Vauxhall VX220, £19,950
Why didn’t things work out for the Vauxhall VX220? On paper, it seemed to have all the ingredients needed to shake up a niche vehicle segment. It was light, mid-engined, striking to look at and properly rapid, outperforming the likes of the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota MR2 with ease.
Alas, the VX220, launched in 2000, was the unfortunate victim of badge snobbery and was often disregarded by drivers who considered it to be nothing more than a rebadged version of the Lotus Elise S2.
Although it was true that some of the VX220’s brilliance came from its Lotus-derived underpinnings, including the Elise’s bonded, lightweight aluminium chassis tub, the two cars actually shared only 141 components (around 10% of its total parts).
Vauxhall gave the VX220 a wider rear track and longer wheelbase, added anti-lock brakes and swapped the Elise’s 16in wheels for a 17in set.
It was all change in the powertrain department, too. Vauxhall removed the original Elise’s Rover-sourced K-series engine and replaced it with a normally aspirated 2.2-litre Vauxhall Astra SRi unit, which produced 145bhp. A 2.0-litre turbocharged engine was offered from 2003, which upped the power to 197bhp.
The 2.0 turbo version covered 0-62mph in just 4.7sec, despite being slightly heavier than the naturally aspirated model (930kg compared with 870kg), but both offered supercar-rivalling performance.
We think anyone who missed out back in the early noughties should make amends today, because the VX220 is still excellent to drive. But you might want to get in sooner rather than later because used prices are starting to climb.
Unfortunately, numbers are relatively limited. Production ended after just five years and there are fewer than 800 VX220s on UK roads today, according to howmanyleft.co.uk.