Okay, let's make one thing clear—there probably isn't anything called a 'cheap' Supercar. In America, any new mid-engined Ferrari 458 Italia or a Lamborghini Gallardo would still retail for over USD 300,000.00 (or over half a mil in Australia, thanks to our taxes!). In other words, buying even a small supercar can be the same spending that amount of money on an average-priced house.
Moreover, servicing these beautiful works of art can cost the same as a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla—so why am I calling these cars cheap? Well, that's because they are.
The most expensive cars in the supercar or the hyper-car royalty can cost upwards from $700,000 to over a million or even beyond (like the Bugatti Veyron and the Pagani Zonda), so I'll be focusing my article on the "poor man's supercar" i.e. one who doesn't have a million quid to splash on hypercar royalty, but can part ways with half a million, is tad bit concerned about fuel-consumption and would like to look dignified while getting in and out of his car (and won't mind parking it in public).
My 5 Favourite Compact Super-Cars
- Ferrari 458 Italia
- McLaren MP4-12C
- Audi R8
- Lamborghini Gallardo
- Lexus LFA
1. Ferrari 458 Italia
Released in 2008-2009 as a successor to the F430, the 458-Italia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful compact Ferraris in existence today (since at least the days of the F355 and 360).
Mounted with a mid-engined aspirated 4.5 litre/8 cylinder V8, the 458 is available either as a hard-top or a retracting hard-top Spyder and is lower, smaller and tauter than its predecessor.
My favourite colour combinations on the 458 are usually the traditional red with black leather or black with red leather.
The 458 is also the first Ferrari to completely get rid of all stalks behind the steering wheel of the car and replace daily driver functions like indicating, turning the headlights on and off and the wiper-blades into buttons on the steering wheel of the car—a first for almost any mainstream manufacturer.
As far as pricing goes, the 458 in the US can retail for over $250,000.00 (although Australian prices are significantly higher due to our ridiculous luxury car tax of 33%) but like any other luxury sports car, they do depreciate and you can pick up a bargain direct off a private sale or though a dealer.
Ferrari 458 vs Ferrari F430 on Top Gear UK
2. McLaren MP4-12C
As Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear UK put it, "I wonder why did McLaren name their car after a fax machine."
Quite frankly, I don't understand it either. But nevertheless, McLaren's direct rival to the 458 has shown the world that they can still churn out a serious machine for the race-connoisseur who's not really interested in 'posing' or flashing a brand name but prefers what can possibly be technically sound. The MP4-12C is McLaren's 2nd road-car after the McLaren F1 (the supercar which defined the 1990s) and the SLR (jointly built with Mercedes) so they had to ensure they gave it their best when releasing the usually difficult 'third album'.
The MP4-12C is a shade quicker and lighter than the 458 (Thanks to a 3.8 Litre Twin-Turbo V8 instead of the 458's 4.5 L V8) and also boasts daily-driving practicality but being mated to softer suspensions. The McLaren also has stylish butterfly doors and is available in striking colour combinations (most notably the signature McLaren Orange-Metallic) and the cockpit layout is more accessible and refined than the Ferrari's.
Performance-wise, the MP4-12C can do 0-200 KPH in under 10 seconds; however, despite its pluses, any supercar enthusiast might say that it lacks the 'raw' factor that bellies any Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Like the Ferrari 458 Italia, the MP4-12C is available as a hard-top or a soft-top convertible and is available in a wider choice of colours than the 458.
McLaren MP4-12C Top Gear UK Review
3. Audi R8
Audi's first supercar and usually considered by critics as the less shouty version of the Lamborghini Gallardo, the R8 made its debut in 2007-2008 as the German car maker's attempt at landing a punch in a world dominated by the Italians as in my lifetime and to my best of knowledge, the previous proper super-car made by the Germans was probably the Mercedes CLK-GTR back in the 1990s and the McLaren-Mercedes SLR (jointly made with the British) and the Porsche Carrera-GT (which actually belongs in hyper-car leagues along with the Koennigseggs and Paganis).
