e’s cutesy appearance. That retro body hides a rear-wheel-drive chassis and, in Advance trim, an electric drivetrain powerful enough to hit 100km/h from rest in eight seconds flat.
Mazda MX-5 1.5 RF (132hp)
CO2: 126g/km 0-100km/h: 8.7 seconds Top speed: 202km/h Starting price: €37,795
This is the most expensive car on our list, but it’s worth it. Like the Fiesta ST, the MX-5 RF is a performance car icon these days and the free-revving 1.5-litre engine in the all-year-round-practical RF folding hard-top body is a great combination. Rear-driven, too, for maximum driver grins.
MINI Cooper S 3dr (192hp)
CO2: 127g/km 0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds Top speed: 235km/h Starting price: €30,315
One of the nippiest vehicles on the list and the outright fastest for top speed, MINI’s third-generation fashion essential has had another significant facelift this year. Enjoy the turbocharged thump of the Cooper S and one of the best cabins at sub-€40k in the cheeky hatchback.
Peugeot e-2008 Allure (136hp)
CO2: 0g/km 0-100km/h: 9.0 seconds Top speed: 150km/h Starting price: €33,665 inc. incentives
Our other pure electric vehicle is right on the zeitgeist trends by being both zero-emissions and also a crossover. The e-2008 looks cracking on the outside and has a really distinctive interior, while its 300Nm of instant electrical torque means it’ll run 0-100km/h in exactly nine seconds dead.
Suzuki Ignis Hybrid (83hp)
CO2: 114g/km 0-100km/h: 12.7 seconds Top speed: 166km/h Starting price: €18,865
One look at the Ignis Hybrid’s stats and you might wonder if we’ve lost our marbles by saying this is sporty. But stick with us: it’s an incredibly appealing-to-behold micro-SUV, it’s light (so that its 83hp performance might be what old car mags would call ‘willing’) and it costs about half what the other cars on this list do. Decent fun in the corners, too.
Toyota C-HR Hybrid Sport Bi-Tone (122hp)
CO2: 110g/km 0-100km/h: 11.0 seconds Top speed: 170km/h Starting price: €33,640
Another one that isn’t that quick, but it certainly looks it, and the engaging Toyota C-HR sits on the Japanese company’s TNGA chassis too, which makes for great handling. For the €33,640 asking price, you get the two-tone exterior to make the best of the C-HR’s swoopy appearance.
Volkswagen T-Roc 150 TSI R-Line (150hp)
CO2: 30-34g/km 0-100km/h: 8.4 seconds Top speed: 204km/h Starting price: €34,125
Volkswagen doesn’t sell the GTI models of either the up! or the Polo in Ireland, and any fast Golf Mk8 is the wrong side of €40,000 these days. Which means the attractive and good-to-drive T-Roc in R-Line spec is a good bet. If you can’t have the full, 300hp ‘R’ flagship, then a 150hp imitation is a great substitute.