TIPPING your hard-earned into a hot hatch has never made more sense than it does today. Not only does the segment now offer a broad range of vehicles that are practical and easy to live with day-to-day, a circa $50,000 bit of kit can pack the kind of punch that not too long ago was only available in serious sports cars.
But with so much choice available and stiff competition keeping quality, power and performance standards high, where do you start when it comes to picking a pocket rocket?
We assembled 12 contenders – the BMW 125i, Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30 N, Mini Cooper JCW, Peugeot 308 GTi, Renault Clio RS220, Skoda Octavia RS245, Subaru WRX, Subaru WRX STi, Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Volkswagen Golf R – for a blast around Gippsland’s Bryant Park hill climb track. It allowed us to gauge how each one stacks up at a tight, demanding circuit that favours cars with a lightweight, forgiving chassis and tractable power.
Seasoned race ace Renato Loberto was our ultra-consistent pilot for tracking down the fastest times, while I cut a few laps to see how each car fared in the hands of a mere mortal.
Read next: 2018 Hot Hatch Megatest: Introduction
This comparison coincides with the arrival of Hyundai’s foray into the hot hatch world, the i30 N, which has already raised eyebrows among enthusiasts. We certainly wouldn’t be the first to mention the savage Honda Civic Type R in the same breath – the unofficial king of the hot hatches, but for how long?
While the battle for front-dragger supremacy was raging, the rest of the pack fell into line after waging smaller battles, with surprising outcomes all of their own. Settle in, click “play” and watch as 12 feisty machines that won’t break the bank sort out their place in the top-shelf performance hierarchy.
Hot Hatch Megatest Contenders
12th, Score 6/10: Mini Cooper S JCW
11th, Score 6.5/10: BMW 125i
10th, Score 6.5/10: Subaru WRX Premium
9th, Score 7/10: Subaru WRX STI
8th, Score 7/10: Skoda Octavia RS245
7th, Score: 7.5/10: Ford Focus ST
6th, Score: 7.5/10: Renault Clio RS220 Trophy
5th, Score: 8/10: Volkswagen Golf GTI Original
4th, Score: 8.5/10: Volkswagen Golf R Grid
3rd, Score: 8.5/10: Peugeot 308 GTi 270
2nd, Score: 9/10: Honda Civic Type R
Winner, Score: 9/10: Hyundai i30 N