5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - jonesy127 {P}
I have a £5000 budget. I have to travel 70 miles a day (to work and back, half an hour on the motorway and half an hour crawling through sub 30mph city traffic, x2).

We (wife and I) currently have a '94 Golf 1.8 GL which she'll use most days, and I can use when she doesn't need it. But for all the other times, I need something of my own.

And I desperately want to avoid buying a bland-mobile, simply because it's economical and reliable, and regret it forever more, wishing I'd bought something with more personality.

I've never had a capable car, power or handling-wise. First car was an '86 Chevette, then an '87 Polo, and now the Golf. So, as you can see I've hardly been spoiled. Here are a few I've considered or have been suggested:

Mk1 Mazda MX5. Ideally British Racing Green, leather interior. Early 1.6s have 118 bhp, 1.8 has 130. Rear wheel drive. Light. Probably not ideal for a lot of motorway driving. And they aint cheap, and the Jap imports (which Honest John isn't keen on?) miss out on that UK car image and therefore the resale value?

Porsche 944 (really). Would have to be a mid to late 80s model, I guess. Insurance will hurt? I don't think I can bring myself to blow my whole 5k on a nearly 20 year old, mega high mileage motor.

Pug 306 GTI-6. Quick as you like, but one big problem for me: I don't want to look like a boy racer (I'm 33 and way past all that), or attract the attention of said plonkers. And are they not plagued with faults?

Subaru Impreza - likewise the Peugeot (without the faults?)?

Audi Coupe V6 or similar - I'm a little confused with the Audi range in my price bracket...

Golf Mk3 VR6 - how capable is it really?

Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC - I've read lots of good things about these?

What else??

I've never had any modern safety gizmos on a car before, (ABS, airbags, etc.) so that would be great. I've never had more than 90bhp before, so decent grunt would be great too.

To sum up, I want something that's inspiring(ish) to drive (maybe rwd?), has enough power to not leave me feeling wanting too much, and is relatively safe. All for £5k or under.

I don't want much, do I?!
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - DavidHM
BMW E36 coupé with a six cylinder? You might just squeeze an early 323i or 328i into your budget, but that might be pushing it. You'll be looking hard and any you do find might be leggy or tired. Otherwise a 325i is probably your best bet as the 320i is just as thirsty, but 42bhp less powerful.

(Oh and it'll almost certainly be cheaper, if the insurance is in your name on the Golf, to transfer the NCB from that on to your car and get a new policy in your wife's name).
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - roscopervis
Lots of choice. I dont want to patronise your driving skills but a lot of power and/or RWD may catch you out if you arent used to it.

Citroen Xsara VTS 2.0 5k will get you a T plater with about 40k on the clock. A lot better value for a car that has the same mechanicals (bar the weak 6 speed box) as the GTI-6 which mechanically at least have proved reliable. About 30 mpg.

Looking East you could get a N reg Nissan 200 sx which is 200 bhp and RWD. Quite practical too about 25mpg.

The Prelude is also a lovely car which has Vtec as opposed to the turbo so less torque but similar top end power. Real world means it isnt as tractable but is addictive but tiring to drive fast. 25-30 mpg.

The Mazda is a bit buzzy but incredibly reliable and fun.

The Porsche is insurance group 20 so that will sting!

The subaru is thirsty but fun and practical. Expect low 20's mpg. For 5k this will probably be quite old.

The VW's have a nice V6 and the chassis in the corrado is nice, but many are thrashed so you will have to be wise before you buy. Same with the Golf bar the chassis.

BMW silky straight 6's are nice and the cars are all round quality though perhaps not as reliable as one would expect.

If it were my money I would get either the 200 sx, the Prelude or the Xsara. Depending on how much the fuel costs would hurt I would conbsider a decent output turbo diesel and chip it. This will save the fuel and give an incredibly driveable car.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Cheeky
Given your price bracket and daily needs, a Prelude sounds good to me. They can take the miles, still look good, ultra reliable without the yawn factor, as well as being laden with electrical kit.
Go for it & enjoy!!
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - J Bonington Jagworth
Get the Mazda. I know not every day is sunny, but when it is, driving with the top down is sheer pleasure. Aircon is not the same!
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Shortwing Rob
"... but when it is, driving with the top down is sheer pleasure."

Disagree strongly.

The questioner did stipulate half an hour of motorway driving twice a day.

The alleged 'fun' of a soft top will pall very quickly with that to endure. Fine for the sub-30 mph traffic crawl though.

