Used car buying guide: cars that make you laugh out loud. Why the Mazda MX-5, Mini Cooper S and Toyota GT86 are the best £15,000 fun cars


£15,000 fun cars

The Mini Cooper S is one of the most fun used cars for £15,000 (Picture © Mini)

When was the last time you laughed out loud while driving? If the answer’s no, you’ll be needing one of our £15,000 fun cars.

Admit it, the fun has all but vanished from driving. Or has it? Don’t let torturous traffic, potholes the size of a swimming pool, and wearisome weather get you down. Change your car for one that will make you laugh out loud, and open your eyes and mind to how getting from A to B can be a pleasure rather than a chore.

As a starter for 10, here are three of the most fun used cars for £15000.  If you have other suggestions, we’d love to hear them – in the comments section, below.

£15,000 fun cars (roadster): Mazda MX-5

£15,000 fun cars

Get you motor running and head to the start line – in the fantastic Mazda MX-5. (Picture © Mazda)

For proof that you don’t have to drive fast to have fun, look no further than the Mazda MX-5. The two-seat roadster will put the wind in your hair and smile on your face as quickly as skydiving from 13,000 feet.

The simple pleasures of dropping the roof and hearing birdsong, smelling flowers in bloom and getting a panoramic view of the world around you is hard to beat. And few roadsters are as easy to operate as the MX-5: the fabric roof drops in a matter of seconds, the folding hard-top version takes 12 seconds – still quick enough to complete at the traffic lights.

What’s a used Mazda MX-5 like to drive?

For the budget of £15,000, we’re talking about the final, facelifted version of the third generation MX-5. And with that facelift, in 2009, came changes to the steering and suspension that really saw the car come good. It is a delight to drive, with a perfectly balanced chassis and just enough power from the 2-litre, four-cylinder motor (167bhp) to let experienced drivers balance the car through bends using the throttle. Everything about it seems instinctive. Best of all is the snappy gearchange, linear response of the steering and seat-of-the pants feel that few other cars give keen drivers.

Which Mazda MX-5 will £15,000 buy?

£15,000 fun cars

The wind in your hair but there are still plenty of creature comforts in the MX-5 (Picture © Mazda)

The selection of MX-5s on Mazda’s approved used website suggests buyers can bag either a 2014 MX-5 2.0 Roadster Coupe with the folding hard roof, or a 2014 MX-5 Roadster with the soft top. Both will have covered under 20,000 miles.

£15,000 fun cars (hatchback): Mini Cooper S

£15,000 fun cars

Plenty of smiles per mile when driving a Mini Cooper S (Picture © Mini)

Jeremy Clarkson described the Mini Cooper S before this generation as a Steve Coogan car – half Martin Sixsmith, half Alan Partridge. His point was that it was a clever blend between serious and not serious at all. Well, the latest Mini is a bit more Sixsmith, for a bit more of the time – but the good news is that it will still be silly when you’re in the mood for fun.

It’s powered by a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and with 189bhp, it will scoot from 0-62mph in under 7 seconds and can power its way to 146mph. So it’s quick. But is it still a hoot? Of course.

What’s a used Mini Cooper S like to drive?

The steering is fast-acting, the nose of the car dives into bends and all four tyres cling on for dear life. There are different driving modes – and Sport flashes up with the message, “Maximum go-kart feel”. It’s cheesy, but true. Of all the hot hatches, the Mini Cooper S still comes closest to delivering plain old-fashioned fun for not a lot of money.

The exhaust pops and bangs when the driver lifts off the accelerator at speed, the brakes feel strong and the car deals with bumpy roads a lot better than the previous generation Mini.

But what the Mini does so well is feel special when you are stuck in a traffic jam. It stands out, looks groovy inside and the quality of the interior took a huge leap on with the latest generation car.

Which Mini Cooper S will £15,000 buy?

£15,000 fun cars

Quality and style of the interior took a big leap on for the 2014 Mini Cooper S (Picture © Mini)

It only seems like yesterday that the latest, and some would say greatest, Mini Cooper S sped onto the scene. In fact, it was in 2014, and the good news is those first cars are just within the £15,000 budget.

Mini’s approved used stock list features 2014 Cooper S models, and the mileage of those we saw varied from as little as 4,500 up to 23,000 – with most hovering around 10,000 miles.

£15,000 fun cars (coupe): Toyota GT86

£15,000 fun cars

A blast from the past – that’s how the GT86 feels on the road (Picture © Toyota)

It is almost impossible to articulate just how much of a hoot the GT86 is. If you love driving, and like to push cars to the limit, this one will let you do it more easily than most, because some bright spark at Toyota came up with the idea of fitting it with the same, skinny tyres as you’d find on a Toyota Prius eco-mobile.

Alright, we’ll admit it’s not the most stylish coupé on four wheels. But it is distinct. Rare, too, which must surely count for something when drivers are spending their hard-earned cash on a car. Drive one and when you stop for fuel, the chances are other drivers will ask what it’s like.

What’s a used Toyota GT86 like to drive?

This car’s for anyone who takes the business of driving seriously. It’s rear-wheel drive and has skinny tyres, the flat-four-cylinder engine begs to be revved right to the rev limit to get the best from it and the gearchange is manual. But you know what? It’s all the better and all the more entertaining for it.

Step forward and take a bow, those responsible for engineering the GT86. It dares to fly in the face of convention, ditching turbochargers, big wheels and tyres and multi-mode driving settings in favour of a purist approach. Test drive one and prepare for something distinctly different.

Which Toyota GT86 will £15,000 buy?

£15,000 fun cars

The GT86 cabin is simple and frills-free, but excitement comes in other ways (Picture © Toyota)

The best deal we could find on Toyota’s approved used website was for 2013 registered GT86 coupés with around 30,000 miles on the clock. There are a lot more 2012 models in this price range, but if you keep an eye out and act quickly – this is a car that sells in tiny numbers when new, remember – you should pick up a 2013 model.

Read more: browse all our other great used car buying guides

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