7 December 2004

Autocar asks the £20,000 question in this week's magazine - given the typical performance car budget, what would you buy? Read this test, and we'll help you decide, making pure driving pleasure our top priority, then looking at what gives you the best ownership experience.

There's never been so much choice for the money. Nudging the price limit are the new VW Golf GTi and Subaru Impreza WRX, both at £19,995. Then there are four angry little hatches, all keen to see off the bigger, more expensive Golf. Newest is the £13,595, 148bhp Fiesta ST. The Clio 182 Cup at £13,800 is incredible value. The £15,180 Mini Cooper S offers quality and the Citroën C2 VTS is the cheapest here at £11,995. The curve balls are the diesel, rear-wheel-drive, £18,850 BMW 120d and the open, two-seat, £18,000 Mazda MX5 1.8i Sport.

We took all of them to Curborough sprint track, a tough test of a car's agility, and set a lap time in every one. But more important is their ability on the road, their capacity to entertain, and price and running costs that should be - just about - affordable. We weigh all of these factors, and name one winner. Find out which that is in Autocar.

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