Rob P

5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Andrew-T
Agree Shortwing. I have had 3 soft-tops which I liked to drive, but ultimately moved on because of their daily impracticality - noisy on motorway, rain drips from roof when door is opened, restricted boot space and shape, etc.etc.

Jonesy - if a 306 GTI is OK, there are still a few nice 205 ones about without 6-figure mileages, and a lot less than 5 grand (but I suppose the 306s are cheap now too).
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - teabelly
How about an alfa romeo 145/146 2 litre cloverleaf? They have all the creature comforts along with good handling and a great sounding engine. P plates should be around the 3 grand mark and I found a 145 W reg cloverleaf for £4900 that is on autotrader at the moment.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Tomo
The MX5 is not the only Mazda. A quick scan of Parkers shows that a 323 V6 (2-litre) is within budget. I remember being very annoyed when I found out about it just after we had bought a car and I dared not go to SWMBO again. It does not need to be an unofficial import, either, and Mazdas tend to top these surveys.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Steve G
GTi-6 is a great car. Good MPG and sensible servicing costs (the boring bit). Most performance mags rate it as one of the best Hot Hatches ever. To me it does'nt have the 'boy racer' tag because its styling is quite understated. If you test drive one make sure you go past 4000 rpm because the change in engine note and perforamnce is electric - sounds like a rally car.
Teabelly's suggestion of a 145 QV is a good one. go for a 1999-on model and you have the revised twinspark engine and updated styling.
944, can you get classic car insurance on these ? normally very cheap
good luck

5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Richard Hall
Audi Coupe V6 or similar - I'm a little confused with
the Audi range in my price bracket...

Yes, the Audi range around this time was hugely confusing. £5K should get you a very nice 2.8 Coupe, but although awesomely capable, the driving experience is a little remote - a bit like a bigger, faster Golf. I loved my Coupe for its ability to make long journeys feel much shorter, its relative practicality (folding rear seats), the quality feel of all the interior fittings, and the gorgeous old 20 valve engine (better than a V6 if you ask me), but driving it fast on a winding country road was never a special experience as it was with the Mk1 Golf GTI I owned a few years ago.

Still worth considering though, especially a Quattro in the right colour.

Richard Hall
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - mat
Here is another one to add to the list - Fiat Coupe 20V Turbo.
5k would have bought you my 97P with leather interior, sunroof,
55K miles, FSH and recent cam belt change. These cars strike me
as serious bargins at present!

Performance is given with 220 bhp on tap and the handling is
great as well although some might find the ride a little firm
and noisy over speed bumps and poor road surfaces. Not as well
put together as premium brands but only let me down once in 2.5
years and 35K miles. Unique looking as well - real road presence
but not in the baseball cap sense.

Only drawbacks are group 19 insurance (900 a year for me) and
they do need to be maintained. This can result in eye watering
expense if you go to a Fiat main dealer but sensible prices
if you track down a specialist of which there are several up and
down the country.


5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - chris2003
How about another one to the list,

Volvo S40 T4 - 200bhp - 146mph - 0-60 in 7.3seconds - average of 30mpg - insurance group 16

Loaded with extras and lots of airbags

£5K should get an early one.

5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - peterb
V6 Mitsubishi Galant? Possibly on the large size?
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - doug_523i
How about a Mitsubishi FTO?
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - fitz
Fiat coupe much as I love the looks are generally unreliable, expensive to run, have only an adequate chassis and be aware that a timing belt change at 65k miles is about £700 at main dealer.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - terryb
Have a look at the fish4cars web site. Amazing what's available in that price range - and you can select cars within a certain area of your postcode, private/trade etc.


5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - roscopervis
There are a few horror stories about the Fiat Coupe coming through.

Again, if you are thinking about the GTI-6 the you must consider the Xsara VTS 2.0 16v coupe! For an equivelent car you would probably pay £1000 less! Handling and driving are almost the same on both cars, though the Xsara has slightly quicker steering and sharper turn in. So too is the engine, only the last 2/3 gear ratios are different. As the 6 speed box is unique to that car and its a slightly different design, there have been some early life failures and a general consensus of less durable than the more common 5 speed units.

Prelude has fantastic handling for FWD and strong build, the 200 sx has RWD handling and strong build. I would prefer the 200 sx but if I couldnt have one I would be happy with a 2.2 vtec prelude.
Third is the Xsara which is a bargain!

5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - jonesy127 {P}
Thanks for the input, everyone. ;-)

Well, I've certainly got lots to think about.

I take the point about rwd and lots of power. To be honest I had this romantic idea of driving the MX5 to work everyday, then on the occasional weekend popping over to Castle Combe for a quick blat. Of course in reality I need to think about enjoying the drive on the 5 days in between the weekends, and we can't stretch to 3 cars!

