On Saturday, I picked up my Peugeot 106 Rallye from Pug1Off where a Satchell Engineering shifter had been just been installed, then dropped in to see our Technical Editor, Ryan and check out his E30 track car progress.
I realised that we hadn’t been out for a drive in what seems like ages, so we made a plan to swing past the Auto Finesse Car Wash Club the very next day.
The following morning there was some detailing geekery going down at AF’s new HQ; we grabbed a coffee and I bought some product to give the Rallye a clean. Ryan turned up fashionably late with a Mk3 Golf VR6 piloted by Chris O’Day in tow. I finished my drink and we went for a drive.
In the UK, the roads get graded with a letter, which is usually A or B and then followed by a number designation. So, you get roads called ‘A465’ for example. It sounds complicated, but soon makes sense and you quickly get familiar with your favourite road numbers.
I grew up dangerously near Wales and the roads near my parents’ house are a mix of very fast A and twisty B-graded, with pubs, petrol stations and more pubs. This means there’s loads of places to stop and get something to eat.
Not familiar with the good (read: fun) roads in Essex and feeling hungry, I opened Foursquare and led this unusual trio of cars to the nearest place to eat that scored above an 8/10. The app took us to a place called The Cricketers. Sat outside with a cuppa tea, I admired Ryan’s 450bhp M3.
His E92 boasts a dream list of parts from legit brands, and it’s all been screwed together and set up with love and care. From the Pirelli Trofeo R tyres, to the Recaro seats, and the Akrapovič, BILSTEIN, BBS and CSF upgrades in between, I absolutely love this thing.
Reading Jordan’s recent story about 300mph+ got my brain whirring – I think there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple. Ryan’s M3 is a dream to drive in pretty much any situation: fast road driving, track days, long-haul European adventures to the Nürburgring. Heck, a dash to the supermarket in the M3 is dead simple, too. But the cost of consumables like tyres and brake pads quickly adds up due to the car’s size and weight. Even running a car like this is a big expense.
So, when it comes to cars that do 300mph, it’s just not reality. This kind of speed is high risk and takes a huge amount of planning even for one of the world’s largest car makers. Doing this on the road? Forget it.
For me, the joy of driving is all about the BHP-per-tonne ratio. That’s the vital metric for making a car great fun to drive: power-to-weight. So, does horsepower matter? Yes, of course – to a degree. But that lightness-to-power ratio is more important. Cars like Chris’s Golf VR6, my Rallye and Ryan’s E30 offer loads of smiles without much power.
The S2 106 Rallye kicks out a wild 103bhp and tips the scales at around 865kg (1,907lb). That’s just under 120bhp per tonne. For ‘Sunday Funday’ blasts on my favourite roads it’s pretty much perfect for me. If the Rallye wasn’t so prone to rusting itself to death, then it might just be the best car I own! And here’s a fun fact: those three aforementioned cars – 106, E30 and VR6 – combined have less power than the E92 M3. How wild is that?
With Frankfurt about to kick off, a bunch of EV launches planned and more talk of sustainability than ever, there’s never been a better time to get your hands on a machine that offers a back-to-basics driving experience, point it towards your favourite road, and enjoy it whilst you still can.
What’s your ideal car with a ‘keep it simple’ philosophy? Let us know in the comments section below.
Photos by Ryan Stewart
Seconded the Puma - so much fun when stripped out <3 Decent rubber and brakes are pence as well
Completely agree on the Puma! My ex had one and its was a complete hoot to drive!
Good article, Cricketers in Clavering?
Agree with everything you have said it doesn't really matter because quite honestly how often can you use it on the road in the UK? Anything over 300bhp/tonne is basically a waste of time, for the UK you need light cars with enough power but sadly most modern cars are way too heavy now to be fun and saddled with electronics and super sticky tires to keep them on the road.
Please go drive an original 60's Lotus Elan on UK B roads and tell us what you think.
Definitely the Cricketers in Clavering. I used to drive around there regularly and the road sign for Stickling Green is pretty much in the pub front garden.
As for the point of the article. I've had my fair share of boats along with tiny hatchbacks and the king in terms of fun factor per hp has to be my old fiesta ST. 220ish hp with a remap in a small, nimble car made country lanes a treat rather than a chore.
