Modern hot hatches, also known as GTIs,
have become too powerful and too quick. They can scare supercars! The quickest one
needs less than 4” from zero to 100 km/h. Of course, besides raw performance numbers
we also look for driver engagement. Today, we are at Serres Racing Circuit to find out which hatch is the fastest
and which one is the most fun to drive. We begin our quest with the Leon Cupra.
A good car to start our test with. Friendly and progressive at the limit,
really fast, but also quite easy to drive. Strong brakes.
Having a manual gearbox helps a lot: You can be sure you’ll get the gear you want
exactly when you want it. This is a great engine. Torquey in mid-range
but still pulling strong at high rpm. In order to perfectly suit
this track’s layout it would need a 200 rpm higher rev limit,
or a slightly longer 3rd gear. The front end feels really accurate. It gives you confidence
to carry more speed on corner entry, but eventually it understeers,
a bit sooner than you expect. The rear end is lively, helping
to rotate the car on faster curves. The Golf is less hardcore than the Cupra
although it uses the same hardware. It is based on the same platform
and has the same VAQ differential. It’s just that everything feels toned down. It cannot carry the same speed on entry, but it is easier for the diff to control
this amount of power, and traction on corner exit
is never an issue. On the track’s hairpin (K5)
the engine feels strong from low revs The gearbox seems a bit confused
between K10 and K11. It has a mind of its own, upshifting
when you fully press the gas pedal. This is not a true “manual” mode. It’s difficult to trailbrake. This car
cannot do two things at a time. The Golf is exactly as I expected it to be. Really easy to drive, but not exciting.
At least not on track. It’s probably the best for everyday driving.
A perfect mix of comfort and performance. But on track we’d like it a bit stiffer,
a bit faster, a bit more precise… The 308 is completely different
from the Golf and the Leon. With much less steering input,
it’s much more eager on turn-in. You instantly realize Peugeot’s
different approach to the “hot hatch”. The brakes are perfect. Strong,
and with a linear middle pedal. Trailbraking is not a problem with this car.
It can definitely do two things at a time. The gear lever works accurately.
It’s a bit long-throw, but precise. The LSD works fantastically. This 1.6-litre engine must use
a big turbo to produce 272 PS, but throttle response is good, both
when you press the gas and on lift-off. I must apply calmer inputs. It is so
aggressive, it’s easy to overdrive it. It is definitely a contender
for the most fun-to-drive hatch. With the tyres still cold, my first impression is that it’s
completely different to the previous RS 3. I’m getting positive vibes.
It’s unbelievably fast. In contrast to the 308, where you are
in a constant fight with the car, in the Audi you must accept its ways. Be patient, wait for it to find enough traction
and unleash its huge power towards the exit. The brakes are strong. Sometimes you cannot tell if the downshift
you demanded was executed or ignored. You must take your eyes off the road and
look for the gear indicator in the dashboard. But this car is way too fast. Thanks to an aluminum crankcase, the front end is 26 kg lighter.
Which results in much less understeer. No doubt, it’s quick, and a much better car
than the previous RS 3, but it’s not the sportiest hatch. The AMG has more feelsome steering
than the Audi. Every downshift is performed
the moment you pull the left paddle, and you can hear each shift clearly, so you
are always aware of the gear you’re in. I’d expect that the LSD would pull the
front wheels towards the apex more effectively. On pairs of sequential right turns, you
step on the gas early, to gain momentum, but it understeers, with the front end
not really willing to obey. Keeping a high gear and carrying speed
makes it run wide. It feels faster with slower entry, one
lower gear and early throttle application. It’s best to change-up at 6,500 rpm. A typical, hardcore Japanese hatch. With a revvy and noisy engine,
a joystick-like lever and a flashy cabin. It has an even better
suspension setup than the 308. It is firmer and, unlike the Peugeot,
you don’t feel any bounce. It has a calmer ride. It is an extremely precise driving tool.
Really sharp. And it has enough power, at last. In the previous Type R, the 2-litre turbo
didn’t really feel like it had 300+ PS. But it definitely does in this one. This car is pure joy. Pure joy! It can carry great speed in faster corners,
and find huge traction on slower ones. During direction changes, it feels lightweight.
It is unbelievably good. You can really lean on the front end. It’s awesome! It’s an awesome car,
regardless of its laptime. Everything you ask for,
is perfectly executed by the Civic. It finds an impressive amount of grip. You appreciate its adjustability mid-corner,
and the flow of information from the wheel. It follows your chosen path perfectly.
This is the definition of the “sport hatch”. Before this test, we considered the Focus RS
to be the most fun-to-drive modern hatchback, mainly thanks to its AWD characteristics: When you nail the throttle, a large % of power
goes to the rear and rotates the car. The engine is torquey and responsive, but it
can’t steal the show from the chassis/AWD setup. The RS is firm, with no roll, although
it can bounce a bit in the back. The rear oscillates when it finds grip, but it’s
nothing really annoying or scary enough. This is exactly how Ford’s AWD works. It is magical
on the faster sections of the track. It lacks the Audi’s power. Our 1st lap was 1:32.4.
Let’s see if it can do better… It has an unbelievable way of turning towards
the apex. There’s no understeer to worry about. Now, regarding oversteer…
First of all, it’s a huge joy! Second, it’s easy to catch the slide,
since it comes in a friendly way. You can keep the wheel pointing straight, and
use the weight transfer and the clever AWD. Not a common way to drive a hot hatch,
but extremely enjoyable. The RS combines the potential for impressive
laptimes, with unparalleled driving fun. The Type R is different. More focused on
going fast, and maybe even more extreme. Each one requires a different driving approach,
just like a Fiesta WRC and an F1 car. This is a difficult match. We finished overtime,
and now we’re on penalty shootouts. By doing “one more lap” to decide which one wins,
and then… a couple more, night fell. We haven’t decided yet. Subtitles: Alex Galanopoulos