We’re told that the economy has turned a corner, meaning there is more money floating around. For petrol heads this means we can get back into the kind of cars we love, but a few years of austerity means we are not as accepting of waste as before. Thankfully you can have your cake and eat it with cars that are both fun to drive, cheap to buy and cheap to run. Following on from their recent series of new car reviews, the experts at CompleteCar.ie help us choose 10 of the best affordable, feisty and frugal cars on the second hand market
The obvious one.

Volkswagen Golf GTI MkV – 2005
Price range: €5,500 – €7,500
Power/torque: 200hp/280Nm
0-100km/h: 7.0 seconds
Top speed: 235km/h
Fuel consumption: 8.0 litres/100km (35mpg)
Annual road tax: €710
Feisty factor: 7/10
Frugal factor: 5/10

Best to get it out of the way early. We couldn’t do a Feisty and Frugal feature without mentioning the MicksGarage.com project car. For many this was Volkswagen’s return to form after the disappointment of the MkIV GTI. Solidly built, it packs a 200hp TFSI engine that revs freely but never feels raucous. Suspension is lower and stiffer than the regular Golf’s, but the GTI is still the consummate daily driver.

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The diesel one.

Skoda Octavia RS TDI – 2007
Price range: €5,000 – €8,000
Power/torque: 170hp/350Nm
0-100km/h: 8.2 seconds
Top speed: 225km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.7 litres/100km (49mpg)
Annual road tax: €710
Feisty factor: 6/10
Frugal factor:  9/10

The Skoda Octavia RS shares much of its mechanicals with the Golf GTI and while it is available with the Volkswagen’s 200hp petrol engine it is the 170hp diesel unit that really suits the Skoda. Lacking the visual appeal of the Golf it is something of a Q-car with few expecting a modest looking saloon/hatch to hit 100km/h in eight seconds. Best of all, driven with a modicum of restraint, it will return nigh on 50mpg.

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The convertible one.

Mazda MX5 – 2007
Price range: €7,000 – €9,000
Power/torque: 125hp/167Nm
0-100km/h: 9.6 seconds
Top speed: 195km/h
Fuel consumption: 7.2 litres/100km (39mpg)
Annual road tax: €636
Feisty factor: 9/10
Frugal factor:  7/10

Wind in your hair, power sent to the rear wheels via a manual gearbox. What more could you ask for? Oh right, frugality. While not as light weight as the original MX-5 the second gen is hardly a porker and it is this lack of weight that contributes to the 39mpg fuel economy and feisty performance. A shade over 120hp may not seem like much but in the MX-5 it is more than enough.

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The really??! one.

Smart Roadster Coupé – 2004
Price range: €5000 – €6,000
Power/torque: 80hp/110Nm
0-100km/h: 10.6 seconds
Top speed: 178km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.1 litres/100km (55mpg)
Annual road tax: €199
Feisty factor:  7/10
Frugal factor: 10/10

Yes really. The Smart Roadster Coupé is good looking, has sharp handling and a peppy turbocharged engine; what more could you want? Did we mention that the engine is a 700cc three-cylinder unit that costs less than €200 a year to tax and, because of the car’s low weight, it can also return 55mpg? Ok, so the automatic gearbox is an obvious weak point, but that is the only real black mark.

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The go-kart.

MINI Cooper S – 2006
Price range: €6,000 – €8,000
Power/torque: 185hp/260Nm
0-100km 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 228km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.9 litres/100km (48mpg)
Annual road tax: €514
Feisty factor: 8/10
Frugal factor: 7/10

We wanted to use the original supercharged Cooper S (just for the noise), but in truth it uses so much petrol you’d swear there was a hole in the fuel tank. Add in the fact that the first of the turbocharged cars enjoys an extra 20hp making for quicker acceleration, while revised suspension makes it even more ‘go-kart’ like and the second generation Cooper S really is the one to have.

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The beautiful one.

Alfa Romeo GT JTD – 2007
Price range: €7,000 – €8,000
Power/torque: 150hp/305Nm
0-100km 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 210km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.3 litres/100km (45mpg)
Annual road tax: €673
Feisty factor:  6/10
Frugal factor: 7/10

Can Alfa Romeo go back to making cars like this? The GT really is a thing of beauty and with a 150hp JTD diesel engine it perfectly adheres to our Feisty and Frugal philosophy. On paper it is one of the slower models on our list but as with all diesel powered cars it is the mid-range torque that makes this a worthy consideration.

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The surprising one.

Renault Twingo GT – 2008
Price range: €4,500 – €6,000
Power/torque: 100hp/155Nm
0-100km/h: 9.5 seconds
Top speed: 190km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.8 litres/100km (49mpg)
Annual road tax: €330
Feisty factor:  6/10
Frugal factor:  8/10

It would have been easy to opt for the Renaultsport Twingo and be done with it but in truth the GT is only marginally less fun to drive. The first of Renault’s turbocharged TCE engines packs a 100hp punch in a light car. It is never going to hassle a diesel in the fuel economy stakes but what city car does?twingo27

 The rare one.

Volkswagen Lupo GTI – 2002
Price range: €5,000 – €7,000
Power/torque: 125hp/152Nm
0-100km/h: 8.0 seconds
Top speed: 205km/h
Fuel consumption: 7.4 litres/100km (38mpg)
Annual road tax: €514
Feisty factor: 8/10
Frugal factor:  6/10

Hailed as the spiritual successor to the original Golf GTI the Lupo GTI is becoming increasingly hard to find. Fans are holding on to their cars as values begin to appreciate and you really have to source one from the UK. With a 125hp petrol engine, a small frame and near 40mpg economy you can see why the Lupo GTI has such a cult following.2004-volkswagen-lupo-gti-02

The special one.

BMW 535d – 2006
Price range: €8,500 – €10,000
Power/torque: 270hp/560Nm
0-100km/h: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Fuel consumption: 8.1 litres/100km (35mpg)
Annual road tax: €1,494
Feisty factor: 7/10
Frugal factor: 5/10

When it was launched the 535d was noted for being faster around the Hockenheim race track than the more powerful 540i. Two hundred and seventy horsepower from a twin-turbo straight-six diesel may seem small fries now but it is the 560Nm of torque that really makes the 535d faster in the real world than the equivalent M5. In the grand scheme of things 35mpg is not great but considering the power it comes with…

535d

The ‘I don’t know what frugal means’ one.

Mercedes-Benz E 55 AMG – 2003
Price range: €10,000 up
Power/torque: 470hp/700Nm
0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Fuel consumption: 13.5 litres/100km (21mpg)
Annual road tax: €1,809
Feisty factor: 9/10
Frugal factor: 0/10

Somebody obviously missed the memo on this as there is no way a supercharged 5.4-litre V8 could be considered frugal, but when you consider that this car would have retailed for over €150,000 new the €10,000 asking price almost seems reasonable. You will be lucky to see 20mpg, but you will be rewarded with a throaty V8 soundtrack and the knowledge you will be putting the children of the guy at the filling station through college.

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None of these cars floating your boat? check out our guide to choosing a Track Day car on a budget