That Peugeot 106 is so clean!
Couldn't agree more. As an automotive journalist, I was getting brand new press cars every week. One week I was scheduled into a Porsche Cayman S, a personal favourite. However, as I drove up one of my favourite scenic routes home, I couldn't help but think how much more fun I would be having in my 30+ year old, $600 AW11 MR2 with 120-hp, rather than the 365-hp $100,000 modern sports car.
I find modern cars are too heavy, too complicated, too capable and dare I say too safe. They are exhilarating to drive, but good old joy of driving has long since been bred out of automobiles, through safety and road regulations and the constant war of having more power and useless gadgets than the other guy. The feel of the road, thrill and just pure fun that an old MR2, Corolla, Miata/MX5, Golf, Civic, Integra... etc, etc can give you just can't be matched by anything today. And the best part, they are a fraction of the cost.
I completely agree. I daily a 1990 Honda Civic in South Carolina. It has no mods, no power options, and only seatbelts for safety options. I have more fun driving that car every day than I ever did in any of the big modern sports cars I drove in one of my former jobs. I do intend to mod it eventually, but I don't plan to add much more power. As my daily driver, It has all the power it needs and provides plenty of fun on the back roads too.
Completely agree, but I think its a big part of the car culture in the UK (and maybe the world) to try and build the biggest and the best. With social media influences bringing huge budget builds to your fingertips. It's no wonder people embark on big builds.
I certainly notice that a lot of people who are active on social media sites spend more time working on their cars than actually driving them.
I have an fn2 (dismissed by many in the car world), but I find it a really nice balance of modern convenience, but with a really nice handling chassis, I have added decent coilovers, lsd, bigger brakes, lighter wheels, sticky tyres and breathing mods. Its great fun, handles everything that is thrown at it. Don't know about power to weight ratio, but it loves being chucked about in the corners and still has enough grunt to be fun in a straight line.
Love this story. I completely agree. My daily driver is a B4 Legacy twin turbo. Even this has more power than I can play with on the twisty roads. I roll on the throttle and before I’m even spinning up the secondary I’ve got to lift if I want to keep my license. I miss my first car. 1990 Suzuki swift GTi. 101 bhp. I don’t remember the weight exactly but I think it was around the 1800-1900 lbs range. No power steering. A nice steering wheel, nice seats and a blast to rip on twisty roads. The fuel economy was nice too. Haha.
I'm a firm believer in "enjoying your ride" no matter what vehicle you find yourself in. That said, I do agree with the broad point of the article that power : weight ratio being the key to enjoyment. However, I would also add the condition that effect might have a weight cap. By way of explanation, I had a Mazda3 (the 150 hp version, HP:lbs was 0.0554) that I upgraded to an Accord 2.0T (252 HP, HP:lbs 0.0768). The Accord's power to weight ratio is definitely a blast when accelerating in a straight line. However, I can def feel it's extra 500 lbs over the Mazda when going around curves, even in city driving. I'm sure that with better suspension the Accord would be fun around the curves, but it still has that extra heft.
I feel a good power to weight ratio really truly shines if your car is in the lower 2000s or so, to say nothing of my 278 lb motorbike
I drive a Skoda Citigo base model (no options), 829 kg and remapped to 85 hp with BC coils and good tires, what a blast! No, not fast but very fun to drive. Cheap to run too.
Loving the number plate.
To me, my Z33 touring 6sp or my old e36 325i 5sp are great cars in the K.I.S.S philosophy. I always tell people why I loved my e36 due to the linear power curve and analog driving that was a great teacher to me. I learned to drive a manual in it and appreciate a car that didn't make too much power that i couldn't control or too little that it felt boring.
It was sad to have sold it, but getting my z33 gave the same feeling as the e36. Though mine didn't come with the brembos factory, I still enjoy driving it and slowly modifying it. The ethos of using what I got (I don't have a income to spend 1k on wheels and whatnot). So all my parts are a combo of secondhand or for sale and it cultivates in a vehicle that can be enjoyed and personalized to fit me.
