Hot hatches seem to be released in batches. Someone puts their toe in the water and off we go in a merry go round of tit for tat my engines bigger than yours. Well, go back to 1990 and breaking 100bhp was impressive, but now we are pushing 300bhp, in a family hatchback. That was Porsche 911 turbo power just a few years ago. Ford hit the market early with the Focus ST, powered by a well developed 2.0 Ecotech engine, which drives through Ford’s Torque Vectoring drive system. Sporting 250 bhp and an enormous 360nm torque from only 1750 rpm, this flying machine is also really relaxed to drive.
Vauxhall followed quickly with the highly rated Astra VXR. Fantastic value and reputedly with superb build quality. 280bhp and 400nm of torque clear indicators of the tit for tat that goes on in this sectors marketing.
Renault, hot on the heels of Vauxhall relaunched the Megane, this time with 265bhp, lowered suspension, uprated brakes and a near endless list of changes from the outgoing model. This is probably the best drivers car of the bunch. This car does 0-60 mph in 6 seconds but can average 35 mpg and carry four people easily.
OK, Volkswagen have not been able to compete head to head with this little lot, so if you wanted to lease a really hot hatch, then you looked elsewhere, but images from test sites are beginning to get out of a fire breathing four wheel drive Golf R which is expected for launch in Europe at the end of the year. VW’s Fourmotion drive train is well sorted and has been used with some large engines like the Toureg and the Audi Q7, so this should be just fine. The Golf R si rumoured to be 286 bhp and 280 nm torque. The more complex drive train and the benefit of superb traction should lead to sub-5 second 0-60 mph time. Where the Golf R wins is VW’s use of lightweight production techniques, the weight saving helping in all performance terms and of course economy. Don’t expect availability until 2014 though.