Ever wondered how much you'd pay to teleport back to the mid-nineties? How about £17k…
By PH Staff / Thursday, October 21, 2021 / Loading comments
What price a treasured memory? You’ll need the best part of four decades under your belt to get why a five-figure, 32-year-old Vauxhall Nova SR is worth even a second glance in an already absurdly inflated used car market. But if the opening bars of Born Slippy unlock a Pandora’s box of lager-soaked reminiscence, chances are you’re in the ballpark. Technically speaking, the Nova was a child of the eighties – it launched in Europe as the original Corsa in 1982 – but, really, of course, it was a nineties’ bitch.
Its Britpop-era fame occurred for two reasons. One, the car’s comparative low price and extensive potential for modification meant it ranked high among Max Power darlings back in the day. Barely a month went by without seeing one slammed and super-endowed with aftermarket turbochargers. Two, its resulting popularity surged at just the right time for more modest secondhand examples to be within reach of shelf-stacking, testosterone-addled teenagers, who duly fell on it like a pack of wolves.
As ever, the useful thing about an adolescent audience is it has no real frame of reference, so the Nova’s distinctly average performance out of the box hardly mattered. No version of the car could hold a candle to the Peugeot 205 GTI’s lithe, seat-of-your-pants handling, but that was fine because no trolley-pusher could afford a 205 GTI anyway. The Nova though, particularly in middling SR format, was just about attainable if your birthdays all came at once.
The one you really wanted – assuming your budget didn’t extend to the 101hp-toting GTE or GSi – was the fuel-injected 82hp 1.4-litre SRi, because it shared the more powerful model’s try-harder running gear and was therefore a proper warm hatch in the fledgling tradition. But most had to settle for the earlier and lowlier 1.3-litre unit in the SR, which equipped your long weekends and late nights with a knee-trembling 70hp at 5,800rpm. Which is what we have here.
In modern terms, the car was not a flyer. In fact, even in its day nobody could mistake its double-digit 0-60mph time for searing acceleration – no one except the uninitiated, that is, who were too busy driving it absolutely flat out absolutely everywhere to notice a shortfall in speed versus the normal flow of traffic. Like most small hatchbacks of its time, it also had low weight on its side; pity anyone who didn’t get to experience the flighty novelty of a 750kg front-driver, built to mediocre tolerances.
It is testament to the Nova’s short-lived popularity that most former owners tend to look back on the increasingly rare model with fondness. Granted, you’d need the rose-tinted equivalent of welder’s goggles to consider handing over £16,995 for even a low-mile example in the cold light of day – but any non-Shed price asked for a Nova in 2021 merely confirms that no interested party is buying it to drive or own simply as a small hatchback. That would be insane. What they’re paying for is total recall of decades-old LOLs. And, no matter what else you think of it, the humble Nova unquestionably generated more than its fair share of those.
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