The Vauxhall VX220 Turbo leads this week's picks - low-riding, fast-driving cars, engineered by Lotus
24 January 2020

Our round-up of Lotus-engineered rarities opens with the VX220. The Vauxhall shared key parts with the Elise and was built at the same factory, and it went on sale in 2000 supported by an appalling ad campaign that held back sales.

It was why, for many years, the car was a bargain. Not any more. Today you’ll pay almost as much for a VX as you will for an Elise, mainly because everyone now knows the little Vauxhall is just so darned good.

Prices open at around £10,000 for a Turbo but we were drawn to one costing £14,000. The private-sale, two-owner car was registered in 2003 and has done 45,000 miles. It looks tidy but there’s nothing about the service history and it has had a respray. Maybe one dealer’s 2003-reg, 86,000-mile example for £10,990 would be a better buy. At least it’s original and has some history.

The Turbo made 200bhp – ample for a car that weighed just 930kg. There was a 2.2, too, which produced a less impressive 145bhp, although this version of the VX was even lighter at 875kg. We found a pretty 2001 example with 38,000 miles for £11,995. The Turbo is the one people want but the 2.2 is still a lot of fun.

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Talking of which, the ultimate VX is the VXR220. It was launched in limited numbers in 2004 powered by a tweaked version of the 2.0-litre turbo motor producing 220bhp. We found a 2004-reg with 20,000 miles for £19,500 – a reasonable price given it was limited to just 60 cars.

Things to look out for when buying any VX are noisy timing chains on 2.2s, a crumbling cooling system, worn suspension bushes, a damaged body and water leaks into the cabin.

Tesla Roadster 2.5, £69,000: Tesla’s Lotus Elise-based first car was launched in 2010 costing £88,000. We reckoned its real-world range was around 130 miles. It’s a future classic. Our find here is a 2011-reg example with 27,000 miles. Its battery health is reported to be ‘good’.

Proton Satria GTi, £3595: The Satria GTi of 1999 benefited from Lotus’s handling nous but was hobbled by ambitious pricing and a lacklustre image. Here's a beauty: a 2001-reg with 52,000 miles, full service and just two owners. Think of it as a British(ish) hot hatch.

Isuzu Piazza Turbo, £2800: With Giugiaro styling and suspension transformed by Lotus, the Piazza Turbo coupé was tempting – sort of. Isuzu is synonymous with trucks and corrosion was an issue, but this rare and tidy 1989 find with 73,000 miles has to be worth a punt.

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton, £39,950: We have Lotus Carltons advertised for £125,000 and most are around £60,000, so why is this 1992 example so cheap? Its 98,000 mileage isn't uncommon, so maybe it’s the rebuilt engine, new turbos and gearbox, new sills, new rear doors…

Auction watch

BMW 330Ci Clubsport: The E46 M3 is the one people want, but for one buyer only this pretty 330Ci CS would do. The one-owner, 2002-reg car had done only 17,000 miles and was immaculate. There wasn’t much paperwork or history, but that wasn’t going to put them off parting with £13,500. Strong money, but while the 330Ci was possibly a bit soft, the Clubsport spices things up with slightly quicker steering, stiffened and lowered suspension, a bodykit and Clubsport kickplates. It also has 20kg less sound insulation – the better to enjoy that sweet, 228bhp 3.0-litre straight six.

Future classic

Alfa Romeo 4C, £31,950: Hardly a bold prediction, but the petite, hand-built, carbonfibre-tubbed 4C has future classic written all over it. For now, though, prices are slipping, partly because it’s winter, partly because it’s no longer made so it’s relatively invisible and also because – whisper it – it’s not very good. Well, it’s sensational on a polished track, but its steering writhes in the hands on our pockmarked roads, the engine suffers turbo lag and the gearbox is slow-witted in auto mode. Far from perfect, then, but since when was that a requirement of a future classic?

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a Euro 6-compliant diesel for £10,000.

BMW 520d M Sport, £10,000

Mini Cooper SD 5dr, £9799

Mark Pearson: I don’t often get excited by cars and hardly ever by those powered by a diesel engine, but look at this magnificent and class-leading 2013 BMW 5 Series for £10,000, complete with a punchy and economical ULEZ-compliant engine. Where do I sign? What’s yours, Max?

Max Adams: Hang on, you work for Autocar and aren’t excited by cars? Should you be admitting that? Well, mine also comes from BMW, but in the guise of a lovely Mini Cooper SD that’s three years younger than your worn-out old barge.

MP: Excitement’s not good for me at my age. Anyway, I think the Mini’s a bit dull and even worse with a diesel engine. My Beemer does all a car should do. It’s an easy choice here.

MA: I agree. Your 520d is from the period when there were issues with worn timing chains, so my Mini is by far the better and more reliable choice. This one also has the Chili pack.

MP: Mine looks more impressive. It’s a luxury car, Max, whereas yours is a bit on the common side.

MA: Well, you’ll have plenty of chances to admire your BMW or sit back and make yourself comfortable in it while it’s conked out at the side of the road.

MP: Jealousy. Remember, only shallow people don’t judge by appearance.

MA: Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Verdict: Diesel do nicely, and the Mini gets my vote.

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Comments
3

24 January 2020

I'd go for an Alfa 4, maybe the journos expected a better car but then it's an Alfa which have faults by default 

24 January 2020

Never thought I'd see a journo being so honest:- "... admire your BMW or sit back and make yourself comfortable in it while it's conked out at the side of the road". Looks like BMW's lack of dependability is being noted by all.

24 January 2020
xxxx wrote:

Never thought I'd see a journo being so honest:- "... admire your BMW or sit back and make yourself comfortable in it while it's conked out at the side of the road". Looks like BMW's lack of dependability is being noted by all.

Not really - the Mini is a BMW too - its got a BMW engine and a BMW chassis.

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