Learned how to drive with a 106 exactly like yours. Recently I got a second one,(16v this time) currently getting stripped as a race project for races similar to what you call an autocross or autotest in the UK.
I'm not anything too great behind the steering wheel but having to travel 200 km as a student (do the maths in miles) of roads that could easily be rally stages , I never had any problems keeping up with anything this side of an Impreza. Huge horsepower numbers are great for tuners promoting their work but the whole point is how much power you can actually get down on the road. Unfortunately modern cars make quite a lot bhp but weigh way too much, are way too big and well besides gadgets they don't offer anything so special when it comes to suspension or engine technology.
Go on then, I'll say it. MX5!
My old 1.6 Eunos had about 115bhp and no frills. Get the roof down and head along some twisty English back lanes on a summer's day and I'm not sure there are many other cars that could match it for fun. Ah man, now I'm going to hit up eBay and look for mk1 MX5s....
Nice idea for a topic Ben!
For me it's my Twingo RS that's been accompanying me for the past 6 years now. It's modern enough to offer me some creature comforts, but raw and light enough to entertain when I'm up for some fun. I do track it occasionally as well, and while it does lack in the power department, it can keep up with a lot of stuff in the corners. When I tracked it during Players Classic earlier this year, I even had people commenting how fun and nimble it looked out there. And that was coming from people with M3's, Golf R's and the like. However, seeing the Rallye again reminds me of an Indigo Blue Rallye around here that's been for sale for a couple of years that keeps tempting me. Perhaps I need to go and take a proper look, even though I really don't need an extra project right now...
I turbocharged my S2 rallye and acheived a safe 320Hp, it was a novelty for a month. Later de turbo’d it back to a n/a basic engine and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy it more . Bloody expensive mistake that!
Great story (biased as in UK too). I have a £900 Peugeot 206 GTI 180 as a daily - great fun as it is with just a SS exhaust. I have a bone stock Peugeot 205 1.9 GTI as the Sunday-fun-day B road blaster, and i'm currently building a Peugeot 405 Mi16 track car (BTCC replica) which will be road legal too. Non of these are over 180 bhp but they are perfect for UK roads and for someone who does not have a lot of money.
So recently I attended the annual ae86 meet in my Trueno, this year it was held at caffeine and machine and being from Manchester i'd not visited it before, so me and my mate decided to make a weekend of it and tie it in with Retro Rides Gathering at Shelsley Walsh on the Sunday. I got my Trueno as ready as it could be for the trip and we arrived at our Hotel in Solihull on the friday night with a plan to make an early start and a short drive in the morning. The weather wasn't great and I was apprehensive about how my car would perform (reliability) but once we arrived at C&M the weather started to pick up and it ended up a gloriously sunny day. We had a fantastic day and by around 4pm we decided to head off to our hotel that we were staying in for RRG. I didnt realise but the roads inbetween C&M and the hotel we picked (i couldnt tell you the location as i cant remember) were solely B-roads and the drive was about 30 minutes.
I can hands down say that was THE BEST drive i have ever had in a car, my little 127BHP AE86 performed exceptionally well on those b-roads. I can honestly say there isn't another car id have rather done that drive in
Great article, Ben; power to weight has always been precedent to me over any other aspect. My first car was a mk5 Fiesta Zetec-S (103bhp of giggles) before moving on to a couple of Renault Sport Clio's (172 then a 182) I owned whilst at university which I enjoyed so much, as they offered great 'bang for buck' especially as consumables were so modest (which helped on a student budget) but also being able to use it as a super practical means to get my entire life from uni back to home, as well as proving to be a reliable commuter; it was a great all-rounder. I'm now in a Lotus Elise 111S as a result of not needing a daily car, but the RS Clio's would still be a car I'd love to get back in and highly recommend to anybody who asks about them - they seem to be becoming a go-to sub £2k track-car purchase now, too. Tempting.
Mines is pretty much same with my peugeot 205 rallye. So much fun in the real world!!! Another is my "daily peugeot 106" bone stock xn with 75 hp but can drive it with passion every where Lightweight+responsive na engine+manual gearbox+manual steering=Fun car
205 GTI driver here, and just coming back from a hillclimb that was organised by a local Lotus club here in the Austrian alps!
