So I was looking for a cheap hot hatch
I briefly wanted to get a cheap so-called “hot hatch” so I could have some fun driving around town while I saved up enough money for a true sports car (since I refuse to take a bank loan). After selling off the Supra, I didn’t want to lose touch with a manual car. The ideal temporary-replacement used car I wanted had to be small, have decent power for its weight, have a manual gearbox, and be really cheap. This pretty much removed most reliable-but-slow-and-sloppy Japanese commuter compacts from my list sadly. So what I came across in my search were four Europeans and one Japanese. My target price was Dhs 10,000, but I was willing to part with up to Dhs 20,000 for a nicer one.
2000-2003 Peugeot 206 GTi
Sub-compact. 2.0-litre 134 hp/190 Nm. Manages 0-100 kph in 8.5 seconds. Torquey engine and handles very well. Average reliability. Found a 2000 in crappy condition for Dhs 11,000 and a nice 2003 for Dhs 21,000. Performs almost as well as the 206 RC, but I didn’t want to spend Dhs 20,000 on this good-looking car that everyone else will think of as a rental sub-compact.
1996-1998 Seat Ibiza Cupra
Sub-compact. 2.0-litre 150 hp/180 Nm. Can do 0-100 kph in 8.2 seconds. Torquey engine and handles very well, while looking good too. Above-average reliability. Only found a 1998 for Dhs 8,500 with full dealer-maintained history, but still in awful condition.
2000-2004 Seat Leon 20VT
Compact. 1.8-litre turbo 180 hp/235 Nm. Can do 0-100 kph in 8.0 seconds. Good mid-range torque, spacious interior and uses Audi cabin trim. Below-average reliability. Found a 2001 for Dhs 21,000 with malfunctioning ABS and small dents on most of the body panels. With no big discount, I walked away.
1996-2000 Honda Civic VTi Hatchback
Compact. 1.6-litre 127 hp/152 Nm. Manages 0-100 kph in 10 seconds if abused. Mistakenly assuming the VTi is “quick,” we found a clean 1996 dressed up to look like a 1999 Type-R, so we really wanted to buy it, even for the high asking price of Dhs 16,000. And then we drove it. The reliable-but-gutless high-revving VTEC engine was a deal-breaker. There is almost no torque below 5000 rpm. Who wants to wait for 5000 rpm when entering a roundabout?
1993-1998 Volkswagen Golf VR6
Compact. 2.8-litre 174 hp/235 Nm. Can do 0-100 kph in 7.9 seconds or less. This MK3-generation is as quick as the newer MK4 Golf, while handling better and being more reliable. Sadly, we haven’t found a VR6 with a manual yet, except for a 2.0-litre 150 hp GTi model for Dhs 8,500 that can do 8.5 seconds. The car has no respect on the roads anyway, looking the same as the Japanese-imported basic models, so we weren’t too keen on buying one.
Any of these cars can be cheap fun, so I’d recommend any of them depending on your needs. The listed European cars aren’t as reliable as the Japanese, but should be cheap enough to maintain. Oddly enough, the worst car in the group is the Civic, and yet Honda fanboys have kept prices artificially high, while promoting the myth that Hondas are fast. Any of the other European cars, with their crappy resale values, can be bought for little money while being a lot faster. It’s just that they are very rare, and it can be hard to find a good one. I unfortunately realised that some rich Western people use the dealer for maintenance, but still abuse the hell out of their cars, so it is not a guarantee of a good deal. Look for lady-driven examples.
Hunting over a period of three months, I realised that my bank balance was growing anyway, so why not just save up a bit longer and buy a true sports car? My budget for that is around Dhs 50,000 so maybe I’ll do a guide on that later. Camaros, Mustangs, Corvettes, S2000s, M Roadsters…hmmm…