By on September 20, 2019


Mati writes:

Hello Sajeev!

Just finished reading your Piston Slap entry regarding the 2010 Audi A4, and I want to see what you think about my situation. Recently I relocated to the UK for work/travel and will be here for at least two years. I want to try something not available in the U.S. market and take advantage of the open roads here in the outskirts. I don’t live in a big town so no congestion/pollution tax to worry about.
My budget is £5,000 purchasing price, and my search for an euro hot hatch gave me only one Japanese branded product , some Fords, and a lot of interesting European models. But all around the 10 year mark give or take. In my situation would it be any better to go with an European 10-year-old hot-hatch then, say, a UK-Built Honda or a Ford?
A search on local classified and Bookface nets me a few nice results :
  • 2008 Honda Civic Coupe Type R
  • 2009 Ford Focus ST
  • 2007 RENAULTSPORT CLIO 197 F1 TEAM R27 LY 2.0
  • 2010 Citroen DS3
  • 2010 Peugeot RCZ
  • 2009 VW Scirocco
Looking forward to your reply! Cheers!

Sajeev answers:

Unlike Part I of this story, your biggest problem isn’t the vehicle’s national origin. It’s the fact you’ve chosen to buy a performance vehicle that’s likely been beat to hell in its past.

But let’s assume that every example you consider was driven maturely, as we need to minimize the number of variables in this equation.

The biggest problem with NW’s boyfriend’s Audi A4 was the fact that it was a German luxury vehicle being sold to an unwitting buyer in America. You likely know more about your future transaction, and you are not in America: there are plenty of skilled technicians available and parts should be cheaper and more readily available. Fingers crossed on that!

That said, there’s no doubt that you’d do far better financially in a mid-level Focus, a normal Civic, a basic Golf, etc. instead of any of your preferred hot hatches. And certain manufacturers make things better than others, like water pumps without plastic impellers. So do some homework (i.e. forum searches) to see which models have unacceptable level of repair issues (i.e. like Audi piston ring fails) for your taste.

If you gotta scratch that hot hatch itch, I’d recommend one that’s heavily based on a more pedestrian model (i.e Golf GTI instead of the Scirocco) so any possible repair will be cheaper, including body panel replacements after a collision. I reckon insurance rates will also be cheaper.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image: Volkswagen]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 
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27 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Unfortunate, Teachable Moment (Part II)...”

  • avatar

    “The biggest problem with NW’s boyfriend’s Audi A4 was the fact…”

    I’d say the biggest problem in the previous installment wasn’t that the guy bought an old A4, it’s that he financed the A4 for about $10k, which was his maximum budget and he didn’t really have additional money to get out of the jam.

    For this guy 5e might not be a big stretch and if that is the case then he might as well buy whatever he likes.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’d start my search first by running each of those models by an insurance agent or whatever they are called there. If Top Gear is correct, insurance rates for anything mildly warm there is outrageous.

    Of those choices I’d probably go with the Citroen for sheer oddball reasons. Though the Focus was mighty tasty then.

    Are there no Astra VXRs available?

    • 0 avatar

      My recollection is that Top Gear’s few mention of high insurance rates were in the context of young, newly licensed drivers. I’m thinking of the episode where they do a “visit to Glastonbury”-type challenge, and one of them has a Volvo station wagon. Apologies, “estate.”

      I’m inferring that Mati is somewhere from his late 20s through his late 30s.

      Your point stands, though, that rates are worth checking and that performance cars are going to cost more.

    • 0 avatar

      My memory is failing me — what was the hotted-up version of the Holden Commodore (our G8/SS) which was sold as a Vauxhall in the U.K.?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Does it ever work out if someone buys the most expensive vehicle they can?

    Even if buying/leasing new, you should always keep a reasonable emergency fund. Perhaps that is why Ace of Base exists?

    • 0 avatar

      This. If he doesn’t have at least a grand-probly two-for repairs, he should stay far away from any 10-year-old euro-performers. Maybe the Civic-R, but you’re rolling the dice with any 10 year old car, best to keep some Euros in reserve to deal with unwelcome surprises.

      With that budget, buy a more pedestrian car that you can’t get in the states. It will still feel exotic to you.

