Built by Lotus to boost the Griffin’s brand cachet, these lightweight specials are now fast appreciating
It sometimes feels as if the world has forgotten about the Vauxhall VX220. Launched in 2000, this little sports car bears suspiciously similar proportions to the second-gen Lotus Elise, and with good reason.
Vauxhall wanted a sporty roadster to build a bit of a buzz around its performance models and Lotus welcomed the opportunity to share the cost of developing a platform for the S2 Elise. The Vauxhall VX220 was the result. However, other than sharing a basic aluminium tub, the two cars are quite different – Lotus claims just nine per cent of the VX220’s components are shared with the Elise.
Understandably, Vauxhall wanted to use its own engine, initially a 145bhp, 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit. Larger, 17-inch wheels and softer suspension also changed the car’s character significantly from that of the Elise.
Then, in 2003, the VX220 Turbo arrived. With the 197bhp 2-litre turbo engine from the Astra GSi, it was a much more exhilarating prospect on a greasy British B-road – especially with no traction or stability control. Weighing 930kg, the VXT offered supercar-matching performance, with a 0-60mph time of just 4.7sec.
Lotus built just 1940 VXTs (against 5267 regular VX220s), so supply is relatively limited. Second-hand prices dipped below £10,000 for a time but have now started moving the other way, with good cars selling for around £15k today. If you’re after something really special, then try finding one of the 65 VXR220s (220bhp) built to mark the end of production, but you’ll have to budget at least £20,000.
Finding a standard VXT can be difficult, but you shouldn’t be afraid of upgrades, especially new exhausts and ECU remaps, which can easily liberate 30-40bhp safely. Just make sure the car is wearing some grippy tyres and start enjoying some depreciation-free weekend motoring.
Take a look at Vauxhall VX220s for sale in the classifieds
Lotus Exige S2
Built on the same site as the VX220, the character of this Lotus is very different. It’s a more engaging and extremely hardcore choice – £25k secures a good one.
Renault Sport Spider
Slower and more expensive than the Vauxhall, but there’s still something special about this rare, 148bhp French fancy. Good examples start at £18k.
This British kit-car uses many engines, but a popular choice is Vauxhall’s XE ‘Redtop’, which is capable of developing more than 200bhp. A well set up example would give the VXT a run for its money.
Words: Matthew Hayward // Images: evo Magazine