We pick some of the best looking Japanese cars ever

01_best_looking_japanese_cars“Choose 40 of the best looking Japanese cars,” they said. Talk about a poisoned chalice. This is a highly subjective opinion, so you might not agree with our choices.

But if nothing else, these cars prove that Japan has given the world some truly beautiful vehicles.

Toyota 2000GT

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It might be a tad obvious to begin with the Toyota 2000GT, but few cars are as beautiful and beguiling as the ‘Japanese E-Type’. Had circumstances been different, the Yamaha-built 2000GT may have worn a Nissan badge, but by the time the alluring prototype had been unveiled at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show, its future as a Toyota had been secured. The Corolla might be Japan’s most successful export, but the 2000GT is its most beautiful.

Mazda RX-7 FD

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In his book Mazda MX-5: The Complete Story, Antony Ingram claims the third generation Mazda RX-7 was “one of a handful of Japanese sports cars that shocked the West out of its complacency towards Far-Eastern cars”. The FD wasn’t so much designed, but poured from a bottle. It’s just a shame that so many have been ‘tastefully modified’.

Toyota Celica A20

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If the 2000GT was the ‘Japanese E-Type’, the first generation Celica was the ‘Japanese Mustang’. But while the 2000GT was designed to be a low-volume sports car, the original Celica was aimed at delivering affordability and practicality to a wider audience. Many Celicas followed, but none could match the purity of the original.

Datsun 240Z

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“The difference between the Datsun 240Z and your everyday three-and-a-half thousand dollar sports car is that about twice as much thinking went into the Datsun. It shows. For the money, the 240Z is an almost brilliant car.” A quote from Car and Driver, June 1970, in which the journalist claimed the 240Z had the potential to give the Opel GT, MGB and Porsche 914 bloody noses. He was right: the 240Z outsold all European sports cars in the US.

Nissan Skyline GT-R PGC10

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Even the most diehard of Skyline fans might be forced to admit some of the cars are more brutal than beautiful, but there’s something wonderfully pure and innocent about the PGC10. This represents the very genesis of Skyline GT-R, and as such it deserves a place in the Japanese automotive hall of fame.

Lexus LFA

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The first Lexus LFA rolled off the production line in December 2010, a full decade after development had started. Two years later, number 500 was built, by which time the LFA had cemented its place at the top table of the supercar elite. None other than Jeremy Clarkson ranks it as the best car of all time.

Nissan 300ZX Z32

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Lamborghini liked the look of the Nissan 300ZX Z32 so much, it borrowed the headlights for its ageing Diablo. The 90s 300ZX managed to blend beauty with brute force and, in Twin Turbo guise, was able to rub shoulders with cars wearing Corvette and Porsche badges.

Honda NSX

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The new Honda NSX might be many things, but styling-wise it can’t hold a candle to the original. As enthusiasts, we’d prefer the pre-facelift version (because pop-up headlights), but the timeless styling of the NSX will always appeal.

Mazda Cosmo 110S

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The Mazda Cosmo 110S was as striking as it was innovative, being the world’s first mass-produced car to be powered by a twin-rotor rotary engine. Its styling is more ‘Jetsons’ with a hint of Italian seasoning than it is Japanese, but that doesn’t preclude it from a list of the best looking cars ever to emerge from Japan.

Toyota MR2 W10

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The Toyota MR2 will go down in history as Japan’s first mass production mid-engined car, but it also happened to be a very fine sports car. The ‘Midship Runabout 2’ was launched in 1984, although development work had begun in the mid 1970s.

Subaru XT

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The Subaru XT looked like it had been thrust straight out of a Famicom video game, with its distinctive wedge-like styling giving it a remarkable drag coefficient of 0.29. It was also a technical tour de force, with the turbocharged versions featuring an 80s-tastic digital dashboard. A sales success it wasn’t, but the styling is so of its time.

Datsun Cherry E10

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Proof that you don’t need deep pockets to put something distinctive on your driveway, the Datsun Cherry looked effortlessly cool. This was the first front-wheel drive Datsun and it carved a niche in the soon-to-be burgeoning supermini sector. For maximum style points, opt for the slightly oddball 120A Coupe (not pictured).

Honda CR-X

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While the European carmakers were engaged in a race to deliver the definitive hot hatch, Honda played a different card. The CR-X was little more than a shortened Civic, but the pert coupe offered fun by the bucket-load. It also helped that it looked a million dollars.

Isuzu Piazza

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The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Asso di Fiori was unveiled at the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show and would go on to become the Isuzu Piazza of 1980. “It is a concentrate of technology and innovative solutions that will be adopted all over the world: a technology that creates a school,” says ItalDesign Giugiaro.

Mazda MX-5

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With a face that looks like it has driven straight out of the 2006 Disney Pixar movie Cars, the Mazda MX-5 was always destined for greatness. Of course, the original MX-5 predates the movie by 17 years and it would go on to become the definitive junior sports car.