The Pug is still a little to 'baseball cap', and the Xsara not my taste styling wise, I don't think (aint I shallow?).

I did/and would still consider a Fiat Coupe, particularly with 220 bhp, of course. But I have fears about Fiat reliability/build quality?

An E36 Beemer is one to think about. Likewise an Audi...ooh, a Quattro?!

200 SX and Prelude 2.2 VTEC sound great, and I could be confident it wouldn't let me down in the mornings for work.

If only I had the balls to blow the lot on an old, potentially expensive-to-maintain car and get a late 80s Porsche 944 Lux...
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - nick
Has to be Jap I'm afraid. I'd get a Subaru, the handling is brilliant and the reliability second to none. I found a 2 litre Legacy saloon 2000W plate for just over £6K a few months ago and it is great fun to drive. Don't worry about image, you're too young for a pipe and slippers yet!
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Monaro
In NZ, a Legacy is one of the coolest cars a boy racer car have - after all the Evos, STis and RX-7s.
Given the lack of image and lack of attention that they have - I would love to have one in the UK.

Paul C
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - J Bonington Jagworth
"..Porsche 944 Lux.."

As everyone else seems to think I'm mad for recommending a soft-top, how about throwing caution to the wind and buying a Porsche 928? That should put a smile on your face (for a bit, anyway)...
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - jonesy127 {P}
I think the fuel consumption would turn it in to a frown...
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - J Bonington Jagworth
Well, maybe, but I don't think it's that bad. Big lazy V-8's with tall gearing can be quite frugal, and you'd have to be trying pretty hard to thrash it! If you did, the cost of new rubber (and possibly underwear) would be the main worry... :-)
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - thebouncingbunny
some interesting sugestions here!i would go for the mx5.ive had mine over 5 years(uk 1.8i) ive done 45000 miles in it,thrashed it relentlessly.no repairs.regular(diy)servicing new pads&tyres.not bad for a nine year old car.with the hood up its resonably refined.do it you wont regret it.nearly all the green with leather cars are dodgy imports.id say find a uk car privately,the dealers seem to be asking the same for imports.my cars a basic(no power steering or electric windows car)1.8.beware the after 1994 1.6 tho its only got 89 bhp(there are som l reg origonal 1.6 cars about)bunny
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - jonesy127 {P}
I'd be interested to hear by 'dodgy' imports, given they are basically the same car mechanically. Do you mean no history from Japan?

How do you find life on the motorway in your 5?
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - jonesy127 {P}
Er, how do I edit?
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - DavidHM
The only way to edit is to post lots of quality stuff, never swear, etc., until such time as you one of the moderators retires and you replace him.

Oh and by dodgy - yes, I agree, there are some well specified MX5s out there at fairly tempting prices but watch out for no history (unless you read Japanese and know what a service book should look like), are sure about parts availability locally, know the car *will* pass the next MoT as is (and hasn't got through the last few because the tester was asleep at the wheel), hasn't been nicked to order on another continent and is properly rust free and corrosion proofed.

All that in addition to the usual checks you'd run on any car.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - T Lucas
Just have to say for the money buy either Prelude Vtec or MX5 more smiles,no tears,as for'dodgy imports',subject to inspection,you will usually get a better car than the the UK equvilant for your money.With Preludes and MX5 parts are not a problem and you get a much better spec.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Maz
Too little for a good Scooby, I fear. I can only echo T Lucas. Nothing wrong with the imports, or the UK spec MX5s & Preludes. For £5k , would you expect fsh on a car 8-10 years old?

Half an hour on the motorway won't be a big problem in the MX5, but don't expect it to be a great track day car. Too little BHP and too much roll for that.

I've seen an SX on an R plate for £5 the other day. Let me know if you want more info on it and I'll try to dig it up.
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - jonesy127 {P}
...would you expect fsh
on a car 8-10 years old?

I don't see why not. My 9 year old Golf has a fsh.
I've seen an SX on an R plate for £5 the
other day. Let me know if you want more info on
it and I'll try to dig it up.

Five quid for an SX?? I definitely want to know about that one! ;-)
5 grand to spend and enjoyment wanted - Tomo
The question of "dodgy imports" tends to rear up here, and it is sure that there are some dodgy imports, as there are many dodgy "UK" vehicles. I venture to suggest that if one is looking at a car which has been imported by or through a UK firm which has stood the test of time by staying in business over a number of years, there is no more to worry about than in the purchase of any vehicle.

Value my car