The Coupé was launched in 2002 with a four-cylinder 136bhp 2.0-litre engine or a range-topping 167bhp 2.7 V6. A 103bhp 1.6 arrived a few months later. All three petrol engines powered the front wheels, on 1.6 and 2.0 versions through a five-speed manual gearbox and on the 2.7 a six-speed. A four-speed automatic was an option on 2.0 and 2.7 versions.
The insurance-friendly 1.6 needed a depressing 11.0sec to cover 0-62mph and the best-selling 2.0 a sportier 9.0sec. The V6 took 8.1sec but what took the gloss off it was a change in road tax in 2007. Overnight it rose to £300. Today, it stands at £520 – about what the cheapest Coupés cost. The model’s apparent resemblance to the Ferrari 456 GT caused quite a stir at the launch. It was something to do with its long nose, curvy flanks, quad pipes, boot spoiler and air intakes aft of the front wheelarches. Such careless talk merely set the car up for a fall but not before reviewers had written approvingly of the cabin’s ample leg room and impressive rearward visibility, and its generously sized 400-litre boot.
A mild facelift in 2005 added new headlights and nose, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the model received a much-needed shot in the arm with the arrival of the SIII generation. The all-new nose got narrower headlights and the cabin gained brushed alloy inserts, blue-backlit instruments and new seats.
Throughout the model’s life, there were occasional special editions, including Yellow, Atlantic and TSIII, the last featuring sports suspension. Talking of which, given its bargain price, a decent used Coupé can form the basis of a good- value tuning project. The 2.0-litre engine especially is strong enough to take a gentle remap to 190bhp or more serious turbocharging or supercharging without mechanical mods. On top of this, fully adjustable sports suspension, lowering kits and brake upgrades are all available. So equipped, you’ll have a bit of a sleeper on the driveway that might even give a 456GT a run for its money–until you arrive at the first corner.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view - ROSS HEATH, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, TIBURON AUTOMOTIVE: “I was part of the team that helped conceive and engineer the Coupé. The brief was for a car that was good- looking, well equipped and affordable, and the model was all these. The 2.0-litre is the best and most drivable. The 1.6 is underpowered but easier to insure. The 2.7 V6 was hit hard by the road tax rises from 2007 and is the least appealing. All are well equipped. They’re reliable, too, if well maintained. Unfortunately, being so cheap, they attract people who can’t afford to have them serviced. Find a good cheap one, spend a couple of thousand pounds uprating the suspension, brakes and power, and you’ll have a top-value sports car that still turns heads.”