I bought the Nova for £400 as a runabout after I was involved in an accident in my much-loved 1985 Astra 1600SR. The idea was for cheap transport for a few months until I could get the Astra back on the road; such is my financial situation though, work on the Astra still hasn't begun and the Nova's proving to be very capable transport.
It had been neglected somewhat by its' previous owner, so I spent a bit of cash on a full service, new thermostat, new Firestone tyres all round and new brake fluid, which helped things no end, and also repaired most of the rust (new sills are surprisingly cheap!) Aside from the above, the car's proved very reliable, starting first time in all weathers and happy to do regular 250-mile round trips on the motorway. The Antibes spec - which gives you a few SR bits, such as a rear spoiler, sports steering wheel, attractive red interior and six-dial instruments - looks the part without looking "boy-racer-ish" and I've updated it with central locking, electric windows, a third rear brakelight, decent stereo and - most of all - an alarm/immobiliser. As a result, it's now very usable...
The engine is the highlight; typical Vauxhall OHC motor, free-revving, smooth and punchy, with more performance than its' size suggests. It happily cruises at 80 and even 90mph on the motorway (I mean 70, officer...) and can keep up with modern traffic. The seats are very comfortable, and it holds the road quite well despite its' tiny weight.
Downsides? Well, the brakes still aren't great (like most Novas apparently), the ride's awful (but so are the roads in this country) and the gearbox is typical Vauxhall - tough, but never likes going into first gear. I can live with that though, and these are minor gripes. These old cars are remarkably good, even by modern standards, and they have a lot more charm than the more modern Corsa.
Why anyone ever bought the rattly old Mk2 Fiesta is beyond me!!!