Everyone loves a hot hatch. Especially SA. Double especially when it’s raining...
It’s entirely natural that when faced with a line-up that includes a 530kW McLaren, hulk-green AMG GT R, a demonic-looking Lambo and one of only two Ford GTs in the country – all with keys in and engines gargling away – the humdrum stuff tends to get ignored. Let’s face it, in a room full of underwear models you wouldn’t be gazing longingly at your other half. Yet this morning the world has flipped upside down, because it’s behind the three hatchbacks, with less horsepower combined than one McLaren 720S, that the queues are forming.
What hot hatches represent, then, is a relative safety net: usable power, front-wheel drive, proper visibility, ergonomic familiarity. In terrible conditions they should be the ones that you can jump in and feel most comfortable pushing the envelope. Overstep the mark? Understeer and a missed apex, not several pirouettes and an expensive interface with grass, gravel then wall. That’s the theory, at least.
Which first, though? Old reliable? Recently upgraded to Mk7.5 spec with more power (169kW and a mechanical diff for our 7spd DSGequipped Performance Pack test car), new wheels, LED lights and revised infotainment, the Golf GTI is easily the most anonymous car here.
Or do I grab the Up GTI? Ever since Ollie Kew threw one about in front of a Chiron, I’ve been clucking for a go. It may have just 84kW from its 1.0-litre, 3cyl turbo, but with 15mm lower suspension, meatier steering, only a 6spd manual and a featherweight 997kg to toss around, it’ll do 0–100km/h in 8.8secs and 196km/h if you have the patience of a monk. It also has the added weapon of newness – this is the first time that it’s been allowed to face actual competitors... like the 235kW Honda Civic Type R. Out of its depth? Nah, it’s got tartan seats.
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