If it’s rapid-response, wheel-twirling fun for rock-bottom prices you’re after, steer yourself towards one of these

Superb handling and driving prowess needn't cost the Earth, as these bargain options show.

Honda Accord Type R (1999-2002)

The Type R’s steering was more than a match for its magnificent 209bhp VTEC engine. This family four-door was a driver’s car par excellence thanks to its well-weighted, accurate and responsive set-up. For more of the same, try its skinnier-tyred, even better-steering sibling, the pricier Integra Type R.

Finding a good Accord Type R is tricky. Watch out for gearbox issues and check for cambelt changes. Unmodified examples are the most highly sought, as is anything with a full service history. The Type R Owners’ Forum has an X-reg car for sale with 67,000 miles for a “negotiable” £2395.

Honda Prelude 4WS (1988-2001)

An oft-overlooked gem, the four-wheel-steer Prelude had rear wheels that turned in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds and in the same direction at higher speeds.

The result was immediate response, as it cut out the delay between the front wheels turning and the rears catching up. It also endowed the low-slung Prelude with the ability to out-slalom many more exotic sports cars.

The 1992 model acquired a potent 2.2-litre VTEC engine that made it not only agile but also quick on the straights. Honda’s legendary build quality means many are still around. We found a dealer selling a black 1999 S-reg car with rare Motegi body kit for just £1750.

Alfa Romeo GTV (1996-2006)

With engaging handling and super-quick (2.2 turns lock to lock) steering, the stylish GTV matched passion with real ability. Admittedly, this rapid rack also gave the GTV an unfeasibly large turning circle, but with a choice of a vivacious 2.0-litre Twin Spark engine or a rorty 3.0-litre V6, it was impossible not to be stirred by this car.

Prices start low, but avoid examples without a service history. An old Alfa Romeo is not a car to be considered lightly, and rust is a familiar problem,as are electrical glitches.

We found a number of examples for sale, including a one-owner Twin Spark, with just 59,000 miles and a full service history, for a tempting £2000.

Peugeot 106 GTi (1996-2000)

Low inertia and quick steering were the key to this 106’s manoeuvrability. At the time, there wasn’t a hot hatch that could jink like this little tearaway. Consider the lightweight and lower-powered 106 Rallye version, too, but choose one with power-assisted steering, as the unassisted set-up could be hard work.

The only trouble with the 106 GTi is that few survive. Try to find an original car with as much history as possible.

Mazda MX-5 Mk1 (1989-1997)

You can’t compile a list of cheap super-steering cars and not include the Mk1 MX-5. There’s a joy in steering this drop-top down a twisty road that more than makes up for any shortage of speed.

The light, wieldy helm is alive and responsive, but choose one with power steering, as its quicker rack is more desirable. Engines are reliable and there are plenty of cars to choose from. But hurry; prices can only rise as numbers dwindle.

Citroen XM (1989-2000)

This quirky Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension endowed it with a deft ride and well-balanced handling, but it was the quick steering that made this large executive hatchback an unexpectedly agile joy to drive.

The only complaint about the otherwise positive and direct set-up was that the rack wasn’t quite as sharp as the ones found on earlier SM and CX models. UK-spec cars also had to do without the swish Varipower system and its unusual automatic self-centring function.

Alternatively, you could try the XM’s sibling, the Xantia Activa, which took the clever suspension idea one step farther and eliminated roll and pitch.

There are several XMs advertised at around the £2000 mark, but shop with care, because old Citroëns are complex beasts and can be unreliable. Expect repair bills to be large, too. 

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Our Verdict

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Fourth-generation MX-5 heads back to the roadster's roots

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Comments
3

23 March 2015
I thought the Toyota MR2 mkIII (2000-2005) was meant to be one of the finest handling cars this side of an Elise. I've seen these for 800 pounds upwards.

23 March 2015
Handling and driving prowess are not two phrases I'd use to describe the XM in the above picture - unless of course it was travelling at 120mph during the photoshoot?

23 March 2015
scotty5 wrote:

Handling and driving prowess are not two phrases I'd use to describe the XM in the above picture - unless of course it was travelling at 120mph during the photoshoot?

I know what you mean, it appears to be leaning almost as much as the MX-5.

 

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