WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Although its styling is different, much of what’s underneath the mk2 is very similar to the mk1, including the same rust traps around the rear arches and sills. So rather than simply repeat ourselves, let’s just say that equal caution around the back end of the car is required. In common with the earlier car, blocked rain water drain holes through the sills can help give you an indication if there’s likely to be trouble – give the car a little rock from side to side, and if you can hear water sloshing around in the sills, take that as being ‘not good news’. Where the mk2 differs from its predecessor in the rust department is with its front chassis rails, which are prone to significant and potentially hazardous corrosion. Turn the front wheels to full lock and look at the chassis rails where the front anti-roll bar brackets bolt and weld on – this area is a double skin on the mk2 and a harbour for serious rust. MOT testers often correctly pass cars with problems here because the rust survives the tester’s plastic hammer – a couple of sharp blows with a ball pein hammer will often reveal an ugly truth. Good repairs can be made, but all of the corroded metal must be cut out first.
As with the mk1, crusty-looking subframes and wishbones aren’t necessarily deal-breakers as the metal here is quite thick and responds well to vigorous attack with a wire brush and a liberal application of a decent quality rust treatment, though not a bitumen-based product. Both the 1.6 and 1.8 engines can drink a fair bit of oil and it can weep from various seals, but if you keep a keen eye on the dipstick this shouldn’t be problematic. The gearboxes appreciate an oil change from time to time, so check when that was last done. If the gears are particularly hard to engage or the clutch pedal is biting very high, it’s a sign that the clutch in on the way out. Binding brake calipers are pretty common and will need servicing or replacing with a refurbished item. Tired dampers on high mileage cars are common – replacing them makes a huge difference to the handling.