So, was it a rash decision to buy and a period of delusion, followed by the cold hard realisation that I’d been an idiot? No. A change in circumstances at work meant that I was putting too many ‘boring’ miles on a car of that type. I was constantly stuck in rush hour traffic watching the temperature gauge, or on the motorway. Not enough moments were being spent doing what the car was intended for, having fun.
But, I hear you cry, you said the car was fairly practical, you said it had some refinement, that it was liveable with every day. Maybe I was slightly wrong in that sense. I can only speak for myself, but I think that it’s a viable ownership proposition for the average enthusiast, so long as they don’t do a lot of motorway driving. Motorways, unfortunately, became a tedious and occasionally painful experience. There really is a lot of noise and if you have a passenger you will need to shout to be heard above 60. It’s also physically a very draining car to drive a long distance on the motorway. There is a lot of feedback, which is brilliant on a twisty track, but at 70 odd in a straight line it just equals vibration and discomfort. With the awful stereo and non-adjustable seats, you will arrive slightly disheveled at best, but I kept on getting home with an aching back. In fact, often my back would still be giving me some problems on a Saturday, meaning I didn’t feel like taking the VX back out of the garage for a thrash around my favourite Dales roads.
So, with a heavy heart I waved goodbye to my own slice of motoring heaven and, nearly £10,000 richer headed to the train station, destination, 205 GTI. More on that later, it’s another story altogether.
Back to the end of ownership report. Total costs hardly rose in the last few months. Save for a few bits and bobs to get the car looking cosmetically as good as possible, overall running costs have been very reasonable for a British sports car.
My advice with any potential purchase would be to factor in around £500 for when the engine mounts give up. Some enquiries with other owners have thrown up a litany of snapped, worn, broken mountings and no evidence of an improvement in the quality or design of the replacements. On a mechanical front, I started hearing a ‘funny noise’ from the back of the car, over my left shoulder. It’s quite hard to describe, sort of a scraping sound like a rusty washer spinning freely around a rusty pole. It only happened at about 2000 rpm when coasting along, or accelerating. Apparently, it’s just a noisy clutch release bearing, and not anything to worry about. It is also a fairly common fault, or so I have heard.
Driving satisfaction is what the car is all about. So, to that end, it must also be the most important consideration for those of you thinking about taking the plunge. My rationale is that the overall amount of satisfaction must be enough to overcome, or at the very least, compensate for, any other limitations of the vehicle. So, in a Renault Espace, a very versatile and accommodating vehicle, the driving really doesn’t have to be up to much. In the comfort free noise fest that is the VX220, it’s got a lot of catching up to do. And thankfully, catching up is something it does best.
On a smooth ‘B’ road with good visibility at the side of the road; i.e. no hedgerows or stone walls, there are not many cars on the road, and arguably not anything in the price bracket, that comes close.
However, within that statement lies the real-world problem. Not a lot of our roads are like that. A lot are slightly rutted and uneven B roads, places where you immerse yourself in that ‘tarmac rally’ feeling in your hot hatch or super saloon. Unfortunately they become terrifying assaults on the senses and nerve endings in the VX, because it is skitting and bouncing around on its rock hard suspension.
Worryingly, I have had a number of moments where the brake pedal has gone completely solid, without applying any stopping power. This happens when a number of jolts to the suspension (or one big jolt) trick the ABS into thinking the wheel is locked. It isn’t, in fact, the brakes aren’t even being applied.
Obviously, the solution is to come off the brakes and re-apply them. But, if the car is being bounced around, they fail to reapply again. By now you could well be heading rapidly into a drystone wall. Thankfully that never happened.
However, it does bring me nicely onto another gripe with the driving experience, seeing over drystone walls, hedges, fences, sheep and the other items which line our great roads is impossible. Nothing can, or indeed should, be done about the driving position, but be warned, overtaking is easy, but being able to see what’s coming in the other direction is very difficult.
Things that mildly annoyed me were; getting in and out, for obvious reasons. It does get easier, but at some point you’ll smack some part of your body on the door pin and curse the rotten plastic contraption.
Another gripe was that there was nowhere to put anything. And I mean anything. Going somewhere? Print some directions off the internet, good idea, erm where to put them? Footwell, good idea, until they end up lost under the passenger seat. The passenger seat doesn’t move. Goodbye mobile phone, pens, headphones, coins. Oh and while you’re down there, please rattle loudly against the bare metal chassis.
But in truth, overall, I was still in love with the little thing when I heard it drive away. And my god did that exhaust sound good. My overall recommendation; if it’s it itching, scratch it, go on, I dare you.
Now, where are my keys for the GTI? Road test time.