Unlike the 458 Italia and the McLaren, the R8 is available in a choice of two engines (either a 4.2 Litre V8 which I believe is derived from the one used in the RS4 or a Lamborghini-derived 5 Litre-V10). The R8 is also available either a soft-top Spyder Convertible or a hard-top is only available in limited colors (with white and black-R8's with Carbon-fiber tinsel on their body-paints being the most popular choice with buyers).
The R8, while being more economically priced than the MP4-12C and the 458 Italia off the showroom, is probably more expensive to outfit with options (Audis usually are)—nevertheless, its understated looks are perfect for those who don't wish to be too conspicuous about their wheels but can still cause a stir on track-days while saving more fuel (The R8 is more economical than the McLaren or the Ferrari).
Audi R8 Review by Tiff Needell
4. Lamborghini Gallardo
While the looks of a Gallardo may seem a bit old and dated as against the Ferrari 458 or the McLaren MP4-12C (both of which were built as direct competitors within the mid-engined compact super-car segment), the Gallardo should never be underestimated.
This is the super-car which practically radicalized looks of how a compact supercar should look at the turn of the 21st century (it was also Lamborghini's first attempt at competing in this segment when it was originally released to stand up against the then-new Ferrari 360).
The Gallardo is available with a 5 Litre-V10 setup and the only one with the option of 4-wheel drive to give ground-hugging handling on the road and the track and bellows a growl from its exhaust that's louder than any Ferrari and is also available in the most outlandish colour-combinations out there. With 0-100 KPH times quicker than the R8 and the McLaren, it is not the most fuel-efficient supercar in its segment but has the feel of 'passion' and 'zest' which can sometimes lack in even the 458.
The Gallardo's also the supercar in its segment which has the most varied options available (in terms of models) including rare special editions which evolved from it (for example the Gallardo-Edizone series, the SuperLeggera, the Sesto Elimento and the TriColore) which have now become collector's items.
While Lamborghinis have struggled with issues regarding reliability in the past, their ownership by Audi has ensured that those are problems consigned into the past (for example many of the car's options and mechanics like the Sat-Nav and air-conditioning come directly from an Audi S8).
The Gallardo's also considered by many to be one of the easiest supercars to drive and the most practical (due to its small size) and the only supercar (apart from the Audi R8) which is still available with a traditional 6-speed manual stick.
Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder Review on Top Gear UK
5. Lexus LFA
Okay, so it might not be the cheapest compact supercar around, but it definitely has been the most striking in recent times, especially when one realizes that this is a car which took almost 9 years to produce since it was conceptualized and that the company which made it was known for its stylish and clinical looking family cars.
The LFA was a very limited edition super-car (only a handful were sold in a handful of markets—Australia only received 20) and Lexus actually lost money on building each and every model of it despite its ridiculous asking price (over $700,000 AUD Down Under). In fact, this was Japan's first proper re-entry into the super-car market since Honda stopped building the NSX in 2005
So what made the LFA so special? Well, part of it was the sheer mechanics and the construction of it. The LFA has almost no steel in its body—the whole car is almost entirely made out of Carbon-fiber and each 4.8 Litre V10 is hand-built.
The LFA was also known to be one of the best handling super-car in its class (capable of out-maneuvering even a Ferrari 458 or a Lamborghini Gallardo) but was a bit shy in straight-line acceleration to 100 KPH.
Nobody really knows how Lexus did it, but the fast-revving 4.8 Litre V10 in the LFA was so fast that they had to replace a traditional rev-counter with dials with an electronic one. An extremely futuristic exhaust and cockpit ensured that the LFA was literally a car that was one of a kind and anyone lucky enough to be able to afford and buy it was indeed buying and preserving a piece of unique art and history.
