Ten super cars (that aren't actual supercars)

In the old days the sight of a Ferrari or Lamborghini on the street used to bring the joint to a standstill. It genuinely used to be a big deal. Now, though, Italian exotica is almost commonplace. In the big cities, a spanking new Ferrari 458 Italia barely registers a second glance.

Familiarity has bred a specific kind of contempt. A Ferrari is now seen as a bit obvious and with 7000 cars now leaving Maranello's pearly gates every year, they simply aren't perceived as being as special as they used to be. Ditto Porsche, Lamborghini and Aston Martin. That creates a problem.

Let's face it, you can't drive these cars to more than 50 per cent of their potential on public roads without getting into serious trouble. So unless you're a devotee of track days, the only real reason to own one is that great unspoken truth. In other words, to bask in the glory, to soak up the appreciative glances, to watch kids dance in sheer awe as your almighty chariot rumbles by.

If that simply doesn't happen anymore, then your half-a-million-buck investment is looking shaky. The car's whole raison d'etre disappears faster than the vast swathe of cash it took to buy it in the first place. So what is a modern attention seeker to do?

Well, the truth is you don't have to spend massive money to get the attention that a Ferrari Testarossa or Lamborghini Countach used to guarantee. In fact, it's better if you don't. You can get the kids pointing and arguably have just as much fun yourself for a fraction of the money, if you choose wisely.

Here are some of our best choices for making a big impact on a small budget.

Morgan 3 Wheeler

Price: $90,000 (excluding on-road costs)

Morgan 3 Wheeler.

When you absolutely, positively have to bring the town to a standstill, there is simply nothing to match this three-wheeled effort from British company Morgan. It's tiny, cheap (compared to a Ferrari, that is) and while it's far from the fastest thing here, it is guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's face. With just one rear wheel, it will put a smile on yours, too, even with just 61 kilowatts at its disposal.

Caterham Seven 485

Price: $116,990

Caterham Seven 485.

It looks like a little kit car, but the 675kg Caterham will kick a Ferrari's butt on a tight road. The plucky English sportscar that has stayed faithful to Colin Chapman's original design for the Lotus Seven in 1957 is so basic and raw that even a 12-volt power outlet and map pocket are optional. It's one of the greatest pure driver's cars on the planet and will turn heads wherever it goes.

Audi RS6 Avant

Price: $225,000

Audi RS6 Avant.

Who needs a four-wheel-drive station wagon that can move a wardrobe at racing car velocities? Nobody, that's who, but it's awesome that you can and Audi has created an iconic car that has become the family-friendly supercar of choice. It's the anti-attention supercar, a Hugo Boss suit versus the chintzy Italian designer labels.

Alfa Romeo 4C

Price: $89,000

Alfa Romeo 4C.

Roll up in front of a club in an Alfa 4C and most of the crowd will think it's every bit as impressive as a big boy Ferrari. Even the motoring press have dubbed it the 'Baby 458'. With a carbon-fibre tub, a 176kW engine and a stripped-out interior it's a stunning thing to drive, too. In fact, it has been criticised for being too hardcore for everyday use, which is the very definition of a true supercar - except for the price.

Ford Mustang

Price: $54,990

Ford Mustang.

You can get the 2.3-litre version for $45,000, but don't. The fire-breathing 5.0-litre Mustang is a true muscle car that will stop traffic when you drop the gas. It won't match a Ferrari for pace, but looks like it would break the Prancing Horse's legs with a pool cue before the race even started.

Lexus RC F

Price: $133,500

2015 Lexus RC F.

You'll either love or hate that distinctive front end, but either way the Lexus has serious impact. In this company it looks a touch pricey, but then it's a serious, 330kW V8-powered coupe with futuristic, rocketship looks.

Mini Cooper JCW

Price: $47,400

Mini JCW.

This pocket rocket is a revelation on the track, on the road, just about everywhere. A 170kW twin-turbo engine is more than enough to push the front-wheel-drive system to the limit, and go-kart handling makes the JCW a legend around the world. It shouldn't be so good, but it just is.

BMW M235i

Price: $79,930

BMW M235i Coupe.

Saloon cars have got bigger and heavier, so much so that BMW could slot this new 2-Sseries in beneath the grown-up M3. It's so much fun that you simply don't need more power, yet still muscular enough to unstick the tail should you be lucky enough to get one on a racetrack. All flared wheel-arches and attitude, it will make people stare, too.

Mercedes A45 AMG

Price: $75,800

Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.

This is what happens when a mild-mannered hatchback is brought up on a diet of raw meat and horror movies. Bedecked with wings, bulges and danger, it is arguably the most fun car in the Mercedes line-up, including the much more expensive AMG GT. With 265kW, it walks the talk.

Ford Focus RS

Price: $59,990

Ford Focus RS.

Ford's blue collar hero is returning to Australia. With a four-wheel-drive system, 235kW engine and 'Drift Mode' for when you want to get lairy, it's a brutal-looking device that will stand out in any crowd.