--> Couldn't agree more to a lightweight & power-to-weight-philosophy!
gotta love a s2 rallye
I like small 3-door FWD hatchbacks. I used to own stock k11 micra with an 1.0 engine and it was fun! Now I have 1.2 k12 micra, it's a little bit heavier, but still feels fun to drive)
It’s kinda neat how many like minded individuals are on this website. I’ve been recently thinking about modern cars in the same way. They’re just too big, too fast, and too capable. I find that reading reviews of these aforementioned vehicles becomes boring rather quickly.
That’s why I decided to ditch my Evo Magazine subscription and buy a 90’s Honda to play with. I found a mint 1989 Honda Civic DX hatchback for the sole purpose to wringing every ounce out of the chassis. Can’t wait to take it on the road once I complete the DPFI to MPFI conversion!
Couldn't agree with this article more.
I own a 1993 Eunos Roadster and it's so much fun on the lanes.
The rough build philosophy is something along the lines of every mod period correct and reversible, then maybe if I keep the car long enough some fettling on the engine side (cams, pistons, ITBs) to get to the 200bhp/tonne mark, while staying n/a.
I’ve chipped in on similar topics and I’ll chip in again here, I’m still driving around in a 1994 1.3 Micra Super S. A few mods to relieve extra HP, lowered, stiffened, slightly lightened (at 830 kilos factory weight there isn’t much to loose!) and sat on genuine lightweight Regamaster 15s with sticky Yoko tyres, it’s a fun drive for everyday use on the road that wont get you into too much trouble and doesn’t cost the world to run.
Trips to the Nürburgring, Gatebil, drag strips and many more under it’s belt, 172,000 miles and still going. Plus it has the benefit of never loosing a race.... who in their right mind tries to claim bragging rights that they beat a Micra at the traffic lights? But if I pull off a win, oooh there’s some red faces I’ve seen!
So yeah, I don’t care if it’s practically right at the bottom of any desirable car list, I love it for what it is and still can’t find myself parting with it anytime soon.
Absolutely agree with this article in taking it back to basics which is why i now own a 2016 MX5. Yes it's had a bit of tickling up to 186bhp but it's more than enough for the UK roads and especially in such a light chassis, especially when it's still a lovely free-revving N/A engine up front driving the rears though a manual box.
It's just pure fun in a small, inexpensive package and every time i drive it (which is daily) i enjoy it. I've had cars with more power, better grip etc before now but you rarely get to exploit that potential anywhere in the UK.
This is a great article and has made me miss my old VR6
nice article, i totaly agree, driving is fun when you are driving your car to the limits, how often would you reach the limits of that bugatti vs how often i do reach the limits of my golf Mk1 that has about 125hp.
I built a golf mark 1 recently, when I started a friend suggested that we put a turbo vr6 in it and reach aprox 280hp, my answer was simply, how often will it be possible to drive it ? and how much fun will it be? and we agreed that adding just a little bit to the factory power and improving the handling and the suspension will make it the perfect "sunday funday" car, and believe me it is.
nice article but why is the 106 always parked ahead in the article's pics hahaha. I really wanted to see one with the VR6 ahead
Non-Turbo 2jz VVTI in a x7 Cressida. Known as the Cresta, Chaser, Mark ii for you guys outside the US. 200 wheel horsepower in an 80's luxury sedan with a very dialed suspension setup feels amazing. Simple, reliable, and fun. Keep it simple stupid.
Me and a couple of mates are currently building my SR20DET S13, it's a modest build with a few choice parts. The ethos behind it is very much that of balance. Why have 1000bhp if the chassis and brakes can't handle it? We've always had the belief that if a car does everything to the same standard, then it will likely be great fun to drive! Power is around 250bhp, brakes are Z32 and the chassis has a smattering of adjustable bits. Hopefully this will be the perfect recipe for some b-road laughs.
A car that the missus and I use as a daily is the Ford Puma 1.7 and I still maintain that it is one of the most fun "standard" cars ever! 123bhp, great brakes and a great chassis, it's awesome to drive with your foot to the floor everywhere! It won't set any lap records but it's smiles-per-gallon o'metre is off the charts!