View Full Version : TG UK Magazine July 2010 - Hot Hatch Mega Test!

5th July 2010, 09:00 PM
The lineup:
VW Golf R (MkVI)
VW Golf GTI (MkVI)
VW Polo GTI (New Polo)
VW Scirocco R
Seat Ibiza Bocanegra
Alfa Romeo MiTo Cloverleaf
Fiat 500 Abarth Essesse
Ford Focus RS500
Subaru Impreza WRX STI Cosworth
Renault Megane RS Cup
Renault Clio RS Cup

Add Stig to that and you get one interesting read.
I'm sure TG Oz will run the article in the next few moths as well but couldn't wait and got the UK July mag for $18.50 today...

Anyone keen to discuss? :)

5th July 2010, 10:21 PM
Please do.
Surely those bottom four would have to be sum mega,mega hot hatches on the twisty UK B roads !

6th July 2010, 10:59 AM
my go get that at lunch.....looks like itll be a good read !

6th July 2010, 11:36 AM
solid line up of contestants!

7th July 2010, 11:06 PM
"I'M DRIVING A TRULY brilliant hot hatch. There are five more ahead of me, and another five behind, tracing a long beautiful line down this wriggly Cumbrian pass. Somewhere close, the whine of a turbine crescendos into an ear-splitting howl, the prelude to a Gazelle helicopter swooping an arm's-reach overhead, the duff a-duffa-duffa of its blades beating hard on our roofs. Just then the morning sun breaks over the saddle of Honister and washes us in a blaze of gold. Barry, hanging out of the helicopter, starts pressing the button on his Nikon, and this rather wonderful convoy sets off down the road. These really are superabundant days for lovers of hot hatchbacks. The breed is flourishing like never before. We've got 11 of them on this road, and not one is a makeweight. All had their supporters as we made up the list. The runners and riders include two of the most scorching of the kind ever to breathe the air of the public road: a 350bhp five-cylinder front-drive Focus and a 4WD Impreza comprehensively re-engineered, with the factory's blessing, by Cosworth. That one makes 400bhp. Between them they cost 85,000. Do they stretch the definition of hot hatch beyond breaking point? Maybe, but what the heck, you can hardly blame us for wanting to find out. They're the two slightly evil black presences that bookend this convoy. Down the road between them, an assortment in dolly-mixture colours. There's the seriously powerful RenaultSport Megane 250, VW Golf Rand Scirocco R. Then we cascade through a couple of benchmarks, the facelifted RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup and the Golf GTI Mk6. We've also got an Alfa MiTo, the new Cloverleaf with the intriguing MultiAir engine and new adaptive chassis. At the lower end of the power scale, the cheery little Abarth 500 EsseEsse, Seat Bocanegra and Polo GTI -and they're hardly meek are they? And just to prove that brilliant hot hatches really are busting out all over, remember even our chosen 11 don't make up an exhaustive survey of all that's good about the type. We've not managed to include some of the juicily awaited up comers like the Citroen DS3 Racing or Alfa Giulietta Cloverleaf. Nor did we bring along others that are truly loved but have been covered here often before -Focus ST, Civic Type R and Cooper S among them. Right now you find us in Cumbria. Get up early in the morning and there are some brilliant drives around here, with open visibility through the difficult bumpy corners, and all with the backdrop of what is, no question, England's most epic scenery. It's an area that suits these quick-witted and compact cars perfectly, but its bumps and unpredictable corners will let us burrow deep into each car's abilities and sort them out."

About the Polo GTI:
The 180bhp supercharged-and-turbocharged engine they share is an easy thing to use, with torque everywhere. But the throttle response is never actually that urgent or the sound very inspiring, so it ends up being a bit dull. The seven-speed DSG drives us all potty. I thought it was just me that hated it, but everyone eventually chips in to say they hate the way the manual position refuses to be properly manual. On a car that won't go above 140mph, seven gears is too many and we get lost among them. The Polo is probably a marginally better car than the Seat, but no one wanted to take it home after this test. Its trouble is the Golf GTI. The Polo's just a cheaper and not-as-good version of the Golf. It doesn't really press home the advantage of being a smaller car. Being smaller presents the opportunity to be more fun, more agile or more endearing. The Polo doesn't capitalise. It's just. .. a lesser car.

