Try these warmed-up compacts if you want a hatchback with true motorsport kudos from just a few hundred pounds
23 February 2015

1 - Renault Clio Williams 16v 1993

This muscular little beastie might not have had anything further to do with Frank Williams’ team than sharing its name, but Renaultsport’s 2.0-litre 16-valve Clio was a well-sorted hot hatchback from day one — and piggybacking a Formula 1 world title for ‘Our Nige’ didn’t hurt UK sales.

It was launched in 1993 as a homologation special for Group N rallying, but the press reception led to a Williams 2 in 1994 and a Williams 3 a year later. Original was best, though: 150bhp to fling around 990kg, with a modified close-ratio gearbox from the Renault 19 diesel, plus fat tyres and redeveloped suspension giving sublime poise.

A good one isn’t cheap now, though: upwards of £6500 for the best, about twice what a high-mileage car will set you back.

For Fine driver’s hatch, with one of the all-time great colour schemes

Against The velour seats and stitched ‘W’ logos aren’t exactly hard-wearing

2 - Rover 200 BRM LE 1998

It’s easy to sneer at this 1998 Limited Edition’s orange air intake — a nod to 1960s BRM racers — and diamond-stitched red leather, but it was more than a 200Vi in silly clothes. It had the same MG F-sourced K-series but sat 20mm lower, with revised damping, a close-ratio gearbox and a Torsen limited-slip diff to better transmit its 143bhp through the front wheels.

Rover and British Racing Motors teamed up for Le Mans in 1963 and 1965, but that meant little to the late teens who might have bought this car in 1997. Today, one of the 750 built can be yours for under £1k. Even clean cars struggle to top £4k.

For Just the thing for playing Graham Hill on the North Circular

Against Unlike the Le Mans cars, it doesn’t have a gas turbine

3 - Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hakkinen Edition 1998

Few cars have a weaker link to elite motorsport than Mercedes-Benz’s ‘W168’ A-Class. This dumpy mini-MPV couldn’t even successfully negotiate a few cones at its launch, failing the elk test, yet in 1998 Stuttgart celebrated the McLaren-Mercedes team’s F1 championship with 125 each of the A-Class Hakkinen and Coulthard Editions. 

Each wore the driver’s name, airbrushed McLaren livery, red leather trim and AMG alloy wheels. As for buying one today, first you’ll have to find it. The only example we could track down was a leggy one in Finland — for €3300.

For You won’t get arrested for flaunting cigarette advertising

Against Only a lukewarm hatch at best

4 - Honda Civic Jordan 1999

This 1999 run of 500 Sunlight Yellow Civics was built to commemorate Eddie Jordan’s use of Mugen-Honda engines for Damon Hill and Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s cars. There was similarly lairy black and yellow leather inside, embroidered with Jordan’s ‘Buzzin’ Hornets’ logo, and outside the Civic used the same bodykit as Japan’s top-spec Type R but did without that car’s boot spoiler and front grille.

Based on the 1.6 VTi-S, the Jordan Civic boasted 160bhp and could hit 140mph. And it has held its value, too, with nice cars now changing hands for upwards of £3000.

For It’s yellow…

Against …very yellow

5 - Fiat Seicento Michael Schumacher 2001

Fiat’s occasional plundering of Ferrari glamour is natural enough, but it was still odd to find F1 star Michael Schumacher’s name applied to a tarted-up Seicento during his 2001 heyday.

It wore logos aplenty and a new front bumper but was based on the unsporty Sporting with its sub-95mph top speed. Today, a tidy, low-mileage car from a dealer can be less than £1k.

For You can have fun with 54bhp in a car this light

Against Less said of the Stilo Schumacher, the better

6 - Proton Satria GTI Lotus 1999

Lotus has plenty of form in this field, and this Hethel-engineered hatch got rave reviews. By the time Proton got involved in Lotus, its F1 days were over (since revived, of course) yet it was grands prix that made the name and Proton was desperate to take some of that shine for this 1999 three-door, based on Mitsubishi’s 1991 Colt.

The chassis and 141bhp 1.8-litre Mitsubishi engine were tuned by Norfolk’s finest, and the body was refined with a distinctive, riveted aero kit. The used market for old Protons isn’t competitive, so look hard and you could pick one up for £1000-£1500.

For Square tailpipes, you say? Why not?

Against The Lotus badges take some finding

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Our Verdict

Renault Clio

A multi-talented contender that can stand comparison with the best

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Comments
3

23 February 2015
How about the Nissan Primera GT LE? Built to celebrate Nissan's championship wins in the BTCC, it gained full leather upholstery, 16" Enkei wheels and all the good stuff from the normal GT. This includes a 150bhp 2.0 litre lump that revs to 7000rpm, surprisingly good handling and bulletproof reliability. Although even a bodykit can't hide the minicab roots they can be had for between £500-£1000 and are seriously underrated.

24 February 2015
Alfa 155 Silverstone, complete with dismantled rear spoiler in the boot, and the Renault Laguna Airflow, also made to homologate the rear spoiler for BTCC racing.

15 June 2016
Inspiration whatsapp status
Hatches must be cheap in price

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