Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!

The 1980s were so long ago. Cars that seemed commonplace daily transportation are recently being tagged with the phrase “near-extinct.” That hurts. But it's an effect of the ever-changing landscape of the streets in this country and now it's all about scouring people's driveways and picking from their "out of love" restoration projects.

I guess that means when you see an Isuzu Impulse Turbo for sale, you have to buy it. It’s only been a year since I saw a red Impulse on the roof of a parking garage in Santa Barbara, though I’m pretty sure it’s the same one that I’ve seen now and then for the last decade. Isuzu cars were decently popular when they were sold with a different badge (usually Geo) but utterly forgettable when sold alongside PUPs and Troopers. That’s a shame, because the Impulse was an odd/good-looking car.

This 1989 Isuzu Impulse Turbo is relatively clean and low mileage and with a little fixing up might be a real classic. Sure, it's saddled with two nasty automatic things – a transmission and seatbelts – but such is the problem with cars of this era. When new, the engine made 140 horsepower and three weeks of lag, but it's a small package that needs motivating. And who knows, with some work it could be a fast little Impulse again.

I love to make fun on the “Handling by Lotus” badge, as if it were some kind of badge of honor, but the green does make it look cool. And I so miss the big “INTERCOOLED TURBO” stickers – subtle they are not, but neither are fake side vents like on modern cars.

My search for a Colt Turbo or a Mitsubishi Cordia was proving tiresome, so I got unnecessarily excited when I saw this very clean Renault Encore. It’s the second relatively clean one I’ve seen in as many months – so it stands out to me because the last Encore I’ve seen in the flesh was mossy and up on blocks in Newton, Mass.

I don’t know what it is about ’80s Renaults. Even the seller admits notorious quality faults like the melting instrument panel needles. They're super-fragile and assembled without care, but among the really dull Omnis and Escorts and Cavaliers of the same era, I can appreciate the thinking. I can also appreciate the relatively great condition this 29-year-old car is in.

There are some major issues with this 1984 Renault Encore LS, though. It’s a 1.4. It’s an automatic. It has vinyl seats. It’s doesn’t have turbo stickers plastered all over it to make up for the fact you have to defend it when it breaks down every Thursday afternoon. Still, it's not like the Isuzu Impulse was ever an example for good '80s reliability.


Only a lunatic would go to quite the lengths of restoring a Kenosha Renault like this. I appreciate it immensely. But I'm swayed by a turbo and I’d have to take the Isuzu. Who knew a car called an Impulse Turbo could conjure up so much consideration.