I bought this car purely on the strengths of my '94 214, a car which truly astounded me with how good it was.
I do up to 30,000 miles a year so an economical engine was a must. The 1.4 K-series in the 25 returned an average 45MPG during the summer and 42-43MPG during winter on my 100 mile a day commute. Of course, the 84PS limiter helped keep costs down by ensuring I could never open the throttle completely. I never got around to removing the limiter to get the full 105PS/103bhp. The car never failed to start and the only engine related problem was the alternator. Never lost a drop of oil or water.
Performance on the 84ps engine certainly felt down compared with the 105, but not enough to upset the driving feel. The K series is happy to go to the red line on request and good use of gears keeps the car moving briskly. The only real complaint I have with performance is climbing hills on motorways - loose any speed in 5th (e.g. get stuck behind a lorry) and you'll need 4th to get back up to 70mph.
Handling - a real highlight. The 25's suspension and steering are spot on. There is an excellent balance between comfort and road holding, the car feeling just as good on a bumpy rural B road as it is being driven at speed around a tight corner. I managed to loose traction only once, hitting a roundabout too fast on a dark, freshly gritted winter road. The back end broke smoothly away and was well under control (until I caught the kerb and bounced around.. but that's not the car's fault).
Brake action is good - they do feel soft, but happily lock up the wheels if needed (no, there was no ABS on mine). Now I don't have the 25 I find I miss its nice gradual application of the brakes. My current car has sharp brakes which again stop the car wonderfully, but make crawling in traffic more of a chore than it already is.
Clutch action is light and smooth, with a gradual bite.
The gear change is near perfect, smooth and precise. No play in the stick. But! Like most R65 gearboxes, reverse was a pain. In this particular car, I had to double declutch nearly every time to get reverse.
The exterior looks I can't fault. The door panels seem a bit thin, but visually it all seems to work really well. All the alloys available look really good too - not sure what mine were called but were 15" and looked great. Okay, it did look like it sat quite high on them but that's because it did - if you want low down get a ZR.
The interior is nice enough and I certainly found it fine for long distance driving, but there are some points to note:
* There isn't much room in the foot well. There is a footrest next to the clutch, but to use it you must put your foot under the pedal unless you have really small feet.
* You feel like you're sitting high up in the car. Quickly got use to it.
* I found the radio a little too far away to reach easily - the traffic information button on the right is close enough, but I had to stretch for the volume. The car had the basic single CD unit, a bit of a blocky design, but more than capable of the job!
* The in-door vents for demisting the side windows have disappeared from the 25. I found the side windows getting misted up occasionally and had to resort to using the side face vents to do the job. Certainly something from the Mk2 214 I missed.
* The rear seat backs fold down, but the bottom part of the seat doesn't fold up. Apart from that there's quite a nice boot space to play with. And the trick of being able to drop the parcel shelf down behind the seats is a lovely touch! Very useful!
* When I bought the car, it was rattle free. After 5,000 miles the NS rear seatbelt cover rattled, but was easily fixed. By the time 60,000 miles came around, there was a slight rattle from the B column next to my head. Didn't find the source of that one, didn't really look.
In general, the 1.4 84PS 25 is not a remarkable car, but better than many similar cars on the road today. Now, put a faster engine in it and you'll have something completely different.. I'd love a go in a ZR120/160...
Would I recommend the car to others? Yes. Unless you want something bigger or something faster, I would suggest you give one a test drive. You might not be able to get one soon.