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.