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This review was originally published in issue 110 of Top Gear magazine (2002)

Elsewhere in this issue, we’ve disappeared off to the depths of Wales to answer the question ‘which car lays on the most fun for £20k?’ But if you’re amongst the more exclusive group of drivers who are able to stump up a further 50 per cent, the question ‘which car lays on the most fun for a budget of £30k?’ is a whole heap easier to respond to. Because right now, this is it.

Yup, it’s another Mitsubishi Evo VII. So far we’ve brought you reviews of the RS, RSII, GTA and Extreme versions, and now, using admittedly the flimsiest of excuses to have another blast, it’s the turn of what’s expected to be the most popular model, the FQ-300.

This, then, is the quickest Evo VII officially imported into the UK and available from any franchised Mitsubishi dealer. For the pleasure you’ll be required to pay £31,495, or £1,500 more than the standard-spec 276bhp Evo VII RSII. That buys you some entirely superfluous carbon-fibre trim attached to the dashboard, centre console and the ends of the ludicrous rear spoiler. Oh, and a power boost to 305bhp! A freer-flowing air filter and stainless-steel exhaust account for the extra oomph, though it’s rumoured that untweaked examples of the RSII (on which the FQ-300 is based) have been found to develop rather more horsepower than Mitsubishi claims.

Just imagine how over 300bhp crammed into a flimsy-feeling, compact Japanese saloon could transform your life? The FQ-300’s easy-breathing upgrades result in a reduction in turbo lag, meaning that a shove of your right foot is all-but-instantly transformed into the sort of acceleration that can, briefly at least, leave other occupants yearning for a warm blanket and a sugary cup of tea.

And so I found myself looking forward to a trip to Milton Keynes, the ‘looking forward to’ bit never previously having preceded the words ‘Milton Keynes’. A befuddling surrounding road layout, including at least 300 roundabouts to play on, provided reason enough for making it my destination.

Underneath, the FQ-300 benefits from the Evo VII RSII’s regular suspension set-up. It’s firm by most standards, but retains a supple edge that helps the car to really flow over our poorly-surfaced roads. And as roundabout heaven halfway up the M1 proved, pointy steering, communicative Brembo brakes, epic traction and high grip levels matched to progressive limits make it a car that most drivers can get the most out of, despite its monumental capabilities. Plus it has an Active Centre Differential allowing the amount of power being sent to the front or rear wheels to be varied – in the dry laying on the biggest grins when the bulk is directed to the back in ‘Tarmac’ mode.

At this point then, I feel amply armed to wade into the argument raging in every Internet ‘chat’ room aimed at car anoraks: what’s best, the Evo VII or the UK-spec Subaru Impreza WRX STi? Well this FQ-300 is quicker, sharper, more refined, suffers less turbo lag and has more adjustable handling than the STi. Sadly it’s pricier, guzzles more super unleaded and needs servicing more frequently. But I reckon it’s worth it.

The Evo’s styling is also reassuringly less up-for-a-scrap than the Impreza’s. But as the bloke driving a BMW 325Ti Compact appeared to be surmising just after I’d overtaken him, it still is, in the healthiest possible manner, ‘a complete oik’s car’. 

Verdict: If you have the cash and you want the speed, this is where to spend it. You will definitely be first off at the lights.

2.0-litre turbo 4cyl
305bhp, AWD
0-60mph in 5.1 secs (approx.), max speed 157mph

Words: Peter Grunert

Images: Jim Forrest

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