Now click to see the full top 40 on MSN Cars

Car crime

Revealed: the worst places in the UK for car crime

Car crime hotspotsLondon, Manchester and Bradford are the worst area in Britain for vandalism, car crime and road safety – with a staggering 1 in 3 Londoners having suffered car vandalism while parked up in their home area.

The figures are from official 2016 police data, claims data and consumer research. More Londoners than any other UK resident have suffered vandalism – 33% of them, in fact. That’s far ahead of Leeds and Glasgow which are placed second. 13% of locals have had a car vandalised there.

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But even this staggering figure doesn’t place the UK capital number one for the highest rate of car crime. That dubious honour goes to Manchester.

A whopping 192 car crimes per 10,000 registered vehicles have been recorded in Manchester – compared to, for example, 48 crimes per 10,000 vehicles in Glasgow, which ranked 10th in the analysis carried out by Rias.

London places ‘only’ third in the car crime rate, with 162 crimes per 10,000 vehicles.

However, while only 7% of residents in Bradford have experienced car vandalism, the roads in the area themselves are far tougher on cars and motorists: 64% think the roads are actually unsafe. More than half of drivers in Bradford say others routinely ignore the speed limits, for example.

Liverpool, in contrast, has the lowest car vandalism rate, and more Liverpudlians perceive their roads to be safe than in any other region of the UK.

Adam Clarke, managing director of Rias (a car insurer for the over 50s) said: “While official data appears to show that some cities have higher vehicle crime rates than others, people should always be mindful of crime in their city and not get complacent even when the crime rate is low.”

His top tops for cutting car crime include:

  • Never leaving valuables on show to tempt ‘smash and grab’ thieves
  • Turn your wheels towards the kerb when parking – it will put thieves off as it will take more time to drive away
  • Make sure your car is actually locked – it’s more common than you think!
  • Add on some anti-theft measures (don’t forget this when ticking the options boxes on a new car too)
Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

We race in the MINI Challenge: live blog

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racerThe MINI Challenge is one of Britain’s most popular one-make series, that has grown and grown in recent years. There are more than 60 cars in the championship – and the weekend, we’re racing one of them.

The series has four classes, and we’ve jumped straight into the top-line MINI JCW class. A 255hp 2.0-litre turbo racer with sequential gearbox, slick tyres, a wealth of telemetry and umpteen other tech delights.

It can genuinely claim to be a mini BTCC touring car.

Find out how we get on over the weekend… latest updates come first!

Sunday

1010h – weather update/2
You can watch MINI Challenge racing on Channel 4. Its presenter, Andy Jaye, is worried…

1000h – weather update
It dawned misty. It’s still a pea-souper. And, as the clocks have gone back, it gets dark at 1630h. Which will make today… interesting.

Weather update: still misty. No racing yet, alas! @miniuk

A photo posted by richard aucock (@richardaucock) on

0945h – team-mates

0915h – food check

But what do @miniuk Challenge race drivers and their teams eat, you ask? Answer…

A photo posted by richard aucock (@richardaucock) on

0900h – car check

Early morning alignment check. @miniuk

A photo posted by richard aucock (@richardaucock) on

0830h – weather check

Saturday race 1

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

I headed into race 1 with no confidence after having it ruined by qualifying. One step forward, etc. For hours, I’d been anxious, unsettled, annoyed, embarrassed, the full kaleidoscope of emotions. I’d come here to find out just what it was like to be a racing driver. I was certainly finding that out.

Half an hour before the race, the team pushed the cars down into the assembly area the the bottom of the pitlane. It was sunny and, as I walked behind, I remembered I’d forgotten my sunglasses. So I’d have to face all the stares at the amateur in the guest car without the security of my shade shield. Bizarrely, I was also wondering what I’d forgotten. Helmet, gloves, balaclava… what else do you need to go racing?

Ah, a radio. Which team manager Oli had. All MINI Challenge drivers are wired into race control so they can tell them off from the control tower. Belted, helmeted and settled into the car for the start, I hoped the one and only time I heard them would be for the radio check.

Race time. First, assemble on the grid. Then do a green flag lap to desperately get some heat into the brakes and tyres (I weaved furiously as I didn’t want a repeat of qualifying), then find your spot on the grid. I was row 13. Please, be lucky.

The red light flashed on in the distance (I could just see it past the massive aero wing of the car in front), so I followed Oli’s instructions: 4,000rpm and, when it goes green, feed in the clutch smartly but not with a bang, short-shift to second with the clutch, be relatively sensitive on the throttle, then you’re good to go. I got away OK. They bustled a bit in front, but I wasn’t last, and I made it through the first corner with just a dab of drama – nothing like the full-on sideways stuff of the car in front.