  • avatar

    “I want to … take advantage of the open roads here in the outskirts.”

    Very funny. The UK has thousands of speed cameras.

    See also Land Ark’s comment about insurance.

    My advice: I drove an old 998cc mini, which was like a go-kart on the back roads. You need a heavy foot and frequent shifting to get the most out of its 38HP, so you can pretend you’re a race car driver without breaking any speed limits. You just need to pull over now and then to let little old ladies on their bicycles get past you on their way to the hypermarket.

    A Citroen 2CV would be even better.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not that bad. I lived in the UK for a year. Drove from the Northeast to Edinburgh/Glasgow/Scotish Lowlands a bunch. There are some camera’d corridors, well announced, but by and large, 90-100 mph was doable in quite a few stretches. Granted this was the north… can’t comment for other regions.

  • avatar

    Okay, in this situation I would find any kind of Euro tuned/Jdm tuned early 25+ year old Nissan or Honda, as low miles as possible. Preferably not modified by previous owners.

    Enjoy the machine and when you are ready to come back to this side of the pond import her back here and you should be able to easily double your investment. Or have some fun at car shows with your rare tuner.

  • avatar

    Never buy anyone’s favorite car used.

  • avatar

    Whatever you buy, it will have been abused. My friend wanted a good, reliable used car bet in the 2000s and I told her a Mazda Protege5 would check all of her boxes. She found a used one nearby in a college town (strike 1) and it was a manual (strike 2) with, as she put it, “a shifter that looks like it’s been sawed off” (strike 3). I told her to run, she didn’t, and she was saddled with weird repairs from all the custom mods the guy did. And this was not a hot hatch to begin with.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Forget eliminating non N.A. vehicles and get a Mazda Miata. Wonderful open road cruiser. Most likely not abused to the same degree as a ‘hot hatch’.

  • avatar

    Buy the one with the best previous owner.

    I bought a 55k mile 2011 Mazdaspeed3 in January this year from the original owner, who was a coworker of a friend, and in his late forties. Zero concerns that he ever abused it after a couple hours interacting with him and a cup of coffee. No issues so far.

  • avatar

    Look for a 2005 Civic Type R. The next generation Euro market models were a step down from the US Civic Si. Maybe you can find a nice 2005 by overpaying relative to book, or maybe you can’t.

  • avatar

    From that list the Renault Clio is the car to get. Renault is known for excellent and fun hot hatches in Europe.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 – I lived in the UK for two years for work. If “I want to try something not available in the U.S. market” is a criterion, a French car is a good choice. They’re exotic to us Americans, but Renaults (and Peugeots) are well-represented, well-understood mainstream cars in the UK.

      Analogously, a British colleague here in my US office has a Chevy Tahoe. (2016, I believe.) He really likes it, largely because “attainably priced, new, V8-powered SUV” is just something that didn’t exist for him in the UK.

      I admit to a pro-Peugeot bias because a favorite colleague in the UK office had a good experience with her old (non-GTI) 205.

      • 0 avatar


        I always told myself, if the Renault Clio was good for Harry Metcalfe of EVO, then it is good enough for us all. This is quite an emotional yet detailed review. I quite enjoyed it. Mr. Metcalfe is full of praise for his Clio. Admittedly, it is an older model, but Renault is an expert company when it comes to making competitive and fun hot hatches.

        • 0 avatar

          My (highly subjective) sense is that Renaults are underrated by Americans because they weren’t sold for very long in the US, and the AMC-Renault partnership was fighting an uphill battle against both Detroit and Japan. I recall seeing the occasional LeCar (5) or Alliance/Encore (9/11, though more Americanized than the 5), but very few of us had first or even secondhand experience with the brand.

          I know they’re much better regarded in Europe.

  • avatar

    Civics of that era were really attractive, unlike the current generation, as well as being better-built than today’s crop. I’d choose the Civic Type R.

  • avatar

    Other thought is put anything you are thinking of buying through a MOT before you buy. Or at the very least make sure it has a recent MOT. One 11 months old doesn’t count.

  • avatar

    I’d second the the older Mini suggestion or if you will be driving others around,
    just leasing a vehicle for 2 years.

  • avatar

    I’d love to try the Scirocco (sexy Golf)… Can we put an R motor in it?

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