We test the performance of every car that passes through our Test Lab. One of the key measures we look at is acceleration from 37-60mph. This replicates speeding up when merging onto motorways or overtaking other traffic.
The fastest car put through this test so far is the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG with an impressive 37-60mph time of 1.9 seconds. At the other end of the scale is the Smart Fortwo 0.8 CDI with a slothful time of 13.7 seconds.
However, with a price tag of £168,425 the Mercedes-Benz is not really an everyday car, so we’ve rounded up the top performing new cars we have tested that can be bought for less than £30,000.
1. Ford Focus RS – 2.9 seconds
The only car in this list to achieve sub 3.0 seconds in our acceleration test, the Ford Focus RS is obviously a very powerful car. A 305bhp engine provides an entertaining drive along twisty roads. High fuel consumption and running costs combined with a starting price of £27,560 may put off all but serious Ford performance fans.
2. Nissan 370Z Coupé – 3.0 seconds
An old-school sports car that will appeal to enthusiasts. Heavy controls and restricted visibility means this compact two-seater is difficult to live with, but if you’re looking for a high-powered sports car with top performance and rewarding handling you could do much worse than the Nissan 370Z.
3. Audi TT Coupé 2.0 TFSI – 3.1 seconds
Now in it’s second generation, the Audi TT continues to be popular choice. The Coupé 2.0 TFSI, priced from £27,140, comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, which is perfectly matched to the engine. Automatic versions come with the excellent DSG six-speed semi automatic.
4. Volkswagen Golf 2.0 GTI – 3.7 seconds
The original Golf GTI was first launched in the late 1970s, and since then it has become a motoring icon. The latest Mk 6 model is strong in many areas – it’s great to drive along B-roads and on motorways. With 210bhp it isn’t the most powerful in our list, but it is a great all-rounder.
5. Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 turbo – 3.8 seconds
The Insignia is the only saloon in our top 10. Launched as a replacement for the Vectra back in 2009, the Insignia has successfully taken on mainstream rivals, such as the Ford Mondeo and the Honda Accord. The major flaw with this model is its poor reliability, as recorded in the 2011 Which? Car Survey.
6. Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI – 3.8 seconds
With retro styling and an iconic image, the new VW Beetle should prove popular when it goes on sale in the summer. We’ve already tested the 2.0-litre petrol model, and found its 200bhp engine to be punchy at low revs and very enjoyable to drive.
7. Mini Cooper S Convertible – 3.9 seconds
An extremely fun car to drive, even more so with the roof down, the Mini Cooper S Convertible comes with a 184bhp engine – more than enough for a car this size. Handling is great at any speed, and it has one of the best steering systems available. Starting prices of £20,500 may seem high for a car this size, but it is one of the cheaper options in this list.
8. Volkswagen Polo 1.4 GTI – 4.0 seconds
The third and final VW to make the top 10 is the Polo GTI. With a high-tech engine offering 180bhp this model delivers outstanding performance. Refined driving and smooth gear shifts stand out. However, sitting 15mm lower than a standard Polo the ride is harsher, particularly over rough surfaces.
9. Mini Cooper S Countryman – 4.0 seconds
Another Cooper S, this time in Countryman body style takes ninth spot. This is the first attempt at a ‘crossover’ vehicle from the BMW brand and is really anything but mini. This means there is space for four adults inside, and the 184bhp engine has plenty of pulling power so the additional weight won’t slow you down too much.
10. Nissan Juke 1.6 DiG-T – 4.1 seconds
The Nissan Juke, one of the original ‘crossover’ vehicles, mixes SUV robustness with sporty, supermini styling. The extra room makes this a practical car and the 1.6 DiG-T petrol model is exceptionally fast for a supermini. With 187bhp and assured handling, overall performance from the Juke is very good.