Behind me, thanks to a somewhat controversial protest in qualifying, was BTCC driver Jeff Smith. Blimey. He had a 10-second penalty and was clearly a man on the mission. He was soon with our gaggle of three cars, and I wasn’t going to get into his way going into the fiddly quick stuff. The crowd, and the marshall with the blue flag, had come to see him, not me, so I dived out his way. I was now at the back. This could only go one way.

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

But, sitting in my Audi earlier, having a quiet 20 minutes’ think, this is exactly what I’d aimed for. Qualifying was such a setback, I needed a confidence boost. Finishing the race with not a single moment with the car, with consistent lap times and a feel for it, was exactly what I wanted to do. So I bedded down.

By the end, I was delighted. I didn’t pass the cars in front, but I was catching them. I was running similar lap times and, as the results later showed, I wasn’t the slowest guy on the grid. I was up to pace; I had the pace to run on the MINI JCW grid, of sorts. And again, I knew where I could go quicker. I just didn’t want to get too cocky that time out because confidence matters so much. And there were still two races to go the next day.

In the pits, sweaty helmet off, race engineer (and multi-talented entrepreneur) John was there waiting for me. “Well done.” That meant a lot. Others took the glory but I was pleased myself, for different reasons. I’d learnt a bit more about what it’s like to be a racing driver and, while it’s still impossibly hard, it seemed a bit less insurmountable than this time yesterday.

One of the best bits was when team-mate James Turkington came up, cheery as ever, to find out how I’d got on. He’d had a good race but was keener to hear about me. The pleased smile said it all. I was back where I was at the start of the day. Hopefully tomorrow I could make progress again…

Saturday qualifying

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

Qualifying was horrible. All the good feeling I had from testing, gone in an instant. What was so incredibly frustrating was the fact I knew all this. Kinda knew what I was doing wrong. Yet still over-drove and did it all. Blame the pressure. Because I wasn’t expecting it, it overwhelmed me and put me back to square one.

Prominent in my mind was the fact qualifying is only 20 minutes. No problem if you’re a Lewis Hamilton, but a bit of an issue if you’re a bloke off the street. I put in my fastest lap deep into the session yesterday, once I had confidence withe car. To do this from the off was another matter entirely.

And so came the first spin, when I tried to reenact the heroics I felt yesterday through Hamilton. One 360. Later on, I tried to go flat into the Bombhole. Cue another 360. It wasn’t going well: that was 20% of my laps gone. I instead stepped back, confidence shattered. The aim was simply to post a lap time, whatever it was. I almost did it clean too, with just the one hot lock-up into the final corner.

Trouble was, behind me, unbeknown to me in my panic, was my team-mate for the weekend, Charlie Butler-Henderson. Reigning champ and in the hunt for the championship himself. Into the first corner, he was right on me, which was a panic-riddled stress (by this stage, I didn’t actually know it was him). I stayed on my line and fluffed letting him past into the second corner. He understandably wasn’t happy. Neither was I.

I ended up two seconds slower than yesterday. Any progression I’d made, eradicated. This wasn’t part of the gameplan. I should be two seconds up, not two seconds behind. I’d gone into the session knowing where to make up the time, and ending up losing it all hand over fist. I can’t describe how brassed off with myself I was.

Motor racing is cruel. It leaves you standing against the barrier, alone, at the end of qualifying, trying not to hide from everyone, as you screwed up so you shouldn’t rush off and go underground. Take the helmet off, let everyone see you, suck it up. It was the most gruesome half an hour I can remember, with a million thoughts rushing through my head and a frustrated sense of powerlessness at what I considered idiocy. It was all on track and going so well before I got in the car. What happened?

Feel for the drivers who screw up. You don’t know what they’re thinking, but believe me, it’s horrible.

Prologue – Friday testing

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

The MINI Challenge JCW car is a mini BTCC car. Yeah, right, you might think. Believe me, though, it is. The slick tyres, the turbo engines, the low centre of gravity, the sequential gearboxes: if you want to know what a touring car is like to drive, drive a MINI Challenge JCW car.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to one of my team-mates for the weekend, Rob Smith. He’s fresh from testing a BTCC Chevrolet, with one eye on a season in 2017 (yes, he’s that good). Verdict? It took him five laps to get up to speed in the BTCC car, after racing MINIs so hard all year. So much is similar, the sensations are familiar. The biggest thing he had to get his head around were the monster brakes BTCC cars run.

Me, I don’t quite have Rob’s experience. I turned up at 8am on Friday morning at a bright and blissful Snetterton without a clue what to expect. My remit was, as a bloke who had a race licence by dint of the fact he’d done three race weekends in 12 years, and nothing since 2013, ask himself how hard can it be anyway. Like you, I shout at the TV and mutter under my breath when watching motor racing. OK then, smartarse, someone gave me the chance to ask myself, let’s see how you get on.

From road to race in one weekend. And this is why the first session of practice was so horrific.

