Hello. You can forget your Ferraris and Porsches (Ferrarae? Porsche-e?) – we’re celebrating the Volvos, Nissans and Mazdas of the racing game world with our look back at some of the slower cars on offer over the years. Sometimes they’re simply more fun to drive than your Mr-Smug-Show-Off-Lamborghini and sometimes they, er, aren’t.

Ford Ka – Ford Racing (Empire Interactive, 2000)

After the strange advertainment of the Ford Simulator series, someone had the bright idea to make a proper racing game featuring Ford cars to put in the shops next to Need for Speed et al.

And which of us hasn’t had the dream of driving a Ford Ka(ck) around a track against a field of like-minded opponents? Well, thanks to Ford Racing, that dream can come true. Sadly, the game lacks the requisite quality to make anything of this thrilling setup, coming off as a poor relation of TOCA (following some fairly smelly reviews, copies were later bundled with other, more popular, budget releases like Crazy Taxi).

Later Ford Racing games took more of a lightweight arcade approach, allowing you to utilise a variety of cars and trucks from the US range of vehicles across a number of lap-based events, and the Ka was nowhere to be seen.

Peugeot 106 – Rally Championship Xtreme (Actualize, 2001)

This underrated rally game certainly made you work for its top end cars, earned through hours of practice on courses with the lower class vehicles. However, it’s a blessing in disguise, as there’s plenty of fun to be had with the tiny hatchbacks on offer.

At the very bottom end you have the Citroën Saxo and Ford Puma, but if you’re feeling a little braver there’s a Honda Civic and a Peugeot at the next level up. We’ll go with the Peugeot 106, as some of my fondest memories with the game are associated with that car and the various UK based rally stages, particularly this move using a powerslide to get through some concrete gateposts.

(It’s an ancient pre-YouTube video with no sound, sorry! We had short clips like this in the site’s early years and kept them for posterity).

Side note: this game is still awesome! I spent ages trying to get it to work again and was fairly emotional when it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to.

Lancia Fulvia – Rally Trophy (JoWood, 2001)

An honourable mention for this game, dedicated to the classic era of rallying and a selection of rather rustic vehicle options, many of which are prone to sliding all over the place at the merest hint of a driving error.

Salvation comes in the form of the Lancia Fulvia, which seems much more inclined to stay put, allowing you more opportunity to enjoy the scenery and the occasionally passive-aggressive comments of your co-driver.

(OK, so this is technically one of the better cars in the game, isn’t it? But slow and unglamorous by the standards of most racers…)

Vauxhall VX220 – Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 (Electronic Arts, 2002)

The pursuit was anything but hot in this underwhelming entry in the NFS series so it seems fitting that one of the starter cars is Vauxhall’s attempt at a sports coupé. (Bizarrely, the game also features the Opel version of the same car, with a negligible performance difference).

I may be generalising here but no-one buys a racing game to drive a Vauxhall. Although I do believe the VX220 was also the cover star of Bizarre Creations’ Dreamcast racer Metropolis Street Racer. (Did enough people buy that though? Perhaps the demise of the Dreamcast is all the VX220’s fault).

I don’t recall ever seeing one in real life, though, apart from maybe once, although that could have just been an Astra.

Kuruma – Grand Theft Auto III (Rockstar, 2002)

The driving bits in the earlier GTA games aren’t always the best – particularly when driving to a mission and accidentally causing a police chase, or those occasions when you actually race other cars – but as I mentioned before, they do capture perfectly that feeling of trying to push an average car to its limits during a getaway.

The Kuruma – your vehicle during GTA III‘s first mission (“Give Me Liberty”) – is an unexciting but solid beast that’s fun to throw around, and is one that will certainly ‘do’ if you need some wheels in a hurry.

Chrysler Neon – Need for Speed Underground (Electronic Arts, 2003)

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 was as naff as one of Richard Hammond’s leather jackets, so EA wisely decided to give their long-running racing series a Fast and Furious style makeover, based around earning respect on the streets.

You won’t get much respect by driving a Chrysler Neon, though, especially if you customise it like a vehicular version of Tony the Tiger. Still, although the distinctive handling (and, dare I say it, dashboard views) of the various cars had largely disappeared from the series over the years, one side effect of making you undertake thousands of very similar races was that you did begin to cultivate a sense of ownership of your ludicrously decorated motor. TigerCar, I still love you. And miss you, every day.

Ford LTL-9000 – TOCA Race Driver 2 (Codemasters, 2004)

The TOCA Race Driver games are known for their wide selection of vehicles (as well as some largely unsuccessful attempts to inject story-based drama into proceedings) and there were plenty of candidates for inclusion from the first game (the Saab-based racing series stands out). But instead we’ll go with some big trucks from the second game.

I know – trucks don’t really technically count, but we’re not going to go all Bus Simulator on you, I promise. I believe there were some entirely truck-and-track-based racers in the early 00s, which sounded awful, but for a quick few laps in one race, it’s a good laugh. And you can pretend to be in one of those big truck races like at the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit 2.

In Part 4: We close out the 00s with street racers galore and a trip to Hawaii…