Evo - - SUPER TEST -

out­puts, kerb weights and trans­mis­sion lay­outs of our trio, it’s sur­pris­ing to see just how closely matched their power-to-weight ra­tios are. Us­ing the fig­ures from our scales, the Honda man­ages a healthy 227bhp per ton, while the Ford and SEAT record ex­actly the same 223bhp. This should be close, then.

First up is the SEAT, and given its slightly scrappy na­ture on the road I’m ex­pect­ing it to be tricky to launch off the line. I’m not wrong. Even in Cupra mode with the ESP switched off, the trac­tion con­trol cuts in, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to nail a clean get­away. After some trial and er­ror we find that launch­ing at 2500rpm de­liv­ers the best re­sult, but even with care­ful throt­tle con­trol the bat­tle be­tween en­gine, trac­tion con­trol and tyres re­sults in se­vere axle tramp in first and sec­ond gears. The 0-60mph dash is cov­ered in 6.2sec, half a sec­ond be­hind SEAT’S claim to 62mph. A re­sult of our test be­ing car­ried out with two peo­ple and a full tank of fuel on board? Maybe. How­ever, once it’s rolling, the Cupra gath­ers speed at an alarm­ing rate and beyond 100mph it’s the fastest car here, crack­ing 130mph in 21.7sec.

Get­ting the Honda off the line is a much sim­pler af­fair, the car’s ex­cel­lent trac­tion al­low­ing you to make the most of the 316bhp. As with the Leon you need around 2500rpm di­alled in be­fore drop­ping the clutch, but the Civic serves up just enough over-ro­ta­tion of the front wheels for a peachy get­away. The re­sult is a 0-60mph time of just 5.9sec, which is a tenth off Honda’s 0-62 claim.

Nonethe­less, both the SEAT and Honda have to give best to the four-wheel-drive Fo­cus when it comes to the emer­gency start. The car’s to­tal trac­tion plays its part, but so does its launch con­trol sys­tem. You need to put any me­chan­i­cal sym­pa­thy on hold as you plant your foot on the throt­tle then side-step the clutch as the en­gine screams at a com­puter con­trolled 5000rpm. It feels bru­tal, but it’s un­de­ni­ably ef­fec­tive as the RS ex­plodes off the line and smashes 60mph in 4.9sec (0.2sec be­hind Ford’s claims to 62). How­ever, once past 100mph the Fo­cus is over­hauled by both the Leon and the Civic.

There was an even clearer win­ner of our brak­ing tests. Against any ri­val the Honda’s per­for­mance would be ex­cel­lent, but com­pared with the Ford and SEAT it was in a class of its own. The com­bi­na­tion of tena­cious tyre grip and brakes with ter­rific bite al­lowed the Honda to stop from 100mph in just 85.1 me­tres, which was over 15 me­tres shorter than the Ford’s best ef­fort. Per­haps more re­mark­ably, even the Type R’s worst re­sult out of ten stops was bet­ter than the Ford or SEAT’S best. There is a small caveat, though, as on two of the tests the Honda hit a bump that bam­boo­zled the ABS and caused a brief, tyre-smoking lock-up. But while it looked and smelled dra­matic, the data showed it had a neg­li­gi­ble ef­fect on the re­sults.

Im­pres­sively, all three cars stood up to the ten con­sec­u­tive stops well, with the only symp­tom of the hard work be­ing a slightly longer pedal from the eighth run on­wards.

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