For starters, I didn’t know the car. That’s what testing’s for, you may say. Yup, but I didn’t know the track, either. Something else that was kinda important was me not knowing how to be a racing driver. Jeez, I’m the guy who gets 30mpg from Bentley Bentaygas. What I was about to do was quite a few stages removed from mooching down the M1, no matter how hazily I remember that Britcar race from eons ago in a Mazda MX-5.

So I went out and it was like learning to drive all over again. You know when you feel quite astoundingly clumsy, clueless and out of your depth? That. I went into it, naively, in road car mode, and within a couple of laps, felt like I was sat in the Mastermind chair being asked about a specialist subject about which I had not a clue.

The first impressions were electrifying. This is a stripped-out 255hp turbo MINI. It’s blindingly fast. With no heat in the front tyres, too fast for the grip available. The gearbox needs a positive action. The rear end is angry and all too ready to kick you if it senses you don’t know what you’re doing. Steering, immediate and wired. Oh, and it’s loud, and the gearbox whines, and the diff whines, and it’s hot, and every sense is assaulted. Bang! It was like being chucked out of an aircraft holding a parachute with no instructions on how to use it.

I clumsily drove around, Tried to stay out everyone’s way. Went off. Went off again. Had moments I’d be delighted with in a car, with the full-on dab-of-oppo action, but which gnarled me no end here because I was making no damnned progress. Simply flustering with what line to take, what gear to be in, when to choose my moment to jump out of the way of the hand behind me.

It defined deep end stuff. Think you can drive? Think you can tell Matt Neal a thing or two, because you’re quite tidy across the Evo Triangle? You won’t know what’s hit you. I was you in that first session and trust me, it’s horrible. You feel like the amateur you are and simply want to skulk off, ashamed, at anything you’ve ever said about any racing driver ever. They were all doing magic on the circuit while I was getting in their way being a liability.

But here’s the interesting bit. For the first time, I had data. I was driving terribly but at the end of the session, I could find out just how terribly I was driving and compare it with a professional who wasn’t terrible. How intriguing…

Josh drilled down immediately what was going on. I didn’t have enough confidence. Brakes were all over the place, throttle was tentative in the extreme, gears were guesswork, the lot. 20 minutes later, I had a set of instructions. Brake later, and harder. Be more positive on the accelerator. Try these gears. Have fun.

I did all that, and after second practice, ended up five seconds a lap faster that I was previously. Blimey.

And so it continued. I started becoming a lot happier in the car. I was more consistent. I was still seconds off the pace of the quick guys, but it was edging down to getting up with some of the others – more importantly, I knew where I was losing time. Just, frustratingly, didn’t yet have the confidence in the car to make it up.

If I were a racing driver, this would come a lot quicker. But I’m not. So it would have to be an analytical step-by-step process, one where I try to understand it all, rather than just dive in and try to scrabble some speed out of nowhere. Which is why I left the circuit for my night in a Travelodge relatively happy with my first-ever day’s testing as a racing driver.

Best used cars for less than £1,000

Best used cars for less than £1,000

Best used cars for less than £1,000

What can you buy for £1,000? A half-decent mountain bike, perhaps, or a fancy high-spec iPad Pro. Or an actual car that would, 10 years ago, have cost at least 10 times that price. Yes, just £1,000 can pick you up a sensible, reliable motor that isn’t an unroadworthy shed. We’ve searched the Auto Trader classifieds to find a selection of used cars you can pick up for less than £1,000.

To make the search a little more realistic, we’ve set a few ground rules. Firstly, the maximum mileage we’re interested in is 100,000, and we’re only looking at cars 10-years-old or younger. Yes, that makes our search a little more tricky…

Ford Fusion

Ford Fusion

We’ll start with one of the most undesirable cars currently listed on Auto Trader – but bear with us. The Ford Fusion was basically a jacked-up Fiesta, almost crossovery in design and expected to appeal to a youthful, lifestyle market. In reality, it was loved by the retired – who appreciated its low running costs and easy access. As such, they’re cheap (no one under the age of 70 really wants a Fusion) and have tended to have led easy lives.

We’ve found this example from 2008 with 94,000 miles on the clock. The pictures suggest it’s in good condition – a few stains in the boot and marks on the bumper aside – while the service history sounds promising. An MOT history search online suggests it sailed through its last test.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Citroen Xsara Picasso

Citroen Xsara Picasso

If it’s good enough for Ronnie Pickering… OK, the original Citroen Xsara Picasso isn’t the most appealing car, but its popularity when new means there a plenty of examples to search through on Auto Trader. It’s great for families, with all models coming with fold-down tables and three individual seats in the rear.

