When we were given the chance to sample the Honda Civic Type R last year, we were all completely astounded by how engaging and raw it was. What Honda had created was a sheer masterpiece in front-wheel drive performance and bore little resemblance to Nora, Albert, Rita and the rest of the bridge club’s favourite runabout – the Honda Civic. Sure you could spot a Civic somewhere beneath the garish wing and blacked out wheels, but these two cars really could not have been further apart. Not only did this vehicle find favour with just about everyone who drove it, it also set an astounding lap time around the Nordschleife, beating the previous FWD champion and setting a blistering time of 07:50.63.
Here we are in 2017 and having had its trophy snatched away by the Golf GTI Clubsport S in 2016, the Type R has returned with a vengeance. Featuring the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor found in the previous generation Civic Type R, the unit now produces 236 kW but the same 400 N.m as before, all this thanks to a bit of an ECU tune and a snazzy new exhaust which actually makes it sound a bit like a 5-pot, mmmmm. You can have a listen to that at the end of this video.
The new chassis also means an increase in torsional rigidity of an impressive 38% and the torsional beam rear setup of the old Type R is gone, having now been replaced by an independent, multi-link system. What this brings to the tea party is much improved stability and control at speed, as well as a lower, wider and longer wheelbase.
Having set a record time of 07:43.80, it is clear that all of those little upgrades have done their job – it shaved some 3 seconds off the time of the Clubsport S.
Now all that’s left to do is wait for it to arrive in South Africa which should be during the course of 2018. So, in what colour will you be having yours, then?
2018 will see the arrival of the all-new Ford Fiesta ST aka the Ultra Mobile and if you listen carefully, you can already hear all the boets fist-pumping in anticipation of this auspicious occasion!
Big news is that this new model is the first ever Ford Performance vehicle to make use of a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder motor and, while sharing a platform with the model it replaces, is the first Fiesta to feature selectable drive modes, enabling steering, engine and stability controls to be configured to Normal, Sport and Track modes. Yoh boet!
Unfortunately, along with the drive modes, we’ll have to put up with Ford’s nauseating and quite frankly miserable Electronic Sound Enhancement Technology which, in short, makes a dreary and depressing come through the vehicle’s speaker system in order to artificially enhance the sound of the engine. We have already been unfortunate enough to endure this in both the 2.3 Ecoboost and 5.0 V8 Mustangs and there’s not much to say really other than no. Just no.
Outputs of 149 kW and 290 N.m. are hugely impressive from a 3-cylinder motor and if you are able to block out Martin Garrix and the shocking sound enhancement, you might even be able to hear a fruity and characterful 3-pot thrum coming from within the engine bay on your sprint from 0-100 km/h which will take 6.7 seconds. A clever little motor, it is also able to shut off one of its cylinders during low-load conditions in order to save fuel, an industry first in a 3-cylinder motor, and thus resulting in emissions as low as 114 g/km.
The current generation Fiesta ST met much praise when launched in 2013 and was even crowned as Top Gear’s Car of the Year 2013. Unsurprisingly then, it still sells in droves to this day thanks to its loyal following of tank top owners and rave-goers. It also has one of the best front-wheel-drive chassis’ money can buy so it’s a good thing then that this will be carried over to the new model.
There is no word on pricing yet but we can expect to see the first units in South Africa during the first half of 2018.
After driving the new Megane GT for a week, I was left slightly baffled. I found myself asking fellow journo’s if it was just me, or is the car one of strangest fast hatchback out there? Let me explain. Renault for years been good at making quick and visceral hatchbacks that appeal to the senses. With the new Megane that has been recently launched, the recipe seems perfect. The current range topper for now is the GT version, as the hardcore RS has not yet arrived in South Africa. A power figure of 151kW and 280Nm for the GT is enough to pique the interest of any person who loves some exhilaration. The looks of the GT adds to this as the large grille, sporty styling and sharp lines make you believe that you’re going to be in for some fun.
Step inside the car and you get even more amped, because you’re presented with some bucket seats and a stylish cabin with dark bits and chrome. A weird heart beat type of sound plays though the speakers as you enter, almost to tell you that this car means business. The fascia is modern and features a large touch screen system that allows you to operate media and even air-conditioning in the car. I still enjoy old school switches and nobs but if you’re tech savvy, operating everything via a touch-screen may come naturally. The GT features the 7-Speed EDC gearbox and is fitted with fixed gear paddles, the same as you would get in older Ferrari’s. Hmm. Start the car up and things get interesting. The car is very quiet, unnervingly so. I looked around for a “sport” button in the hopes of livening things up and voila, I found the RS button. This lets you choose different modes in the car via a system called MULTI-SENSE. Neutral, Eco,Comfort, Sport and Perso mode are available. In Sport mode, you would expect this to unleash some sort of animalistic side to this car, but all it does is sharpen things up as well as change the dials from blue to red.
Acceleration in the GT is also surprising because the first half of the Revs are linear and then all of a sudden there’s an extra surge of torque. When all this happens, there is a strange whirring sound which is meant to be the engine noise and the gear changes are so quick, you realise often too late that you’re travelling at an illegal speed. Driving the car in Sport mode on a straight line is something I couldn’t figure out if I liked too much, because it’s not all that exciting. Earlier we spoke of how these cars appealed to the senses, yes my sense of sight was happy because it looks good, but my sense of hearing was hampered because the cars’ engine tone doesn’t sound glad to go fast. This messed with me. What about my sense of feeling? This is the GT’s redeeming factor, it handles very well.
The Megane GT features suspension technology called 4Control, which is a four-wheel steering system. At lower speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels to make cornering faster and nimbler. As you travel at higher speeds, the inside wheels corner the same direction as the front wheels, creating the feeling of a longer wheel base. This system ensures that the Megane GT handles like a beauty, which it does. The driving position of the car and the bucket seat quality is one of the best in the segment. The only thing I would get rid of are the fixed paddles, as it gets confusing to change up and down whilst cornering. And yes I know one shouldn’t be changing gears mid corner anyway, but I’m no racing driver and neither are most people who will buy this car.
Personally, I enjoyed driving the Megane GT in the normal mode. As a quick daily commuter, you get more joy from it as a regular car than a hot hatch. If you divorce yourself from the hot hatch mentality the car sells you, you start to like it more. It’s firm but not back breaking, it has plenty torque for overtaking and it has enough space for you, your friends and shopping bags. The concept of a “sleeper” is always appealing, which is what I think Renault should’ve done with the GT. Take for instance the new Opel Astra 1.6T. On the outside it looks like a slightly fancier standard Astra, but underneath the hood there’s a quick engine that shocks you as you accelerate. With the Renault, you look at it and expect it to be a baby RS, but it’s not. It’s a quick Megane that handles well and looks very good. It’s not a snarling beast that you can hear from a distance like the older cars. We’ll have to wait for the new RS to fulfil those fantasies.