We were worried for a while there.
Maybe it was a hangover from the GFC, maybe it was simply an unfortunately coincidental gap in many companies’ product planning, but there was concern for a time that the affordable end of the performance market was about to dry up faster than sales of Rolf Harris originals.
Thankfully, it didn’t last long. The resurgence began as a trickle, spearheaded by the VW Polo GTI and rear-drive Toyobaru twins, but that trickle has turned into a flood over the 12 months, allowing us to assemble the largest Bang for your Bucks field since we introduced a price cap back in 2007.
Twenty-two cars showed up to test their mettle against the Bang formula, but it could have been even more. With customers waiting until 2016, Mercedes couldn’t justify providing an A45 AMG, HSV declined to take part with a Clubsport and GTS, Nissan/Infiniti couldn’t find a Pulsar SSS or Q50 in time and Peugeot… well, Peugeot didn’t get back to us about an RCZ-R.
Not to worry, because there’s still plenty of hot metal to entertain the judging panel of yours truly, editor Dylan Campbell, road test veteran Curt Dupriez, MOTOR stalwart David Morley and rally young gun Brendan Reeves, filling the very large shoes of our regular pro, Warren Luff, who was overseas working on his tan. Or driving GT cars. Or something.
From the bottom end of the Bang pool come the Hyundai i30 SR and Mazda 3 SP25 warm hatches, relying on their sharp sticker prices rather than razor-sharp handling to take home the trophy.
Which could be a tough ask, as the baby hot hatch market has simply exploded during the last year. Ford’s Fiesta ST, Renault’s new Clio RS, Peugeot’s 208 GTi and Kia’s ProCeed GT all pack a turbocharged punch for less than $30K and all have to be in with a shot at glory.
Moving further up the hot hatch price scale introduces the recently updated Abarth 595 Turismo, Mini Cooper S, Golfs in GTI Performance (VW didn’t have a base model) and R form, Audi’s S3 Sportback and a couple of oddities.
Skoda’s Octavia RS is neither fish (hatch) nor fowl (sedan) and Audi’s RS Q3 replaces the hatch with a tailgate. Does an SUV belong at Bang? Well, it does wear an RS badge, but don’t get Statler & Waldorf (read: Dupriez & Morley) started on that one.
Representing the rear drivers are the cracking BMW M235i and Lexus IS350 F Sport, while the V8 crew, Chrysler’s 300 SRT8 Core and Holden’s VF SS ute and VF SS-V Redline, are on hand to provide the obligatory drift shots.
Subaru’s latest turbo terror is present in both WRX and STI form (both past winners), while Volvo’s S60 Polestar is last but not least. Unless we’re talking about affordability, its $99,950 ask just scraping in under the $100K limit.
Speaking of price, the biggest change this year is that due to the size of the field, we’ve split the contenders into two groups, $0-50,000 and $50-100,000.
While there will also be an overall winner (revealed next month), splitting the field in two gives a more accurate picture of how each car sits against its peers and prevents a cheap-but-slow car taking victory through price alone.
Being now based in Melbourne also forced a venue relocation to MOTOR’s traditional Victorian home of Winton Raceway. Its 12-turn layout makes it ideal for testing road cars, especially as its relatively low-speed nature stops the high-power cars from gaining too much of an advantage.
Finally, the formula. On the basis that if you stand still you’re actually going backwards, we’ve made a couple of tweaks for 2014.
The weighting of performance and price in determining each car’s score remains at 60:40 respectively, and for each criteria each car’s performance is still scored relative to the rest of the field, it’s just the weightings of the individual criteria that have been altered slightly.
The straight-line disciplines have remained the same, with the 0-100km/h and 0-400m disciplines worth 10 per cent and 80-120km/h, 0-400m terminal speed and lap V-max worth five per cent.
Braking from 100-0km/h remains worth 10 per cent, but apex speed (taken from Winton’s slow turn seven hairpin) is now worth 10 per cent and the lap time itself, the ultimate indicator of a car’s overall performance, is worth 25%.
Finally, the judges’ rank is worth 20 per cent, as all the speed in the world is worthless if a car is rubbish to drive. If you think the weightings are all wrong, let us know!
So, with the numbers run and the mathematics done, let’s find out what finished where in Bang for your Bucks 2014.
$0-50,000 Car List
Abarth 595 Turismo
Ford Fiesta ST
Holden SS ute
Hyundai i30 SR
Kia ProCeed GT
Mazda 3 SP25
Mini Cooper S
Renault Sport Clio RS200 Sport
Skoda Octavia RS
Subaru WRX STI
VW Golf GTI Performance
$50-100,000 Car List
Audi RS Q3
Audi S3 Sportback
Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core
Holden VF SS-V Redline
Lexus IS350 F Sport
VW Golf R
Volvo S60 Polestar
0-100km/h – 10%
0-400m – 10%
80-120km/h – 5%
0-400m V-Max – 5%
100-0km/h – 10%
Lap Time – 25%
Apex Speed – 10%
Lap V-Max – 5%
Judges Rank – 20%