RE: PH Service History: Sparing the horses

RE: PH Service History: Sparing the horses

Saturday 4th November 2017

PH Service History: Sparing the horses

Matt's epic Citroen C1 drive in Spa has inspired Scrof to talk low-powered fun - and unearth some used gems for peanuts



It is a well-established theory in the world of motoring - and one to which I subscribe fully - that one does not necessarily need a great deal of power in order to have fun. Indeed, quite often, the most fun you can have in a car is with relatively little power at your disposal.

It's an ideal my esteemed colleague Mr Prior put to the test a couple of weeks ago, when he went out to Belgium in order to thrash a Citroen C1 around Spa for several hours. For some of you, this will sound like hell on earth, but I for one was so excited by the idea that I spent roughly the same amount of time as Matt was driving his C1 trying to work out how I could get the idea of buying and racing one past Mrs R.


Suffice it to say that I haven't yet, but I remain convinced of the principle that something cheap and cheerful has the potential to provide motoring enjoyment on a scale far beyond that which it has any right to.

Oh, sure, big power has its place. But I've lost count of the times I've been lucky enough to drive something big and silly and powerful, and wished for a bit of tarmac clear and smooth enough to really exploit its potential. Brief, short spurts of manic acceleration and face-distorting grip, spliced in between a dawdling tractor here and a blind crest there, are all you really get.

Which is why I regularly find myself having just as much fun - often even more so - in something with a fraction of the power. It's a different type of fun, too; something with 'proper' performance these days usually deals in the sort of head-spinning rapidity that results in one huge adrenaline hit, whereas a cheaper and lighter alternative more consistently plasters a big, asinine grin all over your face. These are cars you laugh along with. And, in part at least, that's because the chances of your spirited drive across the moors ending... well, embedded in the moors, are that much more slim, what with the speeds involved being so much more modest.


Best of all, they're seriously cheap. And here's where the real joy comes in, because the amount of joy they dish out is often inversely proportionate to the cost they incur. Take the most obvious proponent of this sort of motoring, for example: the Fiat Panda 100HP.

With, as its name suggests, a paltry horsepower figure that only just scraped into three figures, it was pushing it a little even when it was new to call it a hot hatch. Yet the sporting aspirations of the 100HP's styling - not to mention its taut chassis, lowered and stiffened up compared with the stock Panda - make it a deeply desirable little car, and one that's the epitome of less-is-more motoring.

This one looks cheap at £3,440 - but in reality, this is top money for a 100HP these days, and really only justifiable for a car with such low mileage and fantastic provenance. A similarly well-kept example with more miles on it can be had for little more than £2,500, these days, while two grand gets you a leggy example. That's a lot of fun for relatively little cash.


But the Panda 100HP isn't the only car of its type out there. There's also the Suzuki Swift Sport, of course. There's a new one arriving imminently, and we've run the outgoing model as a long-termer, but for me it's the first-generation car that's the most exciting at the moment. Its heady 125hp power figure is almost too great to make it worthy of inclusion here, but the dedication to a giggle-worthy driving experience at its most basic is evident throughout, from the rorty little engine to the way the chassis is set up to deliver gentle, manageable lift-off oversteer.

It's a shade more expensive than the Panda, but then again you get more space and more power too, so you pays your money, you takes your choice. This one gives you a full history, low mileage and even a questionable decal package, all for a smidge more than £4,000.

These two tepid hatches do, of course, take as their starting point cars of a sportier bent, aping their looks if not quite their power. Some of the best cars of this type, though, hide their talent under a bushel. Take the outgoing Ford Fiesta, for example. The later 1.0-litre turbo models are the best for this sort of thing, with their fabulous three-pot engine note, gutsy mid-range shove and astonishing ability to rev out.


But even the earlier 1.25 is a hoot; arguably just as keen to rev, and endowed with a blissfully feelsome and responsive chassis that can be persuaded into doing... well, pretty much whatever you want it to. This mid-range Zetec is far more fun than it has any right to be, costs just a few grand, can be run on peanuts, and best of all, nobody will ever know just how much fun you're having.

And of course, if you want to follow in Matt's footsteps, there's always the Citroen C1. Granted, it was never the most enticing drive in original form, but if Matt's experience is anything to go by, a few cheap mods can make it one of the most hilarious little buzzboxes going. Buy this one, with a full history and low mileage, for two grand; enjoy a year or two of cheap, entertaining motoring, and then when you're bored of it, go racing.

Author
Discussion

H20DJY

Original Poster:

183 posts

25 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I am going to have to put a shout in for the Ford Ka of course!

Especially the Sport. I don't think I will be without one for a while yet!

Dafuq

354 posts

102 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
VW up.

Bought one over here 3 years back for nipping around Sydney whilst waiting for my ordered car to be built.

Testament to how much fun it is is that I still have it, every journey is a hoot.

Now bought a place out in the country and been pondering is it time to let it go. No way! It's coming with us, soon to be seen four wheel drifting through corners around the vineyards of the Hunter Valley. smile

Small cars rock, always have, always will. (But then I am biased as my first ever car was a 2CV6)

richthebike

311 posts

69 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
H20DJY said:
I am going to have to put a shout in for the Ford Ka of course!

Especially the Sport. I don't think I will be without one for a while yet!
It always makes me laugh when I see you in your Ka Dave... M3, nah. 997, nah. Classic RS, nah. Leave them all on the drive and take the Ka.

