The brat pack

Three hot hatches on hot day in the Ade­laide Hills. Yes, folks, it’s For­mula Fun­time

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - STU­ART MARTIN and NEIL DOWL­ING

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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

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