Ginetta G20

Close your eyes for a moment and try to visualise just what a traditional British sports car should look like. The chances are that something very similar to the new Ginetta G20 will have flashed across your sub-conscious. Now open them again and join us as we take the G20 out on the road for real. The first thing that strikes you about the car is its size, because it is shorter, narrower and lower than even the tiny Lotus Elise.

Close your eyes for a moment and try to visualise just what a traditional British sports car should look like. The chances are that something very similar to the new Ginetta G20 will have flashed across your sub-conscious. Now open them again and join us as we take the G20 out on the road for real. The first thing that strikes you about the car is its size, because it is shorter, narrower and lower than even the tiny Lotus Elise.

The shape, however, is unmistakably Ginetta. Having experimented unsuccessfully with more practical and less attractive road cars in the past, the small Sheffield-based manufacturer with a worldwide reputation has returned to its roots. With no roof, windows or even a windscreen, the G20's purposeful curves and clean lines scream classic Sixties racer.

Jump in and the theme continues. The two-piece fibreglass bodywork curls around deep bucket seats, and despite the car's size even tall drivers will find relative comfort. But there are precious few luxuries. An eye-catching centrally mounted instrument binnacle and the bare minimum of switchgear are clear and within easy reach. A leather-trimmed Mountney steering wheel and aluminium gearknob are the only other features in a cockpit more spartan than even a Caterham's.

Hit the bright red starter button, however, and the 1.8-litre fuel-injected engine burbling into life soon makes you forget luxury. A weighty, short-travel clutch makes smooth getaways tricky, while heavy low-speed steering and a poor lock mean manoeuvring is laborious. But out on the open road the G20 pulls fantastically through the gears of its notchy, short-shift, five-speed 'box. Steering is direct and the nose turns in smartly, with the chassis inspiring ever-increasing confidence. On uneven surfaces the ride can become choppy, but find a good stretch of tarmac and the car feels limpet-like.

A claimed 0-60mph time of 6.4 seconds seems modest with the wind full in your face, and the top speed of 126mph doesn't bear thinking about. The cacophony of low-speed squeaks and rattles is soon drowned out by a blistering engine roar.

Such a turn of speed requires a good set of brakes. The G20, at a mere 660kg, pulls up fast, but a lack of ABS means a risk of locking up. The brake pedal is also too close to the clutch and, with an offset steering wheel impeding your right leg, it is sometimes very difficult to stamp on the anchors in time. Other elements of the G20's design also need development: the gearlever, for example, is positioned too far back along the transmission tunnel. This means changes are awkward and obstructed by the handbrake.

But sub-six foot Ginetta drivers - of which there will be many among the firm's considerable Japanese client base - may well bypass these niggles altogether. And then what you are left with is a truly thrilling street-legal track car.

Since 1958 when the four Walkett brothers founded Ginetta, the company has striven to provide affordable road/ race cars. The G20 continues this principle, using a reconditioned 130bhp Ford Zetec engine, and the factory will finish it to your spec for

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