The Vauxhall VX220 is at the top of our shopping list this week
Vauxhall VX220, £19,950
Why didn’t things work out for the Vauxhall VX220? On paper, it seemed to have all the ingredients needed to shake up a niche vehicle segment. It was light, mid-engined, striking to look at and properly rapid, outperforming the likes of the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota MR2 with ease.
Alas, the VX220, launched in 2000, was the unfortunate victim of badge snobbery and was often disregarded by drivers who considered it to be nothing more than a rebadged version of the Lotus Elise S2.
Although it was true that some of the VX220’s brilliance came from its Lotus-derived underpinnings, including the Elise’s bonded, lightweight aluminium chassis tub, the two cars actually shared only 141 components (around 10% of its total parts).
Vauxhall gave the VX220 a wider rear track and longer wheelbase, added anti-lock brakes and swapped the Elise’s 16in wheels for a 17in set.
It was all change in the powertrain department, too. Vauxhall removed the original Elise’s Rover-sourced K-series engine and replaced it with a normally aspirated 2.2-litre Astra SRi unit, which produced 145bhp. A 2.0-litre turbocharged engine was offered from 2003, which upped the power to 197bhp.
The 2.0 turbo version covered 0-62mph in just 4.7sec, despite being slightly heavier than the naturally aspirated model (930kg compared with 870kg), but both offered supercar-rivalling performance.
We think anyone who missed out back in the early noughties should make amends today, because the VX220 is still excellent to drive. But you might want to get in sooner rather than later because used prices are starting to climb.
Unfortunately, numbers are relatively limited. Production ended after just five years and there are fewer than 800 VX220s on UK roads today, according to howmanyleft.co.uk.
Our pick is one of the later, 2005 Turbo models, with 56,000 miles on the clock. It’s priced at £19,950 – a good deal when you consider that it comes with a comprehensive service history and a recently replaced cambelt and water pump. Its rims, underside, interior and Targa-style top are all in near-perfect condition and, unlike many other examples, it hasn’t been modified.
Verdict: Take it
Nissan Juke, £10,594: The commercial success of the Nissan Juke is one of the main reasons why the compact crossover segment is so well populated today. But despite being something of a pioneer, the first-generation Juke had its flaws, including its cheap interior and poor ride. This one, at £10,594, is also expensive for a base-spec model.
Verdict: Leave it
Honda CR-Z, £4995: Powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor, the CR-Z is fun to drive, even though its 9.1sec 0-62mph time isn’t exactly worldbeating. Still, it’s quicker than a contemporary 2.0 TDI Audi TT and it offers great economy of up to 56.5mpg. This regularly serviced example from 2011 is for sale at an attractive price and comes with dealer warranty
Verdict: Take it
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, £7900: Here’s a great-looking small hatchback with decent all-round ability. However, this example has only been on the road since 2015 yet has already received a new starter motor, cambelt, water pump, flywheel and clutch. Add to that a small driver’s footwell, an awkward driving position and tiring levels of road noise and it’s one to avoid.
Verdict: Leave it