It drives very well. It’s a very basic specification, but extremely functional layout. Interior is dark, but there is a sound logic to it when night time approaches, as well as in the day. You feel part of the car rather than just “in” it. Controls are well weighted although you know do notice its weight, which is no bad thing and adds to the feeling of being at one with it. Steering can be slightly vague just off centre, but turning into the lock has adequate feel. The driver seat is comfortable and there is and airy feel to the cabin no comp. I am 6 ft 4 and am extremely comfortable in it. Rides well and has a quality feel to it. The car handles good up to 7 tenths, although can lean at extreme angles. More than adequate for most I would say.
The 1.8 8v engine is pretty good, with a sound similar at idle to a GTI 2.0, pretty meaty. Good low down torque and very easy to drive at less than 30 mph. At A-road speeds it is excellent for what it is requiring no gear changes at all in traffic flow. This car will pull happily from 10-15mph in 3rd, 25mph in 4th and 5th gear from 30mph upwards. The manufacturers claim of 106 lb/ft arrives at 3300rpm although there is plenty to play with before that. It delivers power smoothly from there on in hitting it limiter at about 5400rpm. In isolation, it goes well and if driven well can hold its own at 70-90 mph motorway speed. Full throttle not always necessary to make progress and upon changing gear it falls straight into the pool of torque.
It is however very easy to spin the front wheels in wet of damp conditions, can torque steer if not careful in first gear. It takes a while to get used to the gear change, but you get used to it, it inspires confidence. This car, although somewhat slated and underrated in recent years has a good blend of elements to it and I think the lack of ultimate power is a minus, but again on our tight, twisty roads the short gearing makes up for it. Fuel consumption is good about 35mpg and its burbling idle adds a bit of character. Boot space dissapointing as well as the standard security. All in all, a very good example if you buy a decent MK3. It has one owner for 8 years and was a company car before that, full service history and all stamps.