Reliability is as you would expect for a car that’s now well over 20 years old, so make sure that your purchase has as many service stamps as possible.
Otherwise, you’re likely to meet issues with the coil pack, timing belt or just an interior so filthy that you will have to ask your passengers if their tetanus booster is up to date.
Mercedes-Benz SL 350 (2001-2011)
You might think a car like this deserves a V8, but the V6 in the Mercedes SL 350 is an unsung hero. If the V8 spins a web of restrained, rumbling efficiency, the V6 effortlessly acquires mass appeal.
Scouring countless owners’ forums and pages online, you will notice that the vast majority love the V6 because it’s not only more reliable and more fuel efficient than the V8 but also just as fast in everyday running.
With a 0-62mph time of 7.5sec, it is slower than the V8, but the bigger engine gets from 40-60mph only 0.1sec faster than the V6, and both have a top speed limited to 155mph. In terms of usable performance, then, there’s not much in it at all.
The V6 also came as standard with coil springs that are much cheaper to repair than the air springs that came on many V8s (these cost around £1000 per corner).
So if you enjoy lower repair costs and better fuel consumption, the 350 is the SL for you. Not to mention that whichever car you go for, you will be buying into one of the most recognised names in the business.
Fiat Punto (2005-2018)
Stay with us, because there’s more to this urban shop-about than meets the eye.
Yes, it’s dull, but if you judge this list based on price relative to age, the little Fiat is the best car here. Examples with fewer than 10,000 miles and a number plate that reads ’17’ can be had for less than £5000.
Racier trim levels can also liven it up enough that it crosses into enthusiast territory. You will notice a deep front bumper, sporty 17in alloy wheels, a pea-shooter exhaust tip and the same rev-happy 1.4-litre engine used in the Panda 100HP.