This Picasso we’ve found has covered just 75,000 miles and looks to be in excellent condition.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Reva G-Wiz

Reva G-Wiz

The Indian-made G-Wiz was marketed for its green credentials when it was launched in 2001, but many bought it for its London congestion charge exemption and free street parking. The downsides include a 45mph top speed, and don’t even think about crashing one. Still, if you live in London, at £999, it could be a very affordable way of getting around the city.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Fiat Panda

Fiat Panda

The second-generation Fiat Panda is a likeable and practical supermini – perfect as a first car or those who want a runaround with plenty of luggage space. We love the blue interior of this example.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Chevrolet Matiz

Chevrolet Matiz

A Chevrolet Matiz will never set pulses racing – but it’ll be incredibly cheap to run and, with five doors, it’s ideal for first drivers. More doors, more mates. This Matiz we’ve found being sold by a trader in Derby has an MOT until April and has a satisfyingly low 59,000 miles on the clock.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8

Incredibly, you can buy a sporty Mazda RX-8 for £1,000, and it falls within our strict age and mileage criteria. However, you’d be paying more than half the car’s worth every year for road tax, which stands at £515. We’ve recently reviewed one for our Retro Road Test – you’ll want to ask about its oil consumption and make sure it starts OK from cold. Potentially, it could be the most fun you’ll have for a grand. Or it could be a nightmare.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Vauxhall Astra convertible

Vauxhall Astra convertible

With winter well on its way, now could be a good time to buy a convertible. Seriously, they’re cheap, and a shortage of buyers gives plenty of haggling scope. While an old Astra convertible won’t be the most satisfying car for keen drivers, it will at least have room for all the family.

Check the hood is in good condition and operates correctly – it could cost serious money if it’s problematic. Oh, and ask about the category C write-off marker… with a car of this value, it could have been written off by relatively minor damage, but you’ll want evidence that it’s been repaired properly.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo

A Mondeo is always going to be a sensible car for those on a budget. You can get a lot of physical Ford for your money with the Mondeo, as many people searching within this price range favour the low running costs of a Fiesta or Focus. Avoid the problematic diesels – this 2007 1.8 LX looks great for the money.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Mitsubishi Lancer

Mitsubishi Lancer

The Mitsubishi Lancer is the lesser-known saloon car on which the hot Evo is based. While an Evo is way out of reach, this 1.6-litre Lancer could be a reliable car for sub-£1,000. Check for signs of a hard life – it might have been ragged by a boy racer who couldn’t afford the real deal.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Peugeot 1007

Peugeot 1007

More yellow! And sliding doors! When the Peugeot 1007 was launched in 2004, it seemed properly futuristic. When the old Top Gear trio got their mums to test it alongside the Honda Jazz and Renault Modus, they complained that the electric doors took too long to close and made access to the rear seats difficult. But still, we definitely would.

This 10-year-old model we found on Auto Trader has covered a sensible 83,000 miles and comes with a brand new MOT. Check the doors work properly – French electrics have a reputation for good reason.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Chevrolet Lacetti

Chevrolet Lacetti

Our Auto Trader search for a sub-£1,000 car with low miles and less than 10-years-old is chucking up a number of budget cars from South Korean manufacturers. One that’s caught our eye is this: a 2007 Chevrolet Lacetti. We like it for two reasons: Top Gear used one as a reasonably priced car, so at least you’ve got something to brag about down the pub; and it’s so bland no one else will even consider it.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

CityRover

CityRover

The CityRover was a desperate attempt to launch a supermini with zero budget whatsoever, and it’s nothing more than a rebadged Indian-market Tata Indica. Hopefully you’re learning by now, however, if you’re looking at sub-£1,000, it pays to consider motors that everyone else will overlook. It’s awful in most areas but, with just 39,000 miles on the clock, we bet this example has had the archetypal one elderly owner from new.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Proton Savvy

Proton Savvy

Talking of undesirable motors, there are a number of these about for less than a grand. While the Malaysian-built Savvy would never have won any group tests alongside the Fiesta or Corsa when it was new, its affordable price tag tempted many into Proton dealers. Their popularity with older clientele mean most have been looked after and covered few miles, such as this tidy 2007 example we found on Auto Trader.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

MG ZS

MG ZS

MG Rover went bust in 2005, so most of its cars are too old for our 10-year limit. But a few hung around unregistered – like, presumably, this one. One of the last MG ZS models off the line, there’s a huge enthusiast appeal for this. Even if you’re not an MG Rover apologist, it could potentially be a lot of fun for the money.

The 1.8-litre K-Series engine is known to be problematic, so check the oil for signs of coolant mixture, and we’d be curious about what it’s been lugging with the tow bar – it’s not a natural tow vehicle.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa

It’s time to be sensible again. Vauxhall Corsas aren’t exciting, but as the second most popular new car in the UK there are plenty around in the classifieds. Powered by the 1.4-litre engine, this example has avoided the first-time-driver tax (new drivers push prices up of lower-powered models), and looks good for the money. Careful though, the twin-exhaust suggests it could have been owned by a boy racer…

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Ford Ka

Ford Ka

We were hesitant to include the Ford Ka, as first-generation models are almost entirely rotten by now. It’s a shame, because it was a good car when it was new. There are loads available within our budget – look hard, and you might find a solid one. Cling onto it and it could even turn into an investment when all the rest have disappeared.

