One of the most enjoyable cars I have ever owned has also been one of the cheapest and slowest. It was a 1992 Volkswagen GTI 8v that was just an amazing car. It had maybe 125hp on a good day with the mods I had done. It had manual crank windows, no power locks and a really dark cloth interior. It was loud; it idled rough and was somewhat temperamental. It was also light, responsive and more involving to drive than anything short of a 911.
The stars aligned when VW built the mk2 GTI, and in my opinion at least, they still have not been able to bring that magic back into their cars. I like the later cars, they just don't elicit the same response from me. I currently have both a mk3 and mk4 car and I like driving both of them, but I don't look for excuses to drive them like I did my mk2. The mk3 got heavier, more isolated. My mk3 has power windows and locks, leather seating; it has a larger more powerful engine than the little 1.8, but just doesn't have the same amount of pull. The sharpness is dulled. Even with an aftermarket suspension setup it still doesn't have the balance the mk2 had. The mk2 was neutral, I could even slide the rear end out a bit with some lift throttle oversteer. The mk3 pushes, always, no matter what.
The mk4 is technically a much better car. It's smooth; its quiet, again has power everything, leather and even heated seats. But yet again, is not as much fun to drive. I just don't get the same experience out of the newer cars. I feel isolated, I feel like I really have to try to get the car to turn, plus, it's so much bigger that I can't turn one lane into a perfect cornering line anymore.
Maybe the biggest disappointment to me is just how good the mk4 is. I can't anywhere the limits of this car on the street while still maintaining some level of respect for safety and my driving record. My mk2 came equipped with a 185/60/14 and it was plenty of rubber for that car. After upgrading the suspension, the car was so tossable it was a blast to drive anywhere. I could get the backend out getting on the freeway. I know I could put narrower, less grippy tires on the car, but it's so heavy and so much torque, I would be worried about braking and spinning the tires all the time.
Maybe it's time I build another mk2.