Budget sports car hunters should snag a clean Smart Roadster before prices go on the turn
John Evans
12 April 2019

Smart Roadster, £2899: Inspired by Colin Goodwin’s tribute to the Smart Roadster and desirous of owning one? There are a few in the classifieds at prices ranging from £1500 to £7500. 

They came in two bodystyles: a coupé and a convertible. Most are powered by an 80bhp, 0.7-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged motor. We found a one-owner 2006/06-reg convertible with 88,000 miles and full service history for £2899. 

Also in the range was a 101bhp Brabus version and the so-called Light – an 80bhp version whose extras were removed to get the price down. A 2006/06-reg Light with 84,000 miles for £2750 caught our eye. 

Whichever model appeals, you must check a few things before you hand over any dosh. Such as making sure the engine has had fresh oil every 7000 miles and that all of its spark plugs (it’s a twin-spark engine) were changed at the B service. Is it misfiring? That could be coil packs or HT leads – or a holed exhaust valve, which is accompanied by increased fuel consumption. 

Check the health of the turbo by taking the car to 70mph and then flooring the accelerator. If the turbo pulses, it’s either on the way out or the manifold is cracked. 

Our Verdict

Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Vauxhall's Corsa VXR costs from £17,995

Hot Corsa majors on pace, purpose and performance value. Brash, boisterous and great fun – if a little lacking in finesse

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Check the rear drum brakes have been serviced (the adjusters seize) and there are no clunks when you turn the steering wheel (a broken steering rack or front road spring). 

Above all, examine the floor and carpets for damp. Water gets in through the windscreen scuttle and roof but, most serious, through the bulkhead, where it drenches the body control module. If you can store your Roadster in a garage, you should.

Renault Modus, £3495: “One of the best small cars ever made” was Autocar’s generous verdict on the Modus of 2004-12, with its versatile interior and relaxed driving manners. We chanced upon this 2010 1.5 dCi Dynamique with 47,000 miles and full service history.

BMW 550i, £5490: If the E60 M5 terrifies you, how about its calmer cousin, the 550i M Sport of the same era, whose 4.8-litre V8 produces 362bhp? Our example, a 2006/ 56-reg, has done 122,000 miles. 

Vauxhall Corsa VXR, £6000: Discover your inner hooligan with this 186bhp turbocharged pocket rocket. Torque is 170lb ft from just 1950rpm, but if you need more, an overboost function gives an extra 26lb ft for five long seconds. We found a 2012/61-reg car with 49,000 miles for £6000.\

Peugeot 605 3.0 V6, £6495: Memories of running two long-term 605 V6s back to back – a manual and an auto – that never once put a foot wrong in 12 months of hard motoring resurfaced when we spotted this lovely 1992 K-reg example. It has done just 35,000 miles. 

Auction watch

Ford Fiesta XR2: The odometer of this 1988 XR2 read just 15,900 when someone snapped it up at auction for £3975. Recent work includes a new cambelt and water pump but doubtless the new owner is going through it, checking for split hoses, clogged fuel lines and perished seals. 

With only 96bhp to hand, the XR2 lacked the sparkle of the later, 110bhp XR2i that took on the 115bhp Peugeot 205 GTi 1.6, and lost. Still, our example’s pepper-pot alloy wheels look the business and there’s no doubting that it was a smart buy, since most clean XR2s with higher mileage are around £10,000.

Get it while you can

Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 S-Design, price new - £26,905, price now - £18,995: Fiat pulled the plug on the Spider in January. Global sales were low and, as reported in Autocar, there’s speculation that the car’s 1.4 Multiair petrol engine required expensive work to get it through the new WLTP emissions regulations. Still, the new car showroom’s loss is the used car forecourt’s gain, with pre-reg Spiders being knocked out at huge savings. We spotted a 2019/68-reg 1.4 S-Design for £18,995, almost £8000 less than the new price. You’d be lucky to get a late Mazda MX-5 2.0 184 Sport Nav for less than £22,000.

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me an intriguing rarity for £4k.

Subaru SVX, £3000: If you’re after something rare, take a look at this oddball. Made in the early 1990s as a sporty looking, Giorgetto Giugiaro-styled coupé that was also comfortable on longer trips, the SVX was a bit of a technological tour de force. It had flush glazing, four-wheel drive and a unique 226bhp 3.3-litre flat six engine. Fewer than 25,000 were sold worldwide, making it an exceptionally rare beast. This one has had lots of work done and comes with loads of spares, including a bonnet, front wings, bumpers, rear diff, sunroof, door cards, steering rack… Max Adams

Honda Beat, £2250: Meet the ultra-rare Beat, a tasty drop-top and an intriguing rarity, the bargain-bucket price of which can only go one way. This tiny jewel of a thing is immense fun to drive and packs a 656cc, three-cylinder 8000rpm engine and two seats into an overall length of under 130in. It’s mid-engined and rear-wheel drive and Pininfarina had a hand in its design. It even has air-con. Basically, it’s like a shrunken NSX, for the price of a door mirror. Oh, and the price of this one leaves you enough left over for a luxury weekend break, too. Mark Pearson

Verdict: A couple of rare birds and no mistake. I’m very tempted by the SVX, but where am I going to put all those extra bits? No, I’ll take the Beat. John Evans

Read more

100bhp heroes: how to have fun with less power​

Matt Prior: why the Smart Roadster is the ideal sports car​

Slideshow: The intriguingly odd Subaru SVX

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Comments
3

12 April 2019

That 605 is a good looking car, even in white with wheel trims. The beat is a bit of a bargain, they're usually advertised for double that, probably more fun than the smart.

12 April 2019

Buy both Japanese cars for a little over £5k. Perhaps add a Lexus LS400 and you have a  bargain classic car collection started right there.

cdp

12 April 2019
I was very interested in a Beat about 20 years ago. The biggest snag is at only 5'11" I just don't fit...

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