This 2008 example looks like it could be a good ‘un… there’s no clear rust in the picture (it’s usually the sills and around the petrol cap that go), and an MOT history search shows nothing to worry about.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Ford Sport Ka

Ford Sport Ka

If you want the ultimate Ka, there are a number of Sport Kas available for less than £1,000. Again, like the regular Ka, they love to rust – so give the sills a good prod and don’t dismiss any bubbling as ‘light surface rust’. We love the red and black seats in this example, but it’s definitely starting to rust in the usual spot around the petrol filler cap.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Mazda 6

Mazda 6

The Mazda 6 still looks like a relatively modern car, so it’s surprising to see it creeping within our £1,000 budget. An interesting alternative to a Mondeo, the 6 should prove to be reliable – but do look out for rust. We’d want to take a closer look at this example we’ve found on Auto Trader, however it could potentially be a bargain family car. It’s an estate, too, which is a bonus if you’re looking for practicality.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Skoda Fabia

Skoda Fabia

We rate the original Skoda Fabia highly, and a bargain-basement example could make for an excellent runaround for someone. It shares a platform with the Volkswagen Polo, but lacks its desirable badge – perfect for those of us looking for value for money. This example looks fairly tidy – although we’d be asking the seller to stick a fresh MOT on it.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra

We’ve already looked at an Astra convertible, but if you’re not bothered about soaking up the rays this winter, a sensible hatchback might be more your bag. If you’re happy to buy privately, you’re money will go further – and this automatic from 2006 looks like a steal.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Ford Focus

Ford Focus

If we’re including the Astra, it’d be rude not to consider a Ford Focus as well. It’s remarkable that you can now pick up a second-generation example within our budget, although do expect it to be a little tired at this price. We’ve found a 1.6-litre LX estate showing 93,000 miles at a trader for £990.

Buy this car on Auto Trader

Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra

The ‘K12’ shape Micra is arguably the best Micra ever made – although the firm will be hoping to repeat its success with the latest model, revealed at the recent Paris Motor Show. Find a good one and it’ll be a faithful supermini. This 1.2-litre Initia could be a sound buy.

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Citroen C4

Citroen C4

A 10-year-old Citroen C4 has potential to be more problematic than a Focus of a similar age, but it’s a billion times more interesting. With full services history and a three-month warranty, this example could be promising.

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Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo

We’ll end with a bit of a wild-card. You’ll struggle to find a Polo within our exact requirements for less than £1,000 – blame VW’s brand image for that – but we’ve found this example with 107,000 miles on the clock for less than our budget. It looks a steal… although the short MOT is a little off-putting. Go in with your eyes open and it could be a bargain.

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Accidental thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

Thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

Accidental thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

A Subaru owner in America was gutted to find her car missing from her driveway on Tuesday night – only for it to be returned the next day with a handwritten apology and $30 to cover the fuel used.

Erin Hatzi, of Portland, Oregon, posted the escapade on her Facebook account. It started when her car went missing, with CCTV showing a lady slowly opening the Subaru with a key and driving away.

Police were confused by the theft, as CCTV footage suggested the thief wasn’t in a hurry to get away with the car.

“She actually spent seven or eight minutes in the car texting before she drove off,” said Hatzi.

The next Facebook update came a day later, when Hatzi announced the car had been returned – along with a picture of a note that had been left in the car.

It said: “Hello, So sorry I stole your car. I sent my friend with my key to pick up my red Subaru at 7802 SE Woodstock and she came back with your car.

“I did not see the car until this morning and I said, ‘That is not my car.’ There is some cash for gas and I more than apologise for the shock and upset this must have caused you.”

The letter also provided the writer’s name and phone number.

“So so sorry for this mistake,” she added.

The car’s bemused owner says that police have confirmed that keys for some older Subaru models are interchangeable.

Nissan Sunderland

Nissan decision ‘massive vote of confidence in Britain’ says Unite union

Nissan SunderlandNissan has secured 7,000 jobs at its Sunderland factory, and a further 28,000 in the supply chain, by confirming the next-generation Qashqai and X-Trail will be built there. The Unite union says this is thanks to the “world class” workforce employed there.

It is a “massive vote of confidence in Britain’s world-beating car industry”, claims Unite.

The surprise announcement, which came today ahead of a decision previously expected next month, confirmed the next-generation Qashqai for Sunderland. In an added surprise, Nissan announced the X-Trail seven-seat SUV will also now be built there.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Nissan’s decision is a massive vote of confidence in the skills and expertise of a world-class workforce and testament to their hard work which has made the Sunderland plant one of the most productive in the Nissan family.

