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MOTOR Best Value Performance Cars: Bang For Your Bucks 2019

By Scott Newman | Photos: Nathan Jacobs & Alastair Brook, 23 Jul 2019 Best Value Performance Cars

MOTOR Best Value Performance Cars Bang For Your Bucks 2019 feature

Nasty weather wasn’t going to stop us from naming Australia’s best new fast car under $100,000

Our luck had to run out eventually. After years of being blessed with the weather for Bang For Your Bucks (BFYB – our annual mega-test to find Australia’s best value new performance car under $100K) and not having to worry about anything more than a brief shower, 2019 broke the streak in fine fashion. And we were unlucky.

Winton Motor Raceway, ostensibly the current ‘home’ of BFYB, hadn’t had rain worth the name in more than six months and the days either side of our booking were fine and sunny but BFYB isn’t a logistically flexible operation. Still, excellent news for farmers and the like who are doing it tough in the surrounding regions.

At least we weren’t taken by surprise. A week out from the event the forecast predicted nothing but doom and gloom, allowing us to form a back-up plan. There is absolutely no point in trying to hold a credible

data-based competition in anything other than dry conditions. Not only would a slippery surface unfairly favour certain all-wheel drive contestants, but the chances of the track being equally wet for all cars were precisely zero, so the only fair course of action was to make BFYB 2019 a purely subjective competition.

That’s what we’ve done for 50 per cent of the mark – replacing all the performance data we usually collect, such as lap time, 0-400m, 0-100km/h and so on – with subjective judges’ rankings. This will make up ‘Bang’. ‘Bucks’, meanwhile, as something not affected by the weather, continues to be crunched through the regular formula that has guided our competition since 1994. Points for Bang and Buck are determined, and then crunched together within our formula for a Bang For Your Bucks score which sorts out the all-important finishing order.

It’s also crucial to note that you’ll see we’ve included 0-100km/h and 0-400m figures where attained from previous tests. While these are our own kosher, hard-fought, independent figures, given they could have been recorded on different days, not in exacting conditions (although all dry) and at possibly different venues, these are for your reference and interest only and do not contribute to the overall outcome of BFYB 2019.

In terms of that outcome and the vehicles this year comprising it, it’s not been the biggest year for fast, affordable machinery, but hopefully you’ll agree that what our 11-car field lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. And if your favourite is missing, remember that criteria for eligibility is either a new model, substantial mechanical update or sizeable price cut – basically, anything that would radically alter a car’s BFYB score.

Let’s start with what’s not here. Warm hatches like the Ford Focus ST-line, Hyundai i30 N-line and Mazda 3 G25, while all fine cars, were judged to be lacking sufficient Bang. That’s not a description that could be levelled at the Chevrolet Camaro, but as has become customary, HSV declined our invitation.

The Nissan 370Z (not new but has not competed since its massive price cut) also fell through the cracks and the Genesis G70 was all booked until it fell foul of embargo dates. Next year.

Speaking of, looking forward briefly for a moment, 2020 should be a cracker, with a pair of BMW M Performance models (M135i and M340i), Ford Focus and Fiesta ST twins, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Mercedes-AMG A35, Renault Megane RS Trophy and Toyota Supra just to name a few.

MOTOR review: GR Supra first drive review

On to this year’s contestants. Starting in alphabetical order puts the BMW M2 Competition Pure at the top of the list. It j-u-s-t scrapes under the cost cap at $99,900 but thank god it does, as cars this fast and focused aren’t usually eligible for BFYB. We already know it’s brilliant – second at last year’s PCOTY proved that – but whether it can rank high enough to overcome its significant price disadvantage is another question entirely.

Having just missed the cut last year a pair of MY2018 Mustangs front up, a manual Ecoboost and automatic GT. The manual V8 is cheaper, but the performance potential of the 10-speed auto (4.6sec 0-100km/h; 12.6sec 0-400m) suggested it would easily overcome the extra $3K required. As it happens, its price would be the least of the Mustang’s worries, but more on that later.

MOTOR comparison: Mustang Bullitt v 300 SRT

As the 2018 winner, the Honda Civic Type R earns the right to defend its title. If you’re standing still in the performance car game you’re going backwards so it’s going to be a tough task for Honda’s hottie to repeat its dominant win of 12 months ago. Then again, it was our 2018 Performance Car of the Year.

Snapping at its heels will be the Hyundai i30 Fastback N which has landed in Australia with a little extra junk in its trunk and a revised suspension setup with plenty of input from Hyundai’s local chassis boffins.

It’s slightly heavier and $1000 more expensive than the conventional hatch which managed a fifth place finish last year but has the potential to trouble the podium, particularly now subjectivity replaces data.

Also from Korea is the Kia Cerato GT, a polished warm hatch with a well-sorted chassis, grippy tyres, a torquey 1.6-litre turbo engine and sharp $31,990 driveaway sticker that offer an opportunity to punch above its weight.

That’s something the Mazda MX-5 has always excelled at and the iconic roadster returns to BFYB with its powered-up 2.0-litre offering a higher redline and extra acceleration. The Bang formula hasn’t always been kind to the MX-5 but on every appearance it’s always ranked well with the judges.

