CHRIS HARRIS VIDEO: HOT HATCH SHOWDOWN
Focus ST, Astra VXR and Megane Renaultsport compared on the road, on track and... in the air?
Vauxhall has been the underdog in this category for so long now that it's hard to remember when a hot Astra bettered its Ford equivalent. In fact, I'm not sure it ever has. Judged on looks alone, this new VXR has to stand a decent chance. Factor in a set of power and torque figures that make you wonder if a front-driven hatch can handle such numbers, and you have a car that, on UK roads, might be very handy.
The last Focus ST was a pretty remarkable machine: pass a warm towel over the ECU and it would give 260hp, all the while sounding decidedly quattro-like. Sadly, this new car loses a cylinder, and it can only be ordered as a five-door or an estate. The gamble here by Ford is on whether, by taking the ST to a more sensible place, they render it less appealing to the thousands of people who loved the old car for its tuneability.
Megane Renaultsport 265. I freely admit to being a huge fan of this car - every aspect of it feels precisely developed, and it offers a driving experience that not much else at the price can match. In many ways, it's the strongest argument against the Toyota GT86. Yes, it's front-wheel drive, but you wouldn't believe how much fun you can have in one.
On the road, the Megane can be harsh; on a circuit an ST can feel like a small boat in a force nine. So we drove them in all conditions, on road and a small track. And we did some little jumps in them too.
Not wishing to give the game away, these are three fantastic cars.
Enjoy the vid, as much as I enjoyed my exposure to the type of performance car best suited to UK roads.