“The decision to build the new Qashqai and X-Trail in Sunderland is recognition of the UK car industry’s status as a world leader and secures tens of thousands of jobs at the Sunderland plant and throughout the supply chain.”

Burke also sounded a warning for the government, though, as discussions around Brexit continue. “It is vital that the government supports the car industry and secures tariff-free access to the single market to ensure other manufacturers follow Nissan’s lead and invest in the UK car industry.”

Although the future Qashqai has been secured, several other car manufacturers are due to make investment decisions for UK facilities, said Burke. Tariff-free access to the single market, stresses Unite, will play a key role in these decisions.

The next major UK car factory due to make an announcement regarding future product is Toyota. Its Burnaston facility makes the Auris hatchback and Avensis large family car. It’s unlikely the slow-selling Avensis will survive: all eyes are therefore on what Toyota decides to do with the Auris.

Nissan Sunderland

Sunderland safe: Nissan confirms car production will stay in UK

Nissan SunderlandNissan has confirmed that car production will continue in Sunderland following the Brexit vote.

The future of the factory appeared in doubt after Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn met with prime minister Theresa May two weeks ago. However, Nissan has now committed to remain the UK, stating that both the next Qashqai and X-Trail will be built in Sunderland.

The decision will come as a relief to the 7,000 workers at the plant, which is one of the largest employers in the north of England.

Sunderland opened its doors in 1986, and one in three British cars is now built there. Around two million Qashqai crossovers have rolled off the line over the past decade, with 80% of production currently exported.

Carlos Ghosn said: “The support and assurances of the UK government enabled us to decide that the next-generation Qashqai and X-Trail will be produced at Sunderland. I welcome British Prime Minister Theresa May’s commitment to the automotive industry in Britain.”

Mrs May called the decision “excellent news”, while business secretary Greg Clark said it was “proof of the strength of the sector”.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Today’s announcement is good news for UK Automotive and jobs, confirming Britain as a leader in automotive production. To secure this position, however, we need government to provide public assurance to investors that our advantages will be maintained – namely, a competitive business environment, the ability to recruit talent from abroad and the continuation of all the benefits of the single market as we leave the EU.”

Nissan makes the Juke, Qashqai, Note, Leaf and Infiniti Q30 models in Sunderland at present, so the addition of the X-Trail SUV is an unexpected bonus.

Peugeot 205 Rallye: Retro Road Test

Peugeot 205 Rallye review: Retro Road Test

Peugeot 205 Rallye: Retro Road Test

This is a forgotten hot hatch gem, that’s for sure. But you can be forgiven for forgetting about the Peugeot 205 Rallye. Here in the UK, it was little more than a spiced-up 1.4-litre single-carb 205 XS, producing not a great deal of power and providing nowhere near the excitement of a GTI.

But the car we’re testing for this week’s Retro Road Test is the real McCoy. It’s a European-spec LHD version of the Rallye, boasting a kerb weight of just 794kg: a whole 100 kilos less than the GTI. And a decent amount of power, too…

What are its rivals?

What are its rivals?

If quirky hot hatches are your thing, there’s no shortage of cars you should be considering. It’s a different character, but if you’re considering a 205 Rallye, you should definitely look at the more commonplace GTI. There’s also the newer and again, more common 106 Rallye, along with the hot Renault Clio Williams. The Citroen AX GT is a plucky little pocket rocket, while the much newer Suzuki Ignis Sport follows the Rallye’s ethos.

What engine does it use?

What engine does it use?

In European guise, the 205 Rallye dumps the lacklustre 1.4 in favour of a revvy twin-carb 1.3 producing 103hp  just 2hp short of the GTI when it was launched in 1984. Intended to compete in sub-1300cc rallying, the Rallye was a stripped-out homologation special.

What’s it like to drive?

What’s it like to drive?

At first, honestly, a little disappointing. It’s an old French hatchback, and it feels it. The brakes take some prodding, the steering is heavy and the interior, red mats aside, feels relatively normal. And old. This is not a car for drivers seeking instant gratification.

But as the Rallye starts to warm up, and you start to get into the experience, it gradually becomes more rewarding. It’s well suited to tight, winding B-roads (out of its element on larger roads), and it responds well to enthusiastic front-drive driving. So, on the brakes in a straight line before the bend, powering through and  whatever you do – don’t lift off. Not that it’s as snappy as the GTI.

The analogue steering is infinitely more communicative than the electrical systems fitted to today’s hot hatches. The performance, meanwhile, would probably be shown up by most modern turbodiesels but, once it’s warmed up, it’s fun to work it hard chasing the redline and staying below speed limits.

Reliability and running costs

Reliability and running costs

It’s an old French hot hatch so don’t expect it to be painless, although it’s a relatively simple car. Parts can be difficult to source  be prepared to join Peugeot clubs (there isn’t a dedicated 205 Rallye one in the UK, but there are plenty of more general ones) and fire up Google Translate in order to ship parts from abroad.

