Horses for courses and all that - after recently looking at many and buying a 147, I'd compromise the exact 8V/16V, colour, satnav blah blah decision for the best car you can find for your budget. EG, a car with NO accident damage/paintwork (look very hard for it and never buy a car in the rain), better to see minor damage than it be covered by an unknown repair, credible history ie one you can verify, do the free govt MOT check (it's free and on line) and drive the damn thing across bad roads, fast roads, test everything. It takes what seems an age to do all that but well worth it.
There are a lot of rough examples out there, but good ones are there too. For £4k+ you should find a totally mint example.