Chris Harris Video: Hot Hatch Showdown

Mucky weather, Wales and hot hatches. These are good times.

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.

Can the Astra finally break its jinx?
Can the Astra finally break its jinx?
That hardcore faction probably already adores the 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.


Comments (265) Join the discussion on the forum

  • sagarich 21 Nov 2012

    Great video, I think I would take the megane.

    Although I think I missed if this had the cup option ticked or not? I assume it did as the ride looked very firm...

  • vescaegg 21 Nov 2012

    £28k for the focus really highlights how good value the m135i is.

  • danjama 21 Nov 2012

    I don't appreciate the looks of any of these three cars. All similar and all ugly.

  • Grovsie26 21 Nov 2012

    But isn't the VXR more than the Focus? I don't think the Focus is good value, what comes as standard? Whats a 135i like once you spec a few things? It'a also bloody ugly.

    The mengane's interior is gash.

    Nice video, id personally take the Focus. Best looking, nicest interior, and i really don't give a monkey's if the others are half a 2nd faster round a tight track, the Ford sounds like the ideal hot hatch to me.

    Also whats with VXR's and there horrible gearsticks?

  • Ecosseven 21 Nov 2012

    vescaegg said:
    £28k for the focus really highlights how good value the m135i is.

    If you are comparing the base price of the Focus (ST) and the M135i then it's £21,995 vs £29,995. I think both offer good value for money although most people will add a few options.

    I also think that the high end hot hatches are in danger of missing their target market. A 210bhp Focus / Astra / Megane at £19k would sell like hot cakes. Do people really need or want the extra 40-60bhp? Just my opinion of course.

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