As has the Renault Megane RS, though the latest model hasn’t blown our socks off yet to the same extent as some of its lauded predecessors. It’s undoubtedly fast and agile but often feels a little over-gripped – perhaps slippier conditions will allow its character to shine as bright as its Orange Tonic paintwork. The Cup chassis is fitted to our manual test car, adding $1490 but bringing with it stiffer suspension and sharper responses.

Rounding out our motley crew is a trio of Volkswagens: the Polo GTI, Golf GTI and Golf R Special Edition. As a three-time champion the former would be a hot favourite under our usual scoring system but is more than talented enough not to fear subjective assessment, particularly when it shares the event’s lowest price tag with the Cerato GT.

The Golf GTI is another past winner, the final iteration of the Mk7.5 platform qualifying by virtue of being loaded with all the gear previously reserved for the Performance Pack, including a 180kW/370Nm engine tune, electronically-controlled limited-slip diff and bigger front brakes.

Last but certainly not least is the Golf R Special Edition, one of our favourite hot hatches made more potent with an angry Akrapovic exhaust, bigger brakes and new wheels wrapped in different tyres. Sadly, the goodies also add $4800 to the price of a standard Golf R and a whopping $14,500 over the Golf R Grid that finished third a year ago, which won’t help its chances.

So there we have it: 11 cars, five judges (who, between them, have driven every new performance model of importance in the last 30 years), two photographers and one very soggy racetrack. Let’s start the countdown on the 2019 – and 25th – running of MOTOR’s Bang For Your Bucks .

Bang For Your Bucks 2019: The Contenders 

BMW M2 Competition Pure - Click here for the results!
Mucho performance but also mucho dollars to overcome

Specifications
Engine:
 2979cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo 
Power: 302kW @ 5250-7000rpm
Torque: 550Nm @ 2350-5200rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1550kg 
Power/Weight: 195kW/tonne
Price: $99,900

Ford Mustang Ecoboost Click here for the results!
Revised engine and suspension for the MY2018 four-pot pony

Specifications
Engine:
 2261cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 
Power: 224kW @ 5700rpm
Torque: 441Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1705kg 
Power/Weight: 131kW/tonne
Price: $49,990

Ford Mustang GT Click here for the results!
More grunt, extra gears and better tyres make this year’s V8 a very different prospect

Specifications
Engine:
 4998cc V8, DOHC, 32v 
Power: 339kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 559Nm @ 4600rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 1784kg 
Power/Weight: 202kW/tonne
Price: $66,290

Honda Civic Type R Click here for the results!
The only car ever to win PCOTY and BFYB is back to battle a new batch of challengers

Specifications
Engine:
 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo  
Power: 228kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1380kg 
Power/Weight: 165kW/tonne
Price: $51,990

Hyundai i30 Fastback N Click here for the results!
A bigger booty doesn’t qualify the Fastback, but new suspension does

Specifications
Engine:
 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo  
Power: 202kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 353Nm @ 1450-4700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1520kg 
Power/Weight: 134kW/tonne
Price: $39,990

Kia Cerato GT Click here for the results!
Doesn’t stand out on paper, but the new 150kW/265Nm Cerato is a solid performer

Specifications
Engine:
 1591cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo  
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1395kg (tare) 
Power/Weight: 107kW/tonne (tare)
Price: $31,990

Mazda MX-5 Click here for the results!
More potent 2.0-litre engine takes care of the Bang, but adds Bucks in the process

Specifications
Engine:
 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v  
Power: 135kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 205Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1105kg
Power/Weight: 122kW/tonne
Price: $41,960

Renault Megane RS280 Cup Click here for the results!
French hottie has another chance to win us over on track

Specifications
Engine:
 1798cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 
Power: 205kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 390Nm @ 2400-4800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1407kg
Power/Weight: 145kW/tonne
Price: $48,990

Volkswagen Polo GTI - Click here for the results!
Has had an iron grip on BFYB in years past, but is no longer a sub-$30K proposition

Specifications
Engine:
 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 
Power: 147kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 1500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1285kg
Power/Weight: 108kW/tonne
Price: $31,990

Volkswagen Golf GTI - Click here for the results!
There’s never been a more potent ‘base’ Golf GTI than this Mk7.5 swansong model

Specifications
Engine:
 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 
Power: 180kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 4600rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1352kg
Power/Weight: 133kW/tonne
Price: $46,190

Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition - Click here for the results!
Trick bits add some aggro to the otherwise sensible Golf R

Specifications
Engine:
 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 
Power: 213kW @ 5400rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1850rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Weight: 1450kg
Power/Weight: 149kW/tonne
Price: $61,990

Bang For Your Bucks 2019: The Judges

Dylan Campbell
Cannonball impersonator; Instagram guru; driver of Hachi Roku; healthy eater; final boss

Scott Newman
Likes to live life sideways; besotted doggy daddy; plays a mean version of ‘Eruption’ by Van Halen

David Morley 
Opinion giver; beard cultivator; suppository of wisdom; car hoarder; Santa’s stunt double

Louis Cordony
Peter Pan; holder of keys; t-shirt aficionado; zen master; go karter; real estate mogul

Warren Luff
Speedy driver; professional skidder; race winner; hair model; daddy day care; teller of tasteless jokes

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