There’s never usually much to be excited by with an entry-level model. Typically base billing means less power, less style, less technology, and less fun. That might be changing with the EV, because you can’t go from a four-cylinder to a six-cylinder battery, but for a lot of normal cars, there’s a reason you’re going to be paying less money. It’s because there’s more on offer for a little extra.
But the Mitsubishi Evo was never really a normal kind of car. What looked like a four-door saloon was actually one of the fastest cars on the road, and a car built by one of the dullest companies around was one of the most exciting out there to drive. It was a car full of contradictions, including a 2.0-litre engine about as thirsty as a V12, so it should have come as little surprise to anyone (though it did) that the least powerful one turned out to be brilliant.
The Evo VIII 260 was introduced in 2004, there simply to entice buyers who might not have thought they could stretch to a lairy Lancer. Back then, of course, your £25,000 could have been spent on all manner of great cars, from Nissan 350Z to Mazda RX-8 and BMW Z4 to Alfa Romeo 147 GTA. Mitsubishi wanted a slice of that action, especially with four-wheel drive alternatives like the Impreza WRX and Golf R32 around that money as well. And if ever people tell you to stop whingeing about the good old days, tell them about the cars available brand new at £25k in 2004…
Anyway, the clever bit of the Evo 260 was that it kept all the good bits of the package - including the Active Yaw Control, Active Centre Diff and Brembo brakes - with just a little less power and not quite such a huge spoiler. For thousands of pounds less. Who wouldn’t want that? The reviews overflowed with praise. ‘Superb bang-per-buck performance proposition’ raved one verdict; ‘It may be the humblest car in the range, but it's also the one I would want to keep’ gushed another. The 260 was another great Evo, and at its £22,999 launch price for 2004 - with three years free servicing, incredibly - an absolute bargain as well.
The Lancer Evo being what it is, however, and only getting ever more exhilarating with more power, means not many 260s sold. Certainly, it seems that there are always more FQ models for sale, be they standard or modified. This one must have some story to tell, completely unmolested and with just 17,000 miles under those iconic Enkei wheels. It must have taken some restraint merely not to drive it at every possible opportunity, let alone think about upgrades. The Evo looks as basic and brilliant as ever, from the head unit straight outta Halfords to the incy-wincy spoiler. The Recaros, of course, are truly something to behold.
Unfortunately for those wishing to bag a bargain Evo as the 260 once was, the appreciation for Mitsubishi’s greatest-ever creation has reached every model. This one, with its paltry mileage and factory fresh condition, is £38,495 - more than even the GR Yaris that feels very much like the model’s spiritual successor. We probably shouldn’t reveal what a decent Evo VIII FQ 320 was at the end of 2018. But when 22Bs are apparently a quarter of a million and even Escort Cossies are six figures, maybe new hot hatch money for the Evo we’d all forgotten about can be justified. Good luck trying to keep that mileage down, though…
SPECIFICATION | MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION VIII 260
Engine: 1,997cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 262@3,500rpm
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 152mph
Year registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 17,000
Price new: £22,999 (2004)
Yours for: £38,495
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