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Nu weet ik waarom Evo Magazine de laatste maanden niet meer je dat is: ze hebben te lang over de 100 beste Driver’s Cars gediscussieerd. Want als wij hier op de redactie nog maar twee wagens met elkaar moeten vergelijken, dan stijgt het Leffe-misbruik even sterk als de productiviteit daalt. Kan je nagaan hoeveel alcohol er in een Top 100 kruipt en hoeveel depressies er dreigen wanneer 95% van het geselecteerde metaal irrelevant blijkt voor normale stervelingen. Edoch, een nadere inspectie leert dat er tussen al die Loti & Ferrari zomaar even acht auto’s staan die je gemakkelijk voor 5.000€ in huis haalt. De beste van die bargains figureert zelfs op de negende plaats tussen de Lancer Evo VI Mäkkinen en Ferrari F50… Read ’em & weap rejoice!

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100 TOYOTA MR2 MK1 Go on, let your imagination rip. it’s a baby Ferrari 328. Well, no it isn’t. But if you like the feel of a well-sorted mid-engined chassis and the sound of an urgent multi-cam engine less than a foot from your head, the first generation MR2 is just the ticket. It’s zippy, economical, comfortable, fairly refined and loves to go sideways in the wet. What’s not to like? Two little-known facts about the MR2. The chassis development team included racing god Dan Gurney. And in France they dropped the ‘2’ because MR2 sounded like ‘merde’. Layout: Mid-engine, rear-drive Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1587cc Power: 124bhp Top speed: 121mph 0-60mph: 8.9sec Years: 1984 -89

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99 FORD PUMA 1.7 Forget the hairdresser associations and Fiesta underpinnings (actually a big plus). Plain fact is, the Puma is one of the world’s most underrated drivers’ cars, delivering seat-of-the-pants finesse and drivetrain sweetness that are usually the preserve of far more exotic machinery. If you can’t have fun on a twisty road in this car see a doctor. The only Ford coupe that ever really nailed it. Layout: Front-engine, front-drive Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1679cc Power: 123bhp Top speed: 122mph 0-60: 8.6sec Years: 1997-02

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89 VW GOLF GTI (MK1 & 2) The mk1 GTI changed our world in the late-70s, and the mk2 of 1984 simply refined the concept (alas, the lardier mk3 rather lost the plot). It’s not really quick, but it’s a perfectly judged package: punchy, rev-happy 16-valve engine; a chassis that blends keenness and agility with a degree of suppleness, and all wrapped up in a timeless and perfectly proportioned hatchback body. The definitive GTI. Layout: Front-engine, front-drive Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1781cc Power: 112bhp Top speed: 112mph 0-60: 8.1sec Years: 1979-84

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75 PEUGEOT 106 RALLYE God, what a laugh… a tiny terror with a manically revvy 1.3, seemingly no weight, absolutely no luxuries and a tail waggier than a puppy-dog’s. Aim at bend, brake, chuck at corner, catch tail in an instant, revel in the sheer immediacy of the thing. Every learner driver should have a lesson in a Rallye, preferably a mk1 because it’s lighter. Makes today’s 500 Abarth seem stolid. Layout: Front-engine, front-drive Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1294cc Power: 100bhp Top speed: 118mph 0-60: 9.3sec Years: 1994-96

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57 ALFA ROMEO ALFASUD A sea-change for Alfa, the ’Sud made a splash for being front-wheel drive, styled by Giugiaro and powered by a small boxer engine. Not especially quick in a straight line, it’s nevertheless mesmerising to drive with a smooth, free-spinning sewing machine of an engine, exquisite steering and miraculous levels of grip for something with such skinny tyres. Raised the bar for all subsequent front-drivers. Layout: Front-engine, front-drive Engine: Flat-4, 1286cc Power: 75bhp Top speed: 105mph 0-60: 13sec Years: 1971-89

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30 RENAULT CLIO WILLIAMS Great to drive for at least two important reasons: one, it has a 2-litre engine that’s lusty, revvy and sounds good; two, the chassis is the fully-rounded product and gives the driver just about every option save full-blooded oversteer when pressing on. Not only does the Clio Willy make gold wheels and decals look good (no mean achievement), it delivers a steer crammed with memorable moments – from a lusty thump in the back to considerable on-the-limit finesse. Layout: Front-engine, front-drive Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1988cc Power: 150bhp Top speed: 121mph 0-60: 7.6sec Years: 1993-96

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23 Peugeot 205 GTI If you appreciate the niceties of lift-off oversteer, this is the hot hatch that keeps on giving. Just one word of warning – the wheelbase is very short, so better not let the situation develop unless you’re ready for it! When you are, the steering and engine are so quick to respond that you can indulge with confidence. Lightning gearchange and meaty steering feel add to the already high involvement factor. Extraordinarily agile, too. Not for the faint-hearted in the wet but little else from this era can claim to be a more challenging/rewarding steer, though the more composed Clio Williams runs it close. The little Pug is an all-time great and fabulous fun. Layout: Front-engine, front-drive Engine: In-line 4-cyl, 1905cc Power: 130bhp Top speed: 124mph 0-60: 7.9sec Years: 1988-91

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9 Mazda MX-5 Ninth is the Mazda MX-5. Everyone admired the balance and accessibility of the Mazda. ‘Light, delicate, agile, adjustable, comfortable. A car that sets itself realistic targets and hits every one plumb in the middle,’ says Vivian. But as Metcalfe comments, ‘There isn’t enough fire in its belly,’ so you enjoy it rather than get excited about it.

En vooraleer iemand het vraagt: neen, ik zou niet voor de MX-5 gaan. Op één of andere (irrationele) manier heb ik het niet op cabrio’s en de zonneslag die er onvermijdelijk bijhoort. Ook niet op de MR2 omdat mijn ying & yang permanent in de knoop zitten, niet op de Puma omdat die – ondanks een Steve McQueen-campagne – nog altijd verwijfd aandoet en evenmin op de Clio die teveel naar de parking van een house-discotheek neigt.

Blijven er over: de AlfaSud die misschien wel knap is maar gewoonweg te oud, de Golf GTI die eerder een icoon is dan een driver’s car en de 205GTI die feller overstuurt dan een kapot winkelkarretje. Neen, voor 5.000€ mag het voor mij een zeldzame Peugeot 106 Rallye van de eerste generatie zijn – tenminste wanneer de ingreep om mijn benen twintig centimeter te verkorten achter de rug is…

De volledige lijst met bijhorende topfotografie staat hieronder opgetekend:

[Photos & Quotes: Evo Magazine]