As a motoring journalist I get to sample some truly brilliant pieces of engineering. The diversity of one day playing with the latest Aston Martin and the next Ford’s brilliant new Focus ignites my passion for what I do every time I set out to get work done. I hate to brag but I wouldn’t want to do anything else, this is me living my dream. However just because you are leant a shiny new car to write a review doesn’t mean you get to keep it at the end. So when I’m often asked “what do you personally drive?” my response often beings with “erm, well…” Truth be told journalism in general doesn’t pay all that well but again its a sacrifice myself and all other journo’s are willing to make to do what they love.
Now being the young lad that I am means two things for me when driving around in my own car. 1) Insurance costs are more painful than castration. 2) Owning a performance car of any sort results in bankruptcy. So when setting out a few weeks back to buy a new car I set myself the challenge of finding out just how much “fun” you could go out and buy for £800 and still afford to run/tax and insure the car.
After beating away rafts of Renault Clio’s that often enjoy that old French past-time of leaking I found myself looking at a list of cars that weren’t very appetizing. Sure a Ford KA makes perfect sense if your a girl but as a bloke I’d rather not have the piss taken out of me every time I turn up at the pub. Also Ford Fiesta’s were a reasonable price and very solid cars in general but ever so slightly… Pedestrian. Feeling like I was at the bottom of a never ending pit of car-less-ness (not a word, but it is now) I took that mortal gamble of looking on Ebay.
It is always a risk looking for cars here as many are closer to death than the coffin dodger in the home next-door but what I stumbled upon was something rather interesting. I’m not going to pretend it’s a Ferrari, mainly because its a Vauxhall Corsa, but this specific Corsa B had a history worth knowing about. Built in 1999 this car is one of the last thousand or so of this shape to be produced, later replaced with a more rounded model. Interestingly Vauxhall phased out the old engine that should be in this car in favor for the newer Corsa’s engine to insure there was no overlap in parts during the change over. So the result is that externally it looks like a dull 12 year-old Vauxhall but in truth this cars 1.2 litre injection engine belongs in a newer car. The lack of weight in the old body combined with the increased performance of the newer engine means that the little hatch is a riot to drive.
Ok, so the steering is a bit wooly and the suspension quite firm but throw it into a corner and the understeer is very manageable and even accurately controllable from stabs of the throttle. Though I will say fuel consumption is poor as the high revving engine (6500rpm+) doesn’t make the most of the older style gearbox. Put it this way, I only covered 200 miles on £85 worth of petrol! However, every mile that the car was “let loose” I had a smile on my face. The true performance of this car is still unknown due to the abnormal combination of engine and chassis, but all I will say is that this silver enigma will more than outdo the standard cars performance figures.
I know this is all from a bias opinion due to the fact that I eventually bought the car but the point still stands. You can afford on a low budget to have some fun behind the wheel if you look closely enough and reframe from buying a Rover. The rust, the wonky air vets, the heavy throttle pedal all dissipate when you drop it into 3rd, hear those revs climb and hit the open road.
Yes it is embarrassing turning up to BMW with a Vauxhall hatchback but they don’t know of this cars dirty little secret.