Replacing the back seat with a snarling V6 turned Renault’s supermini into an unlikely performance hero
At the time of writing, it’s been a month since the first press drives of the new Toyota GR Yaris went live and still the internet is awash with gushing praise, screenshots of hurriedly placed order confirmations and convincing comparisons with supercars costing five times as much.
All of which has got us thinking about giant-killers: unassuming cars that were modified to go after the titans of the sports car segment with hilariously misplaced powertrains and radical styling to match. Cars, then, like the Renault Clio V6.
In the vein of its similarly silly 5 Turbo ancestor, this humdrum hatch turned hooligan drew up to 252bhp in facelifted form, enough for a 5.9sec 0-62mph time and a top speed of 153mph. Practicality took a bit of a hit, obviously (the kids won’t be comfortable sitting atop a scorching hot exhaust manifold), and it’s rather more thirsty than a 1.2-litre Clio of similar vintage. However, you’d be able to cram a shopping bag or two into its ‘frunk’, and it’s not so rapid as to attract the ire of your local police force every time you leave the house.
We’ve gone for a post-2003 car to benefit from that mid-life power boost (which more than made up for a 45kg weight gain), as well as an array of welcome tweaks that came with the facelift, including bonded body panels, a wider front track and a much more refined interior. Add to that the fact that the later car is rarer by about 200 units and it certainly seems the more attractive option.
The asking price is £47,995, which, you’ll no doubt think, is an astronomical sum for a car that wouldn’t look out of place at the Friday-evening Homebase car park meet-up, and that could also bag you a 57-plate Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, but consider how much more collectable the Clio could become. Not to bang on about the 2030 combustion ban or anything, but the likelihood that the next decade will bring us a series-production, two-seat, V6-powered supermini is slim to none. When that deadline has gone, it’s these laugh-inducing oddities that we’ll look back on most fondly.
Volkswagen Touareg R50, £12,000: When VW’s R performance brand was but a few years old, it launched what remains one of its maddest creations: a 5.0-litre diesel V10-powered Touareg. Its 345bhp isn’t exactly astonishing, but 627lb ft was proven to be enough to tow a Boeing 747.
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, £19,950: The ‘other’ Mitsubishi Evo is this: the wild Pajero Evolution, of which around 2500 road-going examples were made to meet the Dakar Rally’s homologation rules. Its 3.5-litre petrol motor pumps 275bhp to all four wheels through a pair of Torsen diffs.
Volvo 850R, £8250: Don’t let the Ferrari badge on the front wing fool you: there’s no mid-mounted screaming V8 in this estate, but with 237bhp from its 2.4-litre turbo straight five, the 850R will still serve as a fun steer and let you live out your 1990s BTCC fantasies.
MG Metro 6R4, £350,000: It’s a bit like the Clio, this, in that the humble Metro’s rear seats have made way for a gargantuan V6 motor, one also found in the Jaguar XJ220, no less. This Group B-spec example isn’t road legal but it will draw the biggest crowd at a historic rally event.
What we almost bought
Mercedes-Benz E220: Our aim here would be to return this £1650 W124-gen Merc to its former glory. The headlights are mismatched, the sunroof is out of action and one of the two (yes, two) front emblems is missing. We once named the W124 the best used car money could buy, and with the older W123 now a full-on classic, these later cars are looking like a very savvy buy.
DeLorean DMC-12: Imagine if you could somehow travel back in time and prevent 2020 from turning out the way it did. Well, with just a few subtle modifications, this 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 of Back to the Future fame could make that dream a reality. With just one owner from new until 2015, it’s a stunningly original (and thankfully unpainted) example, with an overhauled brake system, clutch master cylinder, window motors and fuel system among its selling points. Hopefully, whoever paid £33,290 for it wasn’t expecting a bona fide sports car: that 2.85-litre V6 chucks out only around 130bhp, so it needs plenty of road to crack even 60mph, let alone 88mph…
Daihatsu Terios, £1950: It’s only in recent years that what we now refer to as the ‘compact crossover’ has become one of the most in-demand bodystyles on the market, but it seems Daihatsu had an inkling that a compact footprint combined with a raised ride height could prove a winning combination. The first-gen Terios is a rather more utilitarian proposition than, say, a Volkswagen T-Cross, but four-wheel drive gives it genuine off-road credentials and its 88bhp 1.3-litre won’t be much thirstier than today’s turbocharged three-pot motors. This solid 1999 car looks in great nick and comes with 12 months’ MOT, and you can’t say fairer than that.
Clash of the classifieds
Brief: Can you find me a modern-day Lada 1500 for £3000, please?
Dacia Logan MCV, £1999
Chevrolet Lacetti, £1295
Max Adams: You want a modern take on a rugged icon repurposed from a flaky European design? I give you the Dacia Logan – an ex-Renault Clio re-engineered to last on rough Romanian roads. Do explain how your Americanised Korean car emulates any of this?
Felix Page: Gosh, is that an infotainment screen in your centre console? How very bourgeois. Undistracted by such concessions to decadence, James can revel in the sheer utility of my Chevy’s bare-bones interior and wholly unremarkable styling. It’s a car, and absolutely nothing more.
MA: James did say ‘modern’, after all. Also, mine has a USB slot so you can charge your dash cam: a necessity when driving around the mean streets of Moscow or Birmingham.
FP: Funnily enough, I’ve ridden in a Lacetti around Birmingham, and I remember thinking just how attractive no-frills cars have become. I’d buy this as a means of commemorating the much-missed Daewoo brand – more interesting than Dacia, surely?
MA: No frills! Those velour seats are far too sumptuous. You need the scratch fabrics and vinyl backing in my Logan. Gives off a distinctly acrid miasma, too.
FP: It’s finally happened: we’re fighting over who has chosen the worst car, aren’t we? But for the sake of victory, I’ll posit that my Lacetti at least has rarity on its side – not to mention a modicum of celebrity status courtesy of its onetime BBC star billing.
MA: Those 15 minutes of fame were long ago. Stop living in the past.
Verdict: It’s the Chevy for me, please.