Many were still concerned about the realities of running such a car however, with its M-badged parts commanding gold-plated prices - and any serious issues requiring a potentially costly and eye-watering teardown.
This week we're featuring something that many of you may regard as more of a known quantity, one that's renowned for reliability and - more importantly - being one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars ever made.
Yes, it's the car that'll have you wanting VTEC to kick in, yo - the fabled DC2 generation of the Honda Integra Type R.
Launched into the Japanese market in 1995, the Integra Type R was more than just a gentle reworking of the existing Integra. It got more spot welds and thicker metal in its bodyshell, and weight reduction in the form of lighter wheels, a thinner windscreen and less sound deadening material.
Honda didn't stop there. The Type R's 1.8-litre 'B18C' engine got high-compression pistons, hand-finished intake ports and a tweaked Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control - VTEC - system. The result, for UK models, was 187bhp and 131lb ft - and a spine-tingling red line of 8700rpm.
With a kerb weight of just 1140kg, the five-speed Integra could sprint from 0-60mph in 6.5sec and hit a top speed of 145mph when new. Given how well made they were, it's likely that any still in service today are more than capable of repeating that performance.
The net result was more than just a fast Honda, however. The modifications turned the Integra from a staid and generic car into a thrilling, engaging and rewarding coupé that would turn any rear-drive fanatic's opinions on powertrains clean around - and the Type R was just as happy as it was on the road as it was on the track.
You'll find several hot hatchbacks offering up similar credentials for less than £5k these days, like the Renault Clio Renaultsport 182, but many overlook the potentially more interesting and dependable Type R, which can be had for similar money.
This R-plated 1997 model, for example, has done an acceptable 104,000 miles and is up for £4599. It's had a sensible-sounding three previous owners and is claimed, remarkably, to be in a totally standard condition - a rarity in itself.
Lending further appeal to this Type R is a comprehensive and supposedly full service history, including all the receipts for everything ever done and a cambelt change in 2012. That's good, as they need changing every 60,000 miles or five years; the last thing you want is valves meeting pistons at a catastrophic rate of knots.
There are signs of proper care elsewhere too, including a comprehensive undersealing in 2011. The apparent quality of maintenance is backed up by a seemingly unmarked exterior and a presentable interior that's free from the usual excessive wear to the bright red Recaro seats.
Sure, there are a few negatives - like easily resolved flaking paint on the rocker cover and a cracked foglight - but in reality, provided you keep up the servicing, you should have few problems with this Integra. It's a Honda, after all, and we all know how well they hold up in the long term, even when driven hard.
The seller's asking £4599 for this particular Integra, which doesn't seem like a lot for a car with such a rewarding chassis, reliable nature and rev-happy engine. You'll be able to take it on track, hammer it across country and it should happily take a licking and keep on ticking. For those that want something they can really use and enjoy, the Type R has a lot to offer.
Given that it's increasingly difficult and costly to find a good one, is now the time to pick up a tidy DC2, or would you rather something with the right driven wheels?
Read last week's 'to buy or not to buy' here.
Search the Pistonheads classifieds here.