These tarted-up hatchbacks and saloons with wings and spoilers and stripes and lights, that we tend to worship here, are very often a pain in the arse to drive on the sort of journeys that inevitably litter our daily lives. Indeed I can only think of the Golf GTI and R as being what I'd call performance cars that are truly so easy to drive that even my ancient mother could just about manage them.
I've just stepped out of a Focus RS whose seats forced on me a driving position so compromised, and whose limited lock and hard ride caused me such agonies, that I couldn't walk properly for a week. The week before, a Civic Type R proved such a pain to see out of and such a liability to manoeuvre in our multi-story car park that I was looking for any excuse I could find to swap it for a Seat Ateca.
But here's the rub. These cars are also gloriously desirable. Flawed, of course, but a flawed diamond is still a diamond. Find the right road and they sing, and their extra tautness becomes a joy. Even at town speeds, they offer some of the thrill and communication that a supercar does, as the wheel wriggles in your hands and the engine note burbles its pent-up intent. It's why we'd all want a 205 GTI, but not an ordinary 205, or an i30N, but not an everyday i30.
The barge pole hasn't been made with which I'd push away the standard Mitsubishi Lancer, but give me an Evo VIII FQ320 and I'll put up with a bad back, at least while there's still petrol in my veins. If you haven't driven one you should. Think 320hp and devastating speed, with 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds and 0 to 100mph in under 12. Think 1g in corners and the ability to jink like a gazelle. Add in electronically controlled four-wheel drive, an active centre differential and Bilstein-damped suspension and you've got yourself a no-compromise deal; just give me time to phone BUPA.
This 2005 one we've found in our classifieds is massively tempting, even if at a tad under £15k it's not exactly a bargain. However, it has a service history that seems to relate to most of its 95,000 miles, as well as its seemingly sensible modifications. Now, the FQ required servicing every 4,500 miles, so it's worth checking very carefully that that has been adhered to, and its appetite for rubber is legendary. It also works much better on some tyres than others, so do your research and shop carefully - the best cost a fortune. Used in anger you're unlikely to see more than 20mpg, and insurance and tax? Best not to ask.
So, it's expensive. Possibly even a bit passé now. Certainly uncomfortable. But on a good day this car can flick like a rally car and dance like Darcey Bussell, so if you want to bring out your inner Makinen you might think it worth the outlay. There's no gain without a little pain, after all.
SPECIFICATION - MITSUBISHI EVO VIII FQ320
Engine: 1,997cc, inline four turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 326@6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 306@4,500rpm
First registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 95,000
Price new: £29,999
Yours for: £14,995
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