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Five of the best cheap drift cars

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Drifting is an extremely exhilarating and rewarding pursuit, but it’s not cheap. Between tyre and fuel costs and mechanical upkeep, it can be both time-consuming and costly if you plan to attend events regularly. Saving money on the car itself, then, is a priority for many.

If you’re just starting out and have a tight budget to stick to, we’ve put together a list of five excellent used cars that should fit the bill. 

BMW 3 Series (E46)

Prices from £1,500

The older E36 BMW 3 Series model used to be the go-to budget drift car here in the UK, but times have changed. Limited supply combined with high demand has pushed prices way up, and finding one in decent condition is no mean feat nowadays. 

Let’s instead turn our attention to its successor, the E46. Much more common and almost as good to drive, the E46 is now the default choice for budding drifters. Choose a 325i or 328i model if your budget allows, as they have plenty of power to get you started.

Mazda MX-5 (NA & NB)

Prices from £1,500

If you relish a challenge and like the idea of owning a smaller two-door car, the first and second-gen MX-5 models are a great choice. When we say ‘relish a challenge,’ we mean in driving terms; these cars are pretty reliable despite their age, so you shouldn’t need to work on them all that much. 

They can be tricky to handle though, on account of their short wheelbases and relative lack of power. But look at it this way: if you can master drifting your MX-5, you’ll be able to drift the other cars on this list with relative ease.

Lexus IS200 (GXE10)

Prices from: £2,000

Looking for something a little more exclusive? The IS200 isn’t as common a sight as the cars above, but still has plenty going for it. Its chassis is shared with the Toyota JZX110 Mark II – a proven Japan-only platform – meaning it has double wishbone suspension all round and optimal front to rear weight distribution. 

It certainly handles well, but it’s let down by the lacklustre 1G-FE engine. Reliable it may be, but it doesn’t have as much power as you’d like. Still, with enough air in the rear tyres, the 153 bhp IS200 can certainly party – and you can add an aftermarket supercharger or turbo kit down the line if you want more power.

Nissan 350Z

Prices from: £3,000

Yes, this is the most expensive car on our list, but is it the best? We think so. Powered by the stout VQ35DE engine, this handsome coupe develops just shy of 300 bhp, which is transmitted to the rear wheels via an equally durable six-speed manual gearbox. 

Aftermarket support for the Z is huge too, so you’ll be able to upgrade yours easily if the mood takes you. From angle kits to exhausts, you’ll find plenty of upgrade parts available from a whole host of manufacturers. 200SXs and Silvias are out of reach for most people now, and though the 350Z can’t match those cars in desirability terms, it’s just as good (if not better) in many ways – reliability for one!

Mazda RX-8

Prices from: £2,000

Speaking of reliability, that’s exactly what plagues our final car. Used values of the Mazda RX-8 have been at rock bottom for a while now, and they show no signs of rising just yet – all because of what lies beneath the bonnet. The RX-8’s Renesis rotary engine revs high and is fun to use, but misinformed owners often didn’t maintain it well enough, leading to hundreds of premature failures.

However, if you can track down a car with a freshly rebuilt engine (particularly a more powerful 231 model) and maintain it fastidiously, you’ll be onto a winner. Praised from new for its agile, predictable handling, an RX-8 on top form is a thoroughly rewarding drive. Just make sure you buy with care when buying a used car for drifting.