Look beneath the surface and there are some devilishly interesting hot hatches with classic potential out there.
First we have the Mini John Cooper Works GP. Launched in 2012 as the second-generation Mini was being pensioned off, just 2000 examples were made, 459 of them earmarked for the UK. At first glance, it looks like another expensive (£29,000) limited edition of even more limited interest. But that’s wrong: it has an uprated 215bhp version of the JCW’s 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, sits lower, has adjustable coilover suspension (a first for a production Mini) from Bilstein, more powerful six-piston brakes, bespoke road-legal track-day tyres and an aero bodykit that actually makes a difference.
Inside, it has front Recaro seats wrapped in Alcantara and behind them a strut brace in place of a bench.
Our find is a 2012 car that has done 64,000 miles. That’s a little higher than average, but at least that means it hasn’t been sitting around.
It has only partial service history, although the vendor claims to have recently treated it to uprated brake discs and pads. It’s being privately sold so is cheaper than dealer ones.
old so is cheaper than dealer ones. Even so, the price is low enough for us to want to take it for an extended test drive and to examine it carefully from head to toe. After all, its trackday tyres and lowerable suspension might well have been used in anger on a track (note: it has had uprated front and rear springs fitted). Never been raced or rallied? Look the seller in the eye as they answer that one.
Reassuringly, though, it has had a regular diet of high-quality oil and is claimed to have proved reliable.
Ford Fiesta ST200 £12,200: Drivers of the standard Fiesta ST could get 197bhp in overboost, but the ST200 made this as standard, with overboost taking it to 212bhp. Combined with a shortened top ratio, it’s of more than passing interest. This 2016 car has done 58,000 miles.
Volkswagen Lupo GTI £5995: The Lupo was a harmless city car, but in GTI form it grew horns. Its 1.6-litre engine made just 125bhp but had only 960kg to lug around, so it was able to outsprint the larger Polo GTI. The seller of this cherished 2001 example with 69,000 miles knows its value.
Honda Beat £6999
Morris Oxford £8000
Felix Page: Well, James, you can’t say we make it easy for you. Max looks to have stolen an exhibit from the British Museum, while I’ve kept things funky with this pint-sized 1990s roadster, last seen on these pages over a year ago and still inexplicably for sale. This Honda Beat’s… erm… striking livery lends the 760kg two-seater a welcome degree of extra visibility.
Max Adams: Beating up my choice already, I see. Who could have a mean thing to say about a lovely pea-over-olive 1959 Morris? Nostalgia is big in the classic car scene, and many of its members will have fond memories of family trips in an Oxford.
FP: Let’s just hope its chassis isn’t so multi-coloured, eh? You’re right about nostalgia: I can see James haring around in a Beat wearing his Kappa tracksuit with Blur turned all the way up.
MA: I doubt any of Blur’s albums contain a song that would impress James, whereas my multi-tone Morris will. Plus, it has a patina that denotes the honest originality that all good collectors look for.
FP: It hardly screams fun, though. Whatever your thoughts on the Honda’s cartoonish livery, you can be sure that it will get the phone cameras snapping on your way down the high street.
MA: The current owner of this Morris used it as a wedding car, and everyone takes pictures of that sort of thing. Plus, all of that chrome is sure to catch some admiring glances.
Verdict: Colour me sold on that comical Honda.