I'm looking to replace my car (a 1989 4WD Mitsubishi Lancer SZ - very slow non-turbo diesel, C74A chassis, 4D65 engine) in the next few months. Trying to figure out now what sort of car I want to replace it with.
I like the look of the Toyota Levin, especially the 1996 BZ-G. However, the engine (the 165 HP 20 valve 4A-GE) has a weird feel to it ... next to no power up to 3000 rpm, and it suddenly takes off (all the way up to 8000rpm!). That would make it nice for country driving, but I don't know what it would be like around town. If I can find a 5-speed version, I guess I could get it to go well enough, but I doubt I'd have much luck with the auto ones that seem to be all I can find around Christchurch.
There's also the GT-Z version, with a 16 valve supercharged 4A-GZE engine. It has about the same peak power as the 20V 4A-GE, but a much wider torque range. Not sure what my insurance company would think about a forced induction motor, though.
16 valve 4A-GE (old BZ-G) vs 20 valve 4A-GE (new BZ-G) (the new BZ-G has the 20V).
Bill Sherwood's site - Toyota and Honda engine info.
Now, another interesting possibility is the 175 HP Mitsubishi Lancer MR, powered by the 4G92 1.6L MIVEC engine. Not as nice looking, with 4 doors, although they do seem to be very cheap - NZ$3000-4000 for a 1993 one.
Alternatively, from Honda, we have the Integra and the Prelude.
The fastest affortable Integra (NZ$6000 for a '93 version) is the Si VTEC version, with the B18C engine: 180 PS, 1140 kg (157.9 PS/ton). (The 2001 Type R uses the K20A engine and puts out 220 PS from 1180 kg - 186.4 PS/ton).
The fastest Prelude is the Si VTEC version, with the H22A engine: 200 PS, 1270 kg (157.5 PS/ton). (The 1998 version uses a quicker H22A - 220 PS from 1310 kg, 167.9 PS/ton).
Then there's the Nissan Silvia and Skyline. I'm not sure if I want to go for them, because (at least in New Zealand) Nissan engines have a reputation for not lasting all that long. Let's see ...