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Need a Golf GTI on a budget? Some of SA's fiesty junior hot hatches

2018-06-14 06:00

Lance Branquinho

Image: motorpress

When one desires Golf GTI performance but budgetary constraints prevent you from that true hot hatch purchasing realm priced beyond R500 000 – what are the alternatives?  

Truth is, there are a few entirely credible junior hot hatches available in South Africa and with VW’s introduction of its latest Polo GTI, this oft ignored market segment will perhaps receive greater scrutiny.

Besides the new Polo, priced at R375 900, what else is on offer?

Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport S tronic

Closely related to the new Polo - it's a more stylish, yet expensive, hatchback albeit with less performance.

For R399 142 you get a fantastically contemporary design, brilliantly crafted cabin sporty hatch.

It is also available in the SE spec at R 348 000.    

 Image: Audi

Renault Clio RS 18 F1

There is no other hot hatch, other than AMG’s ludicrous A45, which can claim a similar F1 heritage. Not even Honda can equal Renault’s amazing 12 F1 world championships as an engine supplier.

This experience as a powertrain contractor to the pinnacle of motorsport has imbued Renault’s hot hatches with a unique appeal.

The latest South African market product from RenaultSport is the elaborately named Clio RS 18 F1.

It’s the most powerful compact hot hatch available in Mzansi, with its 1.6-litre engine cranking out 162kW and with an Akrapovic exhaust – it sounds the best too. Not cheap, though, at R449 900. But a real giant-killing hot hatch, especially if you are trying to conquer a very technical section of tarmac at speed. 

                                                Image: Renault 


Ford Fiesta ST

Few cars are as loved as Ford’s Fiesta ST. Powered by a lively 1.6-litre engine, performance is prodigious but it is ST’s celebrated agility which has always been the anchor of its driver appeal.

A very favourable wheelbase-to-track ratio means it can turn-in with the keenness of a race car.

There is a verve about everything the Fiesta ST does, even it if it merely searching for gaps in traffic instead of trying to go sideways around traffic circles under induced lift-off oversteer.

                                                                   Image: Motorpress

Although a new Fiesta has gone on sale in South Africa, the previous-generation 1.6-litre Fiesta ST is still listed for R329 200 on Ford’s retail inventory. Get one of the last one of these whilst they are still available, future hot hatch classic status is nearly assured.

Peugeot 208 GT Line

Sad but true, Peugeot no longer sells the 208 GTI locally and the best you can do is 208 GT Line.

Essentially, it’s a standard 208 with some GTI-type styling bits. An inarguably attractive car, with a very complementary ride/handling balance, it’s also quite a sedate pug in GT-specification.

Image: Motorpress

Unlike the 208 GTi, which is quite a maniacal little thing with its 147kW and very little kerb weight to move about, the 1.2-litre GT Line engine only does 81kW. Statistically it just manages to grade as a sub-ten second 0-100km/h car.

If you really need to know, it will complete the benchmark hot hatch performance test in 9.6 seconds, to be exact. Pricing is very competitive and at R269 900, it does represent stellar value.

Honda Jazz Sport

The only Japanese car on our list and that is quite telling, as there was a time in the early 1990s when Asian brands dominated the junior hot hatch market in South Africa.

Honda’s Jazz is an unlikely candidate for induction in any hot hatch list, but the new Jazz Sport has black 16" ally wheels and an ambition to justify its 'Sport' billing.

Unfortunately, it’s also powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre engine which only manages 97kW/155Nm, and those numbers are converted to wheel speed by a CVT transmission instead of a six-speed manual.

The less powerful 208 GT is 0.2 seconds quicker from 0-100km/h and one can only imagine that advantage would not be with the French car if Jazz Sport had a sportier transmission.

Dearest to purchase than the 208 GT too, at R312 900, Jazz Sport is certainly no imitation Type-R.

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