Could I drive it every day?

Could I drive it every day?

Cut and paste answer to almost every Retro Road Test we’ve done: you could, but you probably shouldn’t. It’s a rare car, especially in Euro-spec, and it’ll soon start to show its age if you did use one as a daily driver. Plus, the novelty of driving a left-hand-drive car without a radio and little in the way of creature comforts will soon wear thin.

How much should I pay?

How much should I pay?

Finding one in the UK is difficult, so providing a solid valuation is tricky. If you can find a cared-for original example, the limit is essentially the maximum you feel comfortable paying for an old Peugeot hatchback.

We’d probably budget around £10,000 for a nice one, or £15,000 for a minter. But bear in mind the direction in which GTI prices are going. A Rallye could be a sound investment.

What should I look out for?

What should I look out for?

Signs of abuse and crash damage are the main concerns. Look under the bonnet: does all the paintwork look original? Are there any signs of repair?

Other than that, buy with your head rather than your heart. If you’ve been waiting a while for one to be advertised, it’s easy to dismiss minor faults – but bear in mind that even simple parts could be nigh-on impossible to find.

Should I buy one?

Should I buy one?

In truth, it makes more sense to go out and buy a GTI. They’ve got more of a following  so could be a wiser investment  while support through clubs and online forums is more readily available. It’s easy to find a good one, too, as long as you’re prepared to pay good money.

If the right 205 Rallye comes up, however, grab it, spend as much as you can keeping it tidy and original, and enjoy driving one of the best forgotten hot hatches that never officially made it to the UK.

Pub fact

Pub fact

Top Gear’s Chris Harris bought a 205 Rallye last year. He described it as “every bit as special as an RS Porsche”, despite his slightly ropey example showing more than 300,000 miles on the clock and having been used as a tarmac rally car.

Thanks to Nick Bailey of Elan PR for the use of his lovely Peugeot 205 Rallye

Chucklevision: pedal-powered Vauxhall Corsa for sale on eBay

Chucklevision: pedal-powered Vauxhall Corsa for sale on eBay

Chucklevision: pedal-powered Vauxhall Corsa for sale on eBay

A Vauxhall Corsa converted to run on pedal power is for sale on internet auction site, eBay.

Described by the seller as a ‘BikeCar’, the Corsa is advertised for £1,600 and has attracted 130 curious watchers since it was listed on Monday.

“I have a history of making unusual bikes and cars,” explains the Sussex-based seller. “This is this year’s project, and now I offer it for sale to anyone who is into interesting, unusual stuff like this.

“The idea behind the project was this: Make a four-person pedal-powered car, except instead of starting from scratch, fit all the cycling mechanicals into an existing car normal car, keeping elements of the original car such as the lights, electric windows, horn, doors, mirrors, etc.”

He adds that a Vauxhall Corsa was chosen because they’re small and light, with plenty of space inside for all four riders. A number of challenges had to be overcome, meaning the project took longer than expected.

“I was originally thinking of using BMX wheels and brakes with MTB suspension, but the reality of that was they would not be strong enough,” he says.

Chucklevision: pedal-powered Vauxhall Corsa for sale on eBay

The car’s chassis has been replaced by plywood, while the seats are foldable steel camping chairs bolted to the floor.

The suspension uses dampers from a Honda CBR motorbike, while the wheels are heavy-duty steel pit-bike wheels with Michelin tyres.

An electronic control panel has been installed on the dash, controlling the LED headlights, electric windows and horn.

The seller doesn’t suggest how road legal the pedal-powered Corsa is. With no number plate, it could attract the attention of the police – but, with no engine-power, you could argue that it’s no different to riding a bicycle. Good luck having that conversation.

UK car exports are booming - but Brexit Britain slumps

UK car exports are booming – but Brexit Britain slumps

UK car exports are booming - but Brexit Britain slumps

Doubts over the economy hit the car industry last month – with a 10.6% slump in the number of British-built cars sold within the UK compared to the same time last year.

That’s according to production figures released this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which reveal that this dip was offset by the number of cars being exported worldwide.

The number of exports increased by 5.0% – up to 123,119 in September 2016, contributing to a year-to-date total of more than one million (up 12.2% compared to 2015).

This puts added pressure on the UK Government to negotiate a fair trade deal between the UK and Europe when article 50 is triggered by Theresa May.

“British-built cars are in demand across the world as demonstrated by the double digit growth in exports this year, resulting in more than a million cars produced for international markets,” explains SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“The vast majority of cars manufactured here in the UK are destined for abroad and future growth will depend on securing our international competitiveness and the barrier-free access to major global markets that has enabled UK Automotive to thrive.”

The SMMT recently revealed that the number of private buyers registering new cars dropped by 1.7% in the plate-change month of September.

UK car exports are booming - but Brexit Britain slumps