The LFA is no longer produced, however, there's a chance one could still buy one from a resale at a competitive price (as long as they're willing to explain to anyone why their Lexus is so different and radical from any other Lexus people might be familiar with).
Lexus LFA Review (Top Gear UK)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Joel on October 05, 2017:
Wait, what part of the $350,000 Lexus LFA is "budget"? Sorry, but not many of these are very "budget"...
Shelby on November 15, 2016:
Corvette Z06 not mentioned in top valued super car? Beats most of these cars and cost right at 100K.
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on January 13, 2015:
Had to choose 5 so forgot about the Viper ...but good call ..I may write another article about it..
Arya on January 10, 2015:
And happened to the Dodge Viper???
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on November 03, 2014:
Looking at you I think you'd look good in a convertible Ferrari ;)
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on October 06, 2014:
Haha well they indeed are budget considering you can buy a decent used Ferrari mid engined 430 or even a 360 for the price of a new BMW M5 ..
Rusty Quill on October 05, 2014:
You grabbed my attention with the "budget" title, nothing too budget about those cars, but I get your point about them being small change when you consider the supercars at the 1mil+ range. :) Heck they are down right cheap when you look for one a few years old. I'll take one of each.
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on December 11, 2013:
No problem Mark.. Im glad you liked it!
Mark from Moundsville,WV on December 11, 2013:
I enjoyed your hub and wow what beautiful pieces of machinery. Thanks for sharing
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on September 07, 2013:
Nothing like a red 458 indeed :)
Angela Kane from Las Vegas, Nevada on September 06, 2013:
I would buy a red Ferrari if I had the money.
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 31, 2013:
Hey Rajan.. cheers for the comment .. yup i agree the R8 is extremely popular primarily due to its 'lower' running costs (including fuel) .. personally speakin though .. I'd still stick to a Ferrari California ..
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 29, 2013:
Given the money I'd like to buy the Audi R8 with the tag of a supercar with a lower fuel consumption.
voted up and interesting.
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 27, 2013:
Hey Keiran . cheers for the feedback ..yeh only if we had spare half a mil haha... wow a red 458 breezing past ..there's absolutely nothing prettier..someone at my office just got a red California (which is actually what I'd take for everyday practicality considering it comes with 4 seats)..but yes..only if i had half a mil lol
Kieran Gracie on August 27, 2013:
Great choices, Hackslap, and a beautiful Hub - voted up accordingly. By chance I was overtaken yesterday by a Ferrari 458 (red, of course) doing well over the national speed limit here in the UK. I was also exceeding it (70 mph) by some margin but he just breezed by with a lovely Ferrari snarl. Yes, if only I had a 'spare' half mil....
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 26, 2013:
Actually you're right ..the Porsche, Nissan and even works like the Noble and Gumpert are worthy contenders .. but I wanted to choose 5 off the top of my head ..
I'm certainly an enthusiast ..and will be putting up more car-related posts ..thanks for the feedback :)
Pkittock from Minnesota on August 26, 2013:
Like the R8 on this list.. but wondering where the GTR and 911 Turbo/GT3/GT2 are? They offer better performance than most/all of the cars on the list at a lower price point. the whole point of the GTR is to be faster around the 'ring than a 911T for base 911 money. Good to see another enthusiast on here!
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 24, 2013:
im glad you liked it :)
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on August 24, 2013:
Hack this was a very entertainging hub .. thanks for sharing :)
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 24, 2013:
yup .. Im going to write more about cars.. if u wanna buy one please refer to my ebay links :)
Victor W. Kwok from Hawaii on August 23, 2013:
Lots of nice choices here.
Harry (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 23, 2013:
Hah I like the Gallardo Spyder too ..but to be honest if I had one car and could afford one of these ..it would actually be the Ferrari California .. (i'll be writing a small hub about it soon :)
Dianna Mendez on August 22, 2013:
I'll take the spyder! What an interesting post and one that we all dream about on occasion as we see these cars fly by us on the road.