Honda Civic Type R | Matt B
Hopefully on your way to this article you’ll have spotted the PH Hero feature on the old Ford Focus RS. Hopefully it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say I loved putting it together - there really is little to beat a fast Ford on a glorious mountain road in the sunshine. Having not always loved the most recent RS, it was the best way to get reacquainted.
Sam had taken the Civic to Ford for the swap, meaning it was the Honda I drove immediately after hundreds of miles in the RS. They were the best miles I’d enjoyed in the Focus since its launch five years ago, in fact, and having always put the Type R ahead in comparisons. In 2021, after a great week with the Ford… I still love the Honda. If anything, the Focus has served to make me like it more. Sorry for those wanting a surprise.
The low, snug driving position felt supercar-like by comparison; the ride positively plush having been bullied by the Ford. Oh sure, the Focus highlighted the Civic’s fairly naff sound - which is particular demerit, it should be said, in a four-cylinder Honda - but I’m really not sure there’s much else I preferred. Ok, some Drift Mode silliness was fun, albeit nowhere near enough to offset the overall appeal of the lighter, keener Civic. And yes, I’m comparing new with old, which is never fair. Don’t forget, however, that this FK8 Civic arrived in 2017, when the Focus was still on sale. And you’ll now pay £5,000 less than the Ford for a similar used secondhand one…
Car: 2021 Honda Civic Type R GT
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: January 2021
Mileage: 5,261 (delivered on 2,945)
List price new: £37,170 (Type R GT at £36,320, plus £850 for Racing Blue Pearl paint)
BMW M340d | Nic C
Alongside an absence of truly long journeys, I’ve also fretted about my failure to properly exploit the M340d’s boot capacity. Inevitably I suffer from the same Covid-related addiction to Amazon as you (bonafide Fisher-made astronaut pen? Yep, got one last week) but transporting empty cardboard boxes to the local recycling bin doesn’t really qualify as load lugging in my book. Not in a 3 Series wagon, the Transit Connect of the upper middle class.
Thank goodness then for the Mk3 Focus RS and Wales and snapper Harry’s many, many Peli cases. Hero cars deserve a heroic background, and the Nitrous Blue Ford had earned itself an eight-hour round trip from my front door. Takeaways? Well, I’m a self-confessed fan of the last RS, but Beelzebub himself could not have induced me to swap for the M340d on the return leg. On the many, many Welsh A roads between location and motorway, it picked off slower moving traffic like a Hayabusa, monstered the M4 while being careful to mollycoddle my spine, and then delivered me to the bottom of Reigate Hill having barely drunk half its tank.
More pleasing still though was the fleeting opportunity to fill the boot with man-grade clutter. Masters of the photographic arts have this in spades, and are understandably precious about its stowage. Of course it all slotted in like mahjong tiles and was no more a hinderance to the M340d than the M340d is to the earth’s orbit around the sun. I helpfully suggested Harry could do worse than replace his ailing ’07 Passat estate with a £62k-with-options Touring. His reply proved unprintable, but suggested hearty agreement.
Car: 2021 BMW M340d Touring
Run by: Nic
On fleet since: December 2020
List price new: £54,325 (on the road, as standard; price as tested £62,615)
Renaultsport Clio 182 | Sam S
So capable is the 182 in its current state of tune that it’s been nicknamed the ‘Clio GT3’ in the virtual office. Okay, so maybe I’m the one chiefly responsible for that - but I assure you it’s with good reason. It relates to those icons I’ve attempted to emulate in the 182’s setup: Trophy-R-aping negative camber, a Clubsport-inspired, stiffer rear end and, ahem, GT3 cabin touchpoints.
It was after a drive in Porsche’s last-gen GT3 that I absolutely knew I needed an Alcantara (ok, suede) steering wheel in bent-arm reach, a harness and hip-hugging buckets. It was just so, well, race car. Obviously, the carbon-backed chairs of Stuttgart’s purest 911 model would probably look out of place in a 182 (if I could afford them; which I can’t), so I opted for the next best thing: Recaro Pole Positions. Or, at least, I opted for one, because forking out what was, at the time, nearly half the car’s value on seats wasn’t easy to justify.
But now, thanks to the savings enabled by a lengthy lockdown, I’ve justified making the Clio’s front row symmetrical again. The added bonus is a little weight saving, because the fixed-back Pole Position is pretty light, but mainly it’s just made the interior look a lot tidier. It’s as nice to look at as it is functional. With the flocked dash, that harness and bits of carpet I’ve added to cover the subframes, it could easily be a GT3. If you squint incredibly hard.
Car: 2004 Renaultsport Clio 182
Run by: Sam S
On fleet since: July 2018
BMW 340i Touring | Pete D
The 340i has only had a few niggles since buying it; small things really, but the other day I was feeling in a petty mood and set out to address a few of them. First up was the panoramic sunroof, which sometimes refuses to work properly thanks to a sticky wind guard. The ‘fix’ involved some deft handiwork – holding down the wind guard until the glass roof had almost fully shut and letting go. Think Indiana Jones, hat and closing door. Doing that ‘reset’ the process at least let me shut the roof, but I didn’t dare open it again.
The second problem related to refinement. At 50mph and above, I could hear an excessive amount of wind noise from around the front screen, something that had prevented me from fully enjoying the Harman Kardon speakers and, of course, that silky straight-six, without an annoying whistling noise in the background. With that and the roof to be properly sorted, I took the car to Sytner in Sunningdale and they thankfully spotted that the wind deflector was mis-aligned. Adjusting that fixed roof, while the wind noise required new A-pillar rubber, something that was sorted there and then. Happy days.
In other news, I’ve also bought a trailer to tow our EnduroKa racer with. Thanks to the retractable tow bar factory-fitted to the 340i, it is now the race car support vehicle for team PH. And while it is a tight squeeze on the driveway, we have now a pretty awesome fleet accumulating outside the house. Mind you, linking trailer and Ka to the back of the 340i isn’t doing good things for my wallet, with the BMW’s 3.0-litre averaging around 20mpg on long tow runs. But it certainly pulls well enough, accelerating away from lights better than most unladen cars. Handily, the car even has a tow bar camera for positioning the attachment. I remain smitten.
Car: 2017 BMW M340i Touring M-Sport
Run by: RacingPete
On fleet since: March 2021
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