Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 18 December
Hot hatches don't begin and end with the Golf GTI. This week's classifieds have a handful of left-field picks

Were there such a thing as a hot hatchback hall of fame, nestled at the back of the building – way behind the Golf GTIs, Renault Sport Méganes and Focus STs – you might find a hot three-door Vauxhall that you hadn’t previously associated with such esteemed company.

Not that it wouldn’t deserve its place in the collection, of course, because while the performance version of the fourth-generation Astra enjoys nothing like the same shining legacy as most of its contemporaries, it’ll leave them for dust on the straights and give you a good time in the curvy bits, too. A power output of 276bhp is enough to send the coupé-styled hatchback from zero to 62mph in less than six seconds, and with a top speed of 155mph it’ll get you to the Nürburgring in double-quick time.

That’s a lot of grunt for a front-driven hatchback but Vauxhall knew what it was doing with the Astra VXR and saw fit to equip it with multi-mode magnetorheological suspension dampers and a limited-slip differential in an attempt to abate some of the torque steer that so often plagues such pocket rockets.

Arguably, its comparative obscurity could count in the VXR’s favour, were you looking for a car that’s as interesting as it is quick. And with £9000 landing a top-spec, low-mileage and blemish-free 2014 example, it’s certainly a more cost-effective proposition than a comparable Focus ST, which could command as much as £15,000.

Our car is finished in black, which is ideal because the GTC VXR can err on the lairy side in brighter colours, and it happily sports a set of original 18in alloy wheels (although they do need a touch-up). The interior – while disappointingly similar to the standard Astra’s – also looks in fine fettle, and we’re particularly pleased to see that the sports seats wear their 62,000 miles well.

Rapid, rare and reasonably priced, this would be a fabulous addition to any keen driver’s stable. A word of warning, though: stay away from the tightest spaces in the supermarket car park. Those doors are much longer than they seem, not to mention heavier, and plastic door edge protectors would rather spoil the look.

Abarth Grande Punto, £3250: The spicy Punto was the first model to bear the performance brand’s badge in two decades but doesn’t enjoy the same cult following as its feisty 595 and 124 Spider successors. It has style and shove – if not dynamic flair – and is worth a punt at this price.

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Toyota Corolla T Sport, £1699: The performance version of the ninth-generation Corolla doesn’t have the GR Yaris’s flair or supercar-baiting dynamics, but it does share its revvy 187bhp 1.8-litre motor with the Lotus Elise. Too slow? Add a few hundred quid for a later supercharged car.

Nissan Micra 160 SR, £2595: When Nissan updated the third-gen Micra in 2005, it ushered in a sporty, warmed-up range-topper that was far more enjoyable to drive than today’s prices imply. It only has 108bhp but it weighs scarcely more than a tonne and carves corners with the best of them.

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Citroen DS3 Racing, £6850: With its cross hairs now trained keenly on the likes of Audi and Mercedes, it’s hard to imagine DS pulling a stunt like this today. This orange-spattered sports hatch was equal parts trousers and mouth, with 204bhp sending it to 62mph in 6.5sec and on to 146mph.

Auction Watch

Audi UR Quattro 10V: The last time we saw a Quattro with its wheels that far off the ground, Hannu Mikkola was at the wheel. This 1985 car hasn’t been driven in anger – on a Finnish forest stage or otherwise – for 26 years, but underneath all that dust it looks to be remarkably solid. The seller warned that it would need “substantial restoration”, but with the cleanest examples commanding upwards of £30,000, we reckon £17,205 isn’t bad going for an unmodified right-hand drive car. The first job, hopefully, was to brush the cobwebs off the gearstick.

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Future Classic

Daihatsu Copen, £2900: Behold: 800kg of unbridled, front-driven fury. The Daihatsu Copen will put as big a smile on your face as it will passers-by, with a footprint not much bigger than the original Mini and a fizzy little turbocharged 0.66-litre engine that sends its 67bhp through a crisp five-speed manual gearbox. It’s far from the ideal motorway hack, but fun summer motoring (we’re thinking ahead here, of course) doesn’t come much more accessible, and it’s rare enough to hold its value far better than a Mazda MX-5 of similar vintage.

Clash of the classifieds

The brief: Can I have a military vehicle for £10,000, please?

Felix Page Why complicate things? The original Series 1 Land Rover was designed with military aspirations in mind and its Defender successor continues to serve armed forces worldwide. We’ll keep things cost-effective with this third-generation car, which saw service in sunny Malta in the 1970s before taking a deserved three-decade rest in a barn somewhere. Fully restored and with its original chassis and engine, it’s a lovely lump of usable history.

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Max Adams My rather magnificent 1942 GMC CCKW is a star of both the battlefield and the big screen: Kelly’s Heroes, The Dirty Dozen and Pearl Harbor (to name but a few) have all featured one of these in the background. CCKWs also formed the backbone of the ‘Red Ball Express’ that had to get valuable supplies to Allied troops on the front line after all the railway infrastructure was destroyed to hobble enemy supply routes following D-Day. In fact, this one regularly goes to France as part of the D-Day commemorations.

FP And I bet the owner’s neighbours are flippin’ glad when it does… Seriously, where would you keep such a thing? Also, I note that, even though it weighs four tonnes, it packs only around 100bhp. A Series Land Rover has never seemed so rapid.

MA Your fixation on speed means you’ve missed the point of this heroic vehicle. Can a Land Rover carry 2.3 tonnes of cargo across any surface? I don’t think so.

FP What my Landie lacks in load capacity, it more than makes up for in sheer all-round unstoppability. Your lorry might be able to climb Everest, but it’ll be flummoxed by your average side street.

MA James asked for a military vehicle, not something to take to Sainsbury’s for the shopping.

Ruppert's Verdict: That brawny GMC has won this battle.

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si73 18 December 2020
That astra surely isn't a fourth generation, they must be the sixth. The fourth had the bertone coupe and cabrio, and the fifth the the twin top, unless you're referring to the fourth as being the first to have a VXR version?