Abarth 500 EsseEsse
Whereas the Abarth 500 EsseEsse is exactly a small, fun, agile and endearing car. You find yourself patting it on the door mirror every time you get out. Smallness brings other advantages too: before the Stig does his stuff, I stick my neck out and predict it might well swerve through the tightest corner faster than anything else. So it turns out. The Abarth is such a willing terrier, the boosty motor puffing its lungs out for you, the steering wheel tugging in your hands and letting you know what's up at the tyres, even when, as often happens, what's up is pretty chaotic. It's inevitable that since you sit high above such a short wheelbase, you're pitched and tossed about, and the ride is in any case pretty turbulent, which affects traction and cornering accuracy. But the Abarth has an ebullient tuner-car feel we love. It doesn't try to be civilised or grown-up; it just tugs at your sleeve and drags you off for some naughty behind-the-bike-sheds fun.

MiTo Cloverleaf
We had a laugh with the other Italian car, the MiTo. The chassis is alive in your hands through tight corners, and you can slither it about on the throttle, even though the ESP can't be fully disconnected but always stays there as a backstop. This new MultiAir engine has torque to spare, and the equally new six-speed box is slick. Another change on the new Cloverleaf is the adaptive damping set-up, which copes a lot better with bucking and shivering surfaces. On the other hand, let's not get too carried away: the Golf GTI rides better and is more effectively damped using passive suspension. But driving across the Pennines on the sweeping A66, a problem familiar from our original Lifer MiTo surfaces once again. This car needs too much steering. On a long sweeping bend, you're always having to nibble at the wheel. There's elasticity in the system somewhere. I hop into the Megane on the same stretch of road, and in the Renault you can approach a corner, apply the lock and leave your hands still because the steering is proportional and predictable, whereas in the Alfa it needs constant fretting.

Scirocco R
You drop down into the Scirocco's cabin. It feels low and snug, like a competition car (though the equipment and plastics quality are streets ahead of any racer we've ever seen). And it goes like its backside is on fire. On the road, its star feature is the charismatic turbo 2.0-litre, which burbles through the mid-range and charges up towards 7,000, naughtily beyond its redline. Like the Golf R it came with a six-speed manual not the optional DSG, and we were happy about that, even though experience tells us the six-speed DSG works more fluently than the Polo's seven-speeder. But the Lake District roads are the Scirocco's undoing. The chassis doesn't have enough fluency on bumps, the wheels hopping and shuddering and making the whole car feel just a bit baggy and undeveloped. This despite the fact it has adaptive damping with three selectable programmes. The Golf R does without, and feels much less disturbed. Halfway through the second day up in Cumbria, my walkie-talkie cackles. "Paul, which car wins?" After all this driving, I'm still pondering that question. I'm sitting on a big rock, gazing out across this field of talent, and I'm a bit paralysed figuring out what to make of them. The Scirocco, MiTo, Polo, Bocanegra and Abarth have fallen -though not dishonourably. But that's fewer than half the cars gone. Six remain. They're separated on power by a factor of two, and on price by a factor of three. But on desirability it's ridiculously close.

Golf GTI v R v Scirocco R
The Mk 6 Golf GTI covers bases with admirable consistency; it's fast (0-62mph in just 6.9seconds with 21Obhp), practical, reasonably priced and utterly classless. It's also damn good fun to drive -one of the best front-wheel-drive platforms our there -and elastic in its remit; pottering is met with equal relish as thrashing down a backlane. VW thinks it's so good that it has spawned two notably different variants.
The Golf R is a 4WD uber-Golf equipped with 266bhp. All the good bits of the standard car, but woven with the stability of a next-generation Haldex drivetrain and a heap more grunt. Where the standard car weeps away power with no limited-slip diff, the R will claw its way round a greasy corner with psychotic determination. Where the standard car feels a tad loose during fast direction changes on track, the R will hold fast, bulletting our of tight corners. You do pay for the extra tech; where a standard GTI costs 23,440, a basic R will set you back nearer 30k. What we really want to find out is whether it's worth it. The Roc R sits somewhere in the middle at 27,520. A coupe version of the Golf it sports a wider track than the stock car, standard adaptive damping and more visual attitude. It has the same engine as the Golf R; but ditches the 4x4 system in favour of front-drive and an electronic simulation of a limited-slip diff. It's as fast as the Golf R, and yet somehow more exuberant, oversteering on lift-off and generally being more of a hooligan. So which car is the best? Well, VW has pulled a neat trick of providing three cars that maintain all the basic strengths of the GTI brand -quality, pace, image and reliable performance -yet have very different characters. Stig repeatedly returned to the Golf R, clearly impressed by its sheer performance. Many bystanders thought the Roc R was the best-looking car in the line-up bar none. But when it comes down to it, the car every vehicle here was trying to beat, the one we all owe a debt of gratitude to for continuously pushing the brand, is the Golf GTI. It's the best all-rounder among our hot hatches. But even so, it's not the overall winner.