Jimmy Recard

14,636 posts

111 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I’ve always had a thing for the Panda 100HP. It’s on the shortlist

Onehp

522 posts

215 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Deeply enjoyed the Swift Sport mk2 I had for a short time, but it was a tad too impractical with a miniscule boot and the rear seat that only folded in one piece. The later five door version solves the latter. The cheap options discussed here are great, but if one only has room for one car and wants some modern features/safety, I am really looking forward to the upcoming Up GTI 5 door.

Moving up this game to 'sportscar', the Mazda MX-5 ND 1.5 with 16" original alloys is perhaps the most enjoyable car I've driven, full stop. No waiting game, waiting for traffic to clear, waiting for the road to open up - no paranoia over cops, safety converns or indecent driving... nothing of that, it was simply enjoyable from the first meter to the last (no traffic jams though), getting to and at the speed limit, and hilarious just above. Nor did I get ideas of this and this I want to change like I do with almost every other car, no it seemed just right out of the box.

Too bad it is so utterly impractical for anything more than one passenger and two bags of luggage. Which again turns my hopes to that UP!coming GTI as the most fun new daily driver out of the box.
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mr shoddy

34 posts

56 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Suzuki Ignis Sport

wab172uk

1,038 posts

159 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I have a Twingo 133-RS as a run-a-round, and it's great fun.

Handles like a gokart, is packed with all the gismos you need, air con, cruise, Bluetooth etc.

It may not be fast in a straight line, but as soon as you hit some bends or a roundabout, the fun begins.

V8 FOU

2,523 posts

79 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Not quite the same ting, but my Alfa147 2.0 Selespeed.
What a hoot and cost well under a grand.

Plate spinner

12,716 posts

132 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I'd also nominate the early MINI variants. Modest power in One and Cooper flavours, but a really nice chassis set up. Huge fun.
Even the Cooper S models are cheap now - I loved mine on 15" winters!

TooMany2cvs

26,644 posts

58 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I seem to recall a superb Bulgin column from CAR, back in the glory days of the 90s, saying exactly this.

The main thing that's changed is that many prosaic cars are now as fast as performance models were then.

172

84 posts

70 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
mr shoddy said:
Suzuki Ignis Sport
This. I just paid 400 pounds for one.

3 grand for a panda. Ouch

Ambleton

4,274 posts

124 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I get laughed at all the time when I say this. Modern cars are too powerful, they encourage you to drive badly. The trick of going quickly on any road is conservation of momentum.

My wife has a C2 loeb with about 125bhp and its immensely fun with the very short gearbox and wheels on all four corners. If you get to know a B road well and stay up in the revs on a dry day, any more power would be dangerous.

My toy car is a 2cv powered pembleton, which you drive at full throttle everywhere and you can really hustle it along if you're on it. Although the motor in that is due to be swapped out to a moto guzzi engine with 70% more power to a mind boggling 48bhp!

My big old lexus daily is the antithesis of this though. Big, fat, heavy straight 6 auto that's perfect for motorway mile munching.

Lukeypoodle

59 posts

10 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
wab172uk said:
I have a Twingo 133-RS as a run-a-round, and it's great fun.

Handles like a gokart, is packed with all the gismos you need, air con, cruise, Bluetooth etc.

It may not be fast in a straight line, but as soon as you hit some bends or a roundabout, the fun begins.
Another vote for the twingo here. I recently found myself needing a new daily driver and tried a good number of the junior hot hatches. Found the mk1 swift excellent but too impractical for interior space and short gearing as a daily. Yaris 1.8 Sr was good but more of a top spec warm hatch than a sporting one. Fiat 500 and mito were good but a bit lardy and less fun than the others. Drove the Twingo last and put a deposit on it there and then. Better handling than a Clio 172, really practical (if you avoid a cup).

Took it over to the triangle first well I had it and it was superb, the car felt right at home and it's now definitely a long term keeper.


Buff Mchugelarge

3,265 posts

82 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I've got a Seicento Sporting Abarth. I know all about cheap smiles laugh

Jonesy23

3,366 posts

68 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Something with 100hp or thereabouts isn't particularly low powered. It's mid range.

Low powered is around 50hp, and trying to thrash around Italy or elsewhere in a modern small hatch with that sort of power means maintaining every hard won bit of momentum possible.

Usually too much like hard work to be actually entertaining with cars that slow. It has novelty value but not for long.

The 100hp stuff is quick enough that you aren't really working at it, it just isn't a performance rocketship.

TooMany2cvs

26,644 posts

58 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Jonesy23 said:
Usually too much like hard work to be actually entertaining with cars that slow. It has novelty value but not for long.
Power-to-weight. Also, power-to-grip.

avenger286

309 posts

35 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Another vote for the Twingo 133 cup had mine 5 years the only car I have ever kept for longer than 2 and will now keep there even more fun with an extra 35bhp and less weight! Also the 1.2 tce gt is also great fun.
Twingo always gets forgotten about on pH for some reason!

Riverside Red

639 posts

67 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
Was thinking about buying a cheap Suzuki Swift Sport for the winter, but ended up spending a lot less to put winter tyres on the C63.

Running costs for three cars was just a bit too much to justify.

I'm sure I would have loved the car though.

RR

Robshaw92

53 posts

48 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
I too can vouch for as I like to call them "underpowered cars". I owned an old V reg proton satria that was a 1.3 with about 70hp to get me through the winter, was heaps of fun! Dropping gears and revving to the redline to overtake a tractor on a incline was a challenge, but made this much more enjoyable and sense of achievement as you overtook. I then moved onto a ford puma for the following winter which I ended up taking round silverstone at PHSS - granted that had a 1.7lump but still cheap and enjoyable even though the silverstone track is a fast free flowing track. biggrin

V8RX7

15,867 posts

195 months

Saturday 4th November 2017
quotequote all
The answer - as always - is MX5