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Keen driver with a €12k budget? Here are 4 of the most exciting cars you can buy

If you love to drive, here are the models you need to check out.

CHOOSING THE BEST driver’s car can prove divisive at times, but there are some bona fide cars out there that carry a general consensus as being among the best. These are cars that most motoring enthusiasts have on their wish list of must-have cars at some point.

While some consider these as dream cars, there are lots of affordable models that carry more attainable prices. Here’s our pick of some of the most exciting driver’s cars that you can buy with a budget of €12k.

1. Renault Clio RS 172 (1999-2005)

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The Renault Sport Clio 172 is one car that is certainly earmarked for future classic status. It first appeared in 1999 and its punchy 2.0-litre engine squeezed into the front ensured the car had plenty of performance, producing 172hp (hence the name).

But this car wasn’t just about power, the chassis engineers in Renault Sport fettled with the car’s setup to deliver handling that even today remains almost faultless. Several versions with styling tweaks and performance upgrades came along during its model life, culminating with the 182 Trophy. Clean examples of this car are becoming increasingly difficult to find, but if you can get your hands on one, it is a car that is well worth owning at some point.

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2. Porsche Boxster (1996-2004)

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Some purists might not hold the first-generation Boxster in high regard, but it has fast become one of the most affordable modern-era Porsches. Its 2.5-litre flat-six engine was a touch underpowered, but the chassis was spot-on and the steering just as good as you would expect from Porsche.

Its agility on B-roads combined with its mid-engine layout made it a car that drivers of all skill levels could enjoy and appreciate. Later years of the first-generation Boxster represent the best value, and some still have reasonably low mileages. The cabins were always well finished and stand up well to daily use.

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3. Mazda RX-8 (2003-2012)

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When most people think of great driver’s cars and Mazdas, it is the MX-5 that usually springs to mind first. But the larger RX-8 is an excellent car to drive with some added practicality.

Everything about it is different. Its rotary engine delivered lots of power smoothly but is fond of consuming oil. The RX-8 was also unusual in that it was taxed as a larger engine than it was due to it being a rotary, and insurance companies can be a little sticky when it comes to cover.

As a driver’s car it doesn’t disappoint, with steering that delivers precision with great amounts of feedback through the wheel. It’s a bonus that you get this handling in a four-seat, four-door car. One of the few downsides is that these models can be prone to rust in the sills and arches, so look out for a clean bodyshell.

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4. BMW M3 (2000-2006)

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The E46 M3 has many of the features you might expect from BMW’s M-Division: flared arches, that power dome in the bonnet, not to mention those quad tailpipes that help the 3.2-litre straight six wail.

BMW did sell quite a lot of these M3s back in the day, so there’s no shortage of choice, and that popularity means that prices aren’t reaching for the stratosphere. With 343hp and a six-speed manual or SMG the M3 was quick, even by today’s standards. Its rear-wheel drive adds to the nicely-weighted steering making this one of the best-handling coupes of its era.

Now two model cycles old, the E46 M3 makes for a good value purchase if you’re looking for some performance punch without breaking the bank.

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More advice: How to buy a classic car on a €10k budget – and 3 models to consider first>

About the author:

Dave Humphreys

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