7th July 2010, 11:07 PM
ROLLING YORKSHIRE Dales stretch into the far distance, the view over Netherby and Kirkby Overblow toward Harrogate a perfect picture-postcard of greenery overlaid with dry-stone walls and scattered farms. Sheep are bleating, birds are singing, the weather is fine and we're ignoring the lot because The Stig has just arrived -walked in from the direction of Bardsey, he has, in a whirling cloud of mosquitoes, to set a bunch of times split by five seconds. Scenery? Forget it. Five seconds. A perfectly respectable winning margin over the course of a two-hour motor race. But opened up over a one-minute sprint it's a yawning chasm. And that's the difference between the Impreza Cosworth and the Alfa MiTo when Stig's done his work up the Harewood Hill climb. If we were simply using track speed as the way to choose a winner here, our job would be easy. But we're not. We're wrapping the Stig times and associated digital mathematics up with our own fallibly analogue human impressions of each car on the track, and then factoring everything we learnt in Cumbria and on the roads, and finally naming the car we simply like the most. That turns out to be an extremely tough job. Not that we're complaining, you understand. Quick recap. You rejoin us after we eliminated five of our convoy -Bocanegra, Polo, MiTo,-Abarth, Scirocco R. Still, now we're here it'd be rude not to take them up the Hill climb. And it turns out none of them disgrace themselves. Most of them are clean, agile and fun. The Alfa is actually better here than it has been on the road because its wheels don't hop about so much, so you can use the fine powertrain. OK, to be picky, the Abarth could use a more front-bite into the turns, and a better manual gearshift. The Seat and Polo annoy us with their bolshy DSGs. The one that gives the biggest surprise is the Scirocco R, which wags its tail furiously going into one or two of the corners, especially a third gear off-camber flick. Yes, the ESP caught it, but not before we'd done a reflexive and mildly eye-widening correction. Which is exactly how the Golf R is too. Actually no, only joking. The Golf R is completely different from the Scirocco R. The top Golf has four-wheel drive and that makes it entirely another kettle of fisch. It claws its way up Harewood with ruthless efficiency, and yet it doesn't feel heavy or dead like some Quattro Audis do. Nor does it feel rear-biased like the Impreza -it's set up like a front-drive car that happens to have supernatural traction. It steers sharply and, because it's switched to a four-cylinder where previous Golf Rs were VR6s, it's not nose-heavy. OK it loses the V6 music, but the handling advantages make up for it, and anyway this is one of the more charismatic four-cylinders you'll find. Now you could argue that the more slithery nature of the Scirocco's chassis and its lower stance make it the more amusing of the two VW Rs on the track, but on the road there's no contest. The Golf R is just so predictable and useable and always feels on your side. Besides, its passive dampers work much better on the road than the Scirocco's fancy adaptive set-up. Yes it's a firm-riding car, but it's always fluent rather than harsh or jiggly. The development effort in the R is profound. And it's not just ruthless German efficiency either: for example, it has its own LED tail-lamps, not fitted even to the GTI. That can't make economic sense; even the accountants at VW must love this car with irrational fervour. The Golf R is an astonishing machine, with a seemingly bottomless well of talent and horizon of abilities. It's such an ally whatever you throw at it. But is it worth 6,000 over the Golf GTI? Actually, most of the time probably not. Given how much we adore the R, that says a lot about the GTI.

The GTI. Still on the top of its game after 34 years. Its 210bhp doesn't sound much, and there's nothing especially singular about its technology, but somehow everything about the GTI just comes together and over-performs like crazy. It scuttles up Harewood with lots of traction, the chassis always biddable and transparent. On the road it has probably the best ride of all these cars, coupled with nicely judged damping, so it shrugs off the bad roads with much goodness. It's refined and beautifully made. No one's going to ask any questions if you have a Golf GTI. Which of course makes it a bit of a familiar and over-comfortable choice, but after this test was over I had the need to chase the length, and then the breadth, of the country at antisocial hours and I can tell you that's a precious asset.
If the kicking given to the Scirocco R by the Golf R -and even the Golf GTI -is bad enough, the Scirocco also manages to lose out to its nearest conceptual rival, the Megane RS.

