Want to cheer yourself up and kick the year off in style? Look no further...
While BMW’s M3 continues its 911-style transformation into a do-anything GT, with optional four-wheel drive, no manual gearbox and even an estate body option, the M2 takes the same basic package – twin-turbo straight-six engine and playful rear-drive chassis – and sets it up for driving enjoyment, pure and simple. With huge front-axle grip, fast steering and a balanced chassis that loves to be driven through corners on the throttle, the M2 doesn’t do forgettable drives. Yes, it’s heavier and more expensive than the M2 before it. But this is a sensationally good M car and almost certainly among the last of its kind. Treat yourself.
Toyota GR Yaris
Remember those rally-inspired icons of the past; the Delta Integrale, Escort Cosworth and Subaru Impreza? Why won’t someone do the same again, we wondered, and stuff a high-performance powertrain and handling package into an innocent hatchback body? Then it happened. Akio Toyoda, chairman and former president of the world’s biggest car company, woke up one day and decided Toyota had become way too boring. Arriving in 2020, the original GR Yaris was a uniquely brilliant hot hatch and a phenomenon – the little Toyota hot hatch everyone wanted, it was bought by such motoring royalty as Koenigsegg main man Christian and YouTube sensation/evo magazine founding father/farmer Harry Metcalfe. And now there’s an uprated GR Yaris on its way, with more power, tweaked suspension and, crucially, a lower driving position. What are you waiting for?
Jaguar F-Pace SVR
Somehow, despite its advancing years, Jaguar’s F-Pace remains one of the best-looking SUVs on sale, with a grace to its design and dynamics absent from most rivals. Powered not by Jaguar Land Rover’s new BMW-derived V8 but the old rip-snorting supercharged unit with 542bhp and a soundtrack to die for, the F-Pace SVR balances outrageous performance, fun and family practicality like few other cars. Priced at £75k new, approved used values now range from £70k for a barely run-in 2023 car to just £40k for a 40,000-mile 2019 example.
Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0
Electric Boxster and Cayman prototypes are running around the German countryside outside Stuttgart, and that can mean only one thing – the days of the flat-six-engined Porsche two-seater are numbered. So, act now and get yourself arguably the best of the breed. Less raw and far more usable than the likes of the GT4 or GT4 RS, the GTS 4.0 unites a gorgeous chassis and a quite mesmerising engine in package you won’t want to stop driving. Coupe Cayman or drop-top Boxster is one of the toughest decisions any human being has ever faced, but rest assured there isn’t really a wrong answer.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
A BMW 3-series is the pragmatic, buy-with-your-head choice. But, even after all these years, the siren call of Alfa’s Giulia is irresistible. Gorgeous to look at, huge fun to drive and big on charisma, the Giulia makes every mile more memorable (and not because it’ll break down). The flagship Quadrifoglio remains a wild and hugely desirable M3 rival, but the more affordable 2.0-litre turbo Veloce is barely any slower in the real world.