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Road rivals; Introducing the contenders in big car clashes.

Byline: RICHARD HAMMOND

THE new Subaru Impreza is set to do battle with the latest Mitsubishi Evo in a bout between two of the car world's most muscular sports saloons. It's a regular sort of fixture, manufacturers slugging it out for showroom success with cars that often do similar jobs with similar performance aimed at similar customers. Sometimes there's a win on points, sometimes a draw and just occasionally, a knock-out. So forget the Hatton-Mayweather dust-up, here are some of motoring's most memorable classic contests.

Round 1: Subaru Impreza vs Mitsubishi Evo

IN the blue corner we have the Subaru Impreza, which arrived on the scene in 1993. Mitsubishi had a challenger of its own in the Lancer Evolution but the company unwisely didn't import the car officially so loads of motorists bought their own from Japan instead.

Both cars are descended from rally winners and both have staggering on-road performance with turbocharged engines and sophisticated four-wheel drive systems.

Boy racers, 20 to 30-year-old performance fanatics and Max Power readers revere them

And the winner is... The Mitsubishi Evo. It's harder-edged and more aggressive. And that wins fights on the road and in the ring.

How much for our champion? We found several nice 10-year-old Evo IVs from around pounds 5,000 with average mileage. All will be imports at this age.

Round 2: Porsche 911 vs Ferrari F430

THIS match has been going on for more than 30 years. It started with the early '70s 911 v the Ferrari Dino, carried on with the Ferrari 308GTB and continues today with the current 911 and Ferrari F430. The result is nearly always the same - a draw. The Porsche you can drive every day and don't have to be a millionaire to keep running. The Ferrari is a bit more special but will probably ruin you and drive you mad in the city.

And the winner is... The 911 because of the above - plus it's a sensible size and better steering than a Ferrari. Oh, and because I've got one.

How much for a champion? Best bet is the last of the air-cooled engine cars that were made in the early '90s. Expect to pay pounds 20,000-pounds 30,000.

Round 3: VW Beetle vs BMW Mini

THE oldest of all battles. Each had its own supporters - hippies thought the Beetle was groovy and sports fans loved the Mini. One would be seen at Woodstock and the other at the Monte Carlo rally.

Today the contest has different contestants. The Germans field both rivals with the brilliant Brit-built Mini and VW's new take on the Beetle.

And the winner is... The Mini, by a mile. The Beetle is a parody of the original that's not as good as the Golf it's based on while the Mini is brilliant - likes its predecessors.

How much for a champion? The Mini holds its value well. A three-year-old with 50,000 miles on the clock will cost you about pounds 7,000. That's not for a Cooper S, mind.

Round 4: Land Rover vs Land Cruiser

YOU might not know this but Toyota has been building the Land Cruiser since the 50s almost as long as the Land Rover has been around. Both are tough, go-anywhere vehicles that will cross the Sahara as easily as a Ford Fiesta will get you to the shops.

And the winner is...The Toyota. I know, I'm a devoted Landie owner, but the fact is that the Cruiser is more reliable and tougher.

How much for a champion? We came across a 1998 short wheelbase diesel Toyota Land Cruiser for five grand.

Round 5: Ford Fiesta vs Vauxhall Cor-

ALWAYS a close-fought contest this. Vauxhall gave its man a new name but call it a Corsa or Nova, it's always taken the fight to the Fiesta. And it's often been a close fought contest. Fiesta has won recent bouts, but last year Vauxhall came out with a new Corsa that's a real fighter.

Sophisticated, stylish and well-made. A real contender.

And the winner is... Too close to call. Fiesta is sporty but the Corsa is a better long-distance runner and has a quality feel.

How much for a champion? Both start at around pounds 7,000 and there's plenty of model choice for both cars.

Round 6: Ford Mondeo vs Vauxhall Vectra

A BATTLE that started with Cortina vs Cavalier decades ago is still raging. Ford has just launched a new Mondeo and it's going down a storm with the fans.

It's a bit ugly, but very refined and spacious. A new Vectra is on its way next year but is getting a new name - Insignia. So the gloves will be off again next summer.

And the winner is... The Mondeo, for the moment. It's more modern, more refined and better to drive.

How much for a champion? The range starts at pounds 14,995 for the 2.0 Edge hatchback.

Round 7: BMW 3 Series vs Mercedes C Class

ONE of the toughest fights in motoring with a lot at stake. The peoples' champion from BMW versus the steady fighter from Mercedes which for years has been the underdog. But a new C-Class was launched this year, which shows all the effects of a serious training programme.

And the winner is... BMW, on points. It's a narrow victory as the two are more evenly matched than ever.

How much for a champion? We found a nice five year-old 318i with low miles and history for pounds 7,000. Huge choice of specs so have fun choosing!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 7, 2007
Words:928
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