Megane RS
The Megane is another coupe-type machine, with another high-boost 2.0-litre turbo. Its 250bhp might be 15 down on the Scirocco's, but that's only six per cent so it's nothing to get het up about. Its mid-range delivery is generous and predictable too. And yet the Megane's engine leaves us feeling a bit let down. It just sounds a bit dull, and runs out of revs too early, at 6,000rpm. There's a change-up light and it seems to be blinking away at you all the time. In other ways the Megane truly lights our fire. RenaultSport doesn't just stuff a powerful engine under the hood, firm up the suspension, offer a quick prayer to the deities of hot-hatchery and head off for a long French lunch. Instead, the engineers and designers work every hour God sends, going over the cars from end to end and changing everything they deem necessary for driving Nirvana. In the Megane, they've produced a chassis able to get down the immense power with ease. This Cup version even has a limited-slip diff, as well as the pivoting knuckle front suspension (similar to what's on the Focus and Clio). It's got loads of traction and hardly any torque steer, and hammers up Harewood without demanding much from us. Out on the road, the pin-accurate and very fast steering makes the Megane seem alert, but because there's no disturbance it's also strangely relaxing. The ride's definitely on the stiffer side of the spectrum, but again, perfectly judged damping means it's not going to shiver you. Besides which, you're sitting low, so everything feels stable. Apart from the excellent semi-race seat, this is also a civilised and well-finished cabin. And of all the cars here, the Megane Cup might just be the one that best combines a good-looking basic shell with some well-designed hot-hatch additions. The thoroughness of a RenaultSport conversion comes into play again here: wider wings, for instance, as well as the nose and tail jobs.

So the Megane is a seriously fast car on the difficult roads. Which ought to be exciting. But it didn't leave any of us tin not just the lack of fizz from the engine The Megane went down as a very near miss..

Focus RS500
The Focus rights these wrongs. Oh boy –you feel part of it. Wrestling it up the Hill climb down the road at the kind of speeds it can manage is a game you'll only get on top of:: pour in your every drop of mental and ph} resources. The notion of 350bhp on its own: enough to get your attention, but together the torque of this turbo engine and short and front-drive, you can see that this could heading straight down the slip road on the superhighway to chaos. Casting a wary eye over the evil black finish. the huge spoilers, the storm-drain tailpipes, , ~ inlets and the outlets, you're never in doubt that this is supposed to be intense. Spark up five-cylinder engine and the throb is deep and meaningful. But it's a well-integrated tune-up job: boost arrives smoothly and evenly. But be -no doubt it does come hard. You've scarcely ser off when you're grabbing second, the wastegate letting out a squally sigh. The rest of the gears come soon after. To make sure the RS500 has the chassis gumption to handle all that poke, I've no doubt the RS engineers diligently embarked on a programme of analysis and testing and measurement. But they didn't actually open the lid of their socket set. Except for the engine, some blue stitching in the cabin and the bodywork's Darth Vader skin, the RS500 is exactly the RS. Which makes you admire the original car all the more. Oh, and by the way, it also means you can get the same extra horsepower as a kit to muscle-up your existing RS. So, as with the regular RS, you do get torque steer at full noise. But if you're holding on, it doesn't impede you. That's the pivoting knuckle front suspension doing its stuff. And thanks to the limited-slip diff, as well as well-chosen anti-roll bars, the traction out of tight bends is just gob-smacking.

7th July 2010, 11:08 PM
Subaru Impreza Cosworth
Compared with the other hatches, it takes concentration but sends a high-voltage buzz through your senses that lasts well after the finish line. On the road, the front end initially feels light, bobbing a little like a 911 's does, and for most of us the steering is too wispy. But load it up through bumpy bends and Cosworth's chassis tuning comes into its own. The suspension always seems to be able to find more travel no matter what the road throws at it, and you get a sublime feel for the grip and direction changes. It's a magnificent re-work of the standard STi, and almost has the ability of a rally car while keeping a reasonable measure of civilisation. But 50,000? Actually, even that's a giveaway. Cosworth itself admits that the expense of such a deep engineering rummage into the engine and chassis will never be recouped in the limited run of75 cars. But Cosworth has done it as a flag-waving exercise and hopes it will lead to more work from Subaru. Such economics needn't concern us though. What matters is, does it feel like a 50,000 car? Pretty well BMW M3 money. Not when you look at the dash, or sit in the floppy unsupportive seats, or when you press the throttle and hold your breath until you go blue before the lag ends and that seventh-wave boost kicks in again.

So where does that leave us? Have you been counting? We ruled out five cars in the Lakes, and now that's another five that didn't quite make it. And if you look at those 10 fallen, you might still not immediately recall the missing car. The one that's over the page. No peeking now. We admit we didn't expect it to win when we started this exercise, but in the end every one of us fell for it. Even though it went up Harewood four whole seconds slower than the Impreza. But when Stig climbed out of our winner I'll swear he turned, paused and nodded a near-imperceptible nod in its direction -and then the field next to the Hill climb track fell strangely silent for a moment, before all its sheep baaaed in happy unison. We had a winner alright. Please turn over."

source: TG UK, July 2010

7th July 2010, 11:12 PM
And the winner is....

8th July 2010, 08:52 PM
And the winner is....
There you go......not always the mega-kw car that takes home the bacon !
Really like these cars.