A few models tend to grab all of the headlines when it comes to Japanese performance cars, with Skylines and Supras being particularly popular. But, are there some rather more inspired choices that could add a splash of JDM magic to your life? As editor of Retro Japanese magazine, I certainly think so. Here are five alternative options that I think you should consider…
1. Nissan Stagea
Sure, this may be little more than a Skyline estate, but that’s exactly what makes it a top choice. You get the same RB powerhouse, but in a vehicle that’s much more practical for daily use. Sure, you’re much more likely to find an automatic transmission, but away from the race track, that’s not necessarily such a bind. Find yourself in traffic and the two-pedal system reigns supreme.
I’m particularly fond of the Series 2, which can easily be tweaked to adopt the menacing front end of the R34 Skyline – the ultimate example of which is probably the Double Unicorn known to Mighty Car Mod fans.
Best of all, Stageas are yet to be subjected to the rapidly rising values affecting Skylines. Get some undercover Skyline thrills for a fraction of the cost.
2. Honda Civic SiR
I’ve always been a fan of the fourth-generation Honda Civic. It was completely unlike any of its rivals when new, being so low and so sporting, even in middling trim levels. You may be able to find a rust-free UK car with a bit of luck, but importing gives more options. The one to have is the SiR, which packed the CRX VTEC lump under that low, low bonnet. Factor in double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear and you get a seriously hot hatch, with fantastic period looks. Like the Stagea, you get a bit more everyday practicality, but with scintillating performance – the SiR has 158bhp, produced at a hilarious 7600rpm. Suddenly, a Ford Fiesta RS Turbo seems a bit tame.
3. Mitsubishi Evolution V
The three generations of Mitsubishi Evo from IV to VI share a lot in common, but the Evo V is the rarest of the lot, being produced for just one year between January 1998 and January 1999. It has somewhere in the region of 280bhp, so performance is going to be more than plentiful. If you somehow felt your V was not as punchy as a VI, then you could apply a few aftermarket goodies – a larger intercooler perhaps as a good start point. While collectors get giddy about the VI, especially the Tommy Makinen Edition, it leaves the V looking like a great value option.
4. Toyota Glanza
The P90 generation Starlet was a rather dreary small hatchback that failed to generate much excitement amongst British buyers. Perhaps that’s because, once again, we were denied the really exciting versions. In Japan, the Glanza V used turbocharging to create a fearsome 131bhp hot hatch, while the Glanza S had all the looks, but only 85bhp from its naturally aspirated lump. There’s now a large following for Glanzas in the UK, and when you consider those figures, it’s easy to see why. Small cars can be an awful lot of fun.
5. Mazda Eunos Cosmo
When it comes to sheer insanity, the Mazda Eunos Cosmo takes some beating. The top models used the 20B triple-rotor Wankel engine, which can create stupendous levels of power, while sounding like a cross between a Porsche 911 and a Wartburg. Truly, there is no car quite like it. Sadly, a lot have been broken for their engines and, once again, automatic was standard fare. However, manual conversions transform the car as I well know, for I tried one earlier in 2017. It’s safe to say that I’ve never driven a car quite like it.
With thanks: Retro Japanese magazine.
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