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Perky, good-looking and dynamically composed, the MG F is a budget-friendly and niche alternative to the Mazda MX-5

The MG F created a stir when it landed in 1995. Here was an alternative to the Mazda MX-5 that was also more interesting thanks to its mid-mounted, 1.8-litre 16-valve engine. In MPi form it produced 118bhp while the VVC version made 142bhp. 

Hydragas interconnected suspension ensured the car was comfortable and composed, while standard goodies included remote locking, electric windows and heated mirrors. VVC spec added half leather, anti-lock brakes and electric power-assisted steering (EPAS). 

The Mk2 version followed in 1999 and then in 2002 it was succeeded by the TF, with its stiffened chassis, quicker steering and traditional, fully independent, coil-spring suspension. 

It was a good car but today it’s the F where the bargains – or buckets – lurk. Many have been taken in by a cheap F only to find it’s held together with Waxoyl, the head gasket is spewing oil and the clutch linkage is corroding where it’s exposed to the elements. Also exposed are the underfloor coolant pipes while, at the front, the radiator has a habit of rusting to dust (an aluminium replacement is the way to go). 

Mg f

If the car is sitting low and rides too firmly, the Hydragas system may be out of juice. Unfortunately, many people only recharge the fluid when it’s the nitrogen gas, which lives in sealed units, that needs replenishing. It’s a skilled job but Hydragas and Hydrolastic Service ( can do it for you. 

Our interest was stirred by a 1998 S-reg 1.8 MPi with 101,000 miles for £650. Bargain or bucket? The seller says it’s reliable, citing a trouble-free journey from oop north to darn saarf as proof. Got to be worth a look.

Lexus soarer

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Lexus Soarer 3.0 auto coupé, £3290: In 2013 a tidy example of this swanky grey import cost £1k, but as this 1994 car with 103,000 miles shows, they’re now over £3k. If you’re going to have a punt, it may as well be on a motor from the then-fledgling luxury brand whose reliability was already envied.

Renault avantime

Renault Avantime 3.0 Privilege, £4250: ‘The only right-hand-drive Avantime in this colour!’ claims the ad. This Grand Air has one-touch opening of windows and sunroof and a 3.0 V6 with a manual ’box, because that’s how we rolled in 2003. It’s done 100k miles and has just been serviced. 

Audi v8

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Audi V8 Quattro, £10,000: The V8, which ran from 1988-93, was Audi’s first bent-eight and the predecessor of the A8. First-gen cars used a 3.6 but this one, a 1993 with 81,000 miles, is the later 4.2. Its galvanised body should mean those gleaming flanks are no illusion. 

Toyota corolla gti

Toyota Corolla GTI-16v, £5250: Toyota’s hot hatch of 1988-92 was a desirable thing despite rivals such as the Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTi. This 1989 car has 100k miles. Two years ago you could buy one for £2500, but as rust claims more scalps, prices of the rest are rising. 

Auction watch 

Audi cabriolet

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Audi 80 2.6 Cabriolet: Just as everyone knows Princess Anne drove a Scimitar, so they know her sister-in-law, Princess Diana, drove an Audi 80 Cabriolet. Hers was a 2.3 registered in 1994, while the one we spotted at auction was the more powerful 2.6, registered in 1996. Still, the 62,000-mile lookie-likie is almost the same colour. It has a manual roof and its old-school, tall-profile tyres should mean a comfortable ride. It has a ream of service receipts including one for a timing belt change in 2017, a consolation prize for its less-distinguished V5. The hammer fell at £3410.

Future classic

Fiesta st200

Ford Fiesta ST200, price - £13,750: Fast Fords have always had a strong following and there’s no reason to suppose that in years to come the previous-generation Fiesta ST will be any different. However, it’s the more exclusive specials that attract the greatest interest, which is why we reckon the 197bhp 200 (212bhp on overboost), launched in 2016, could be one to keep an eye on. In addition to the extra power, it has a shortened final drive ratio for quicker acceleration. We found a 2017/66-reg ST200 with 15,000 miles for £13,750 – or £2000 more than an ST-2. Ouch…

Clash of the classifieds

Brief: Find me a genuinely brilliant hot hatch for no more than £5000.

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Honda Civic Type R, £5000

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Renault sport Clio RS200, £4950

Mark Pearson: What a category and what a car I’ve found. There really is nothing to touch the Type R. It’s a supercar in a practical body, with 0-60mph in 6.6sec and handling you’d sell your kidney for. It’ll break your heart and your spine at the same time. Heck, it’s a VTEC, Max… 

Max Adams: All this talk about VTEC. My wonderful little Renaultsport Clio has variable valve timing too, and an equally impressive 197bhp: the same as your wedgy Honda Civic. Plus it has fancy dampers, being the RS200 model, so it can carve curves with scalpel-like accuracy and still be civilised enough for a commute. 

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MP: My unburstable 2008-year car is clearly and understandably the one that’s etched its way into hot hatch history… 

MA: That gen Civic couldn’t hold a candle to its more powerful peers, unlike my Renaultsport Clio that picked up trophy after trophy right up until it bowed out in 2012. 

MP: What? Never heard such nonsense. Everyone loves the CTR. No one even remembers your dodgy Clio. Mine’s a £5k, 8000rpm lightweight loon. The ideal car for a learner. 

MA: Now you’re talking nonsense! 

Read more

1996 MG F long-term test - Throwback Thursday​

MG Motor TF 2002-2005 review​

2016 Ford Fiesta ST200 UK review​

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Add a comment…
86x86 30 August 2019

There is no such thing as a Lexus Soarer,,,,

There is the Toyota Soarer and there is the Lexus SC300. The latter of which was only LHD and was never sold in the the UK. "Lexus Soarer" is not a thing and as car journalists you should know that.

si73 30 August 2019

When referring to the MGf and

When referring to the MGf and it's issues you make it out to be a terrible proposition but in fact the radiator and coolant pipes are all easily replaced and most head gaskets have been sorted with upgraded parts by now, as for rust it suffers far less than the mx5. They're a great little car that is well built and if well maintained they're also reliable.

Were the import soarers lexus? I thought imports were Toyota badged.

TStag 30 August 2019

I’m not sure why the MG F is

I’m not sure why the MG F is more niche than the MX5 after all it outsold the Miata in the UK for every year of it and it’s sucessors existence. In fact he MX5 only outsold it when SAIC took over MG and shut most of the dealer network.