The brat pack
Three hot hatches on hot day in the Adelaide Hills. Yes, folks, it’s Formula Funtime
TWO Frenchmen and a German drive up a winding mountain road, turn around on the other side, come back and do it all again.
It’d be a joke but the punchline is that you could do it all day and not get bored. These three hot hatches encourage playtime and — in a segment at least $10K beneath the Golf GTI genre — there are no better playmates.
Ford’s Fiesta ST is limited in supply but not talent. The same can be said for the Peugeot 208 GTi — trying to invoke the spirit of its 205 GTi ancestor — and the ripping Renault Clio RS 200.
All are good to take a slice of the pie away from the veteran Polo GTI.
Pricewise the trio slide in next to the VW, which sits just below $30,000, ze Cherman-built Fiesta more so than the two Gauls. So none will fry the finances.
In Cup specification the Clio jumps just north of $30K but comes standard with auto and five doors — the GTi and ST are both three-door and six-speed manual only.
All are based on cheaper models but pack massively more punch and tighter handling.
Add body kits, sports steering wheels, imposing alloy wheels and interior trim tweaks that range from a bit of gloss (Ford) to lots of shiny metal (Peugeot) and alarming colours (Renault). Each has cruise control, trip computer, 12-volt sockets, alloy pedals, cloth trim and Bluetooth phone and music links.
The dearer Renault falls short with conventional airconditioning — the Pug and the Ford get dual‒zone. Rear vents are absent in all.
The Ford has chunky Recaro front seats and a clever smart‒key with keyless ignition but its centre console is messy and there’s no touchscreen. The Renault has supportive racing buckets and big 18‒inch alloys (the others have 17s).
Ford charges $385 for up‒spec paint; it’s $750 on the French cars.
All have sound‒enhanced 1.6‒litre turbo four‒cylinders with a need for premium unleaded — 98 RON in the case of the Clio.
The Pug and Renault quote 147kW and despite a torque deficit the Clio is quickest to 100km/h, taking 6.7 seconds.
The Ford gets extra urge by way of overboost, pushing its 134kW to 147kW and 240Nm to 290Nm for 20 seconds at a time.
Fuel economy claims start at 5.9L/100km for the 208 GTi, 6.2L for the Ford and 6.3L for the Clio, the heaviest of the trio.
None is afflicted by the torque steer that such outputs once guaranteed in front‒drivers. In the Fiesta and Clio, torque vectoring control functions work to good effect in the bends.
The trio differs little in dimensions: 4m long, 1.7m wide and under 1.5m. All have a wider stance than the standard shopping trolleys on which they are based.
Rear lip spoilers, LED running lights, diffusers, splitters and grilles fill the design brief to differentiate them in the carpark. The two French vehicles look classier and more expensive.
Renault’s hatch is an exercise in colour and can be brash to some but it certainly doesn’t disappear in the traffic.
The base‒model Fiesta features drag down the ST’s visual appeal. The Aston‒esque grille isn’t without fans but the ST definitely lacks a sense of occasion.
Each carries four people without serious concern but the Renault scores for its rear doors. The 208 claims the biggest boot at 311L, followed by the Clio’s 300L and 276L in the Fiesta. For larger loads the order doesn’t change — 1152L, 1146L and 960L respectively.
The brats have a mature attitude to safety with four‒wheel discs and five crash safety stars from ANCAP. Even without side‒curtain airbags, the Renault scores 35.87 out of 37, ahead of the Ford on 34.44 and the Pug’s 34.03.
Fiesta tops the tally at seven airbags, thanks to adding a driver’s knee bag. The five‒door Clio gets handy one‒touch child window and door locks. The Fiesta and the 208 get rear parking sensors, an option on the Renault. A reversing