Nowhere else do the tectonic plates shift quite as quickly as on the hot hatch continent.
Last year, we undertook our most vigorous audit of the class ever: 20 cars carefully dissected on an unforgiving circuit and bruising Scottish roads. There was a winner, eventually, but frankly we’re still debating/throwing stationery at each other over the result. And yet here we are, but seven moons later, and there’s a new world order in waiting.
The pool of contenders is smaller, but then we’ve already separated the wheat from the chaff. Our select group includes the winner and runner-up from that last outing – the VW Golf R and Honda Civic Type-R – plus two newcomers intent on making the ‘hot’ in ‘hot hatch’ look a bit undercooked. Yup, we’re looking at you, Mercedes-AMG A45. It now produces 376bhp and 350lb ft of torque from its strung-out 2.0-litre turbo – that’s more than a Lamborghini Countach. In your face, 362bhp Audi RS3.
And then there’s the main event, the Ford Focus RS, the car that’s already being lauded as the finest example of hot-hatchery ever to grace our planet. Mainly by us, to be fair, but, hey, we’d just driven 2,000 spectacular miles in it around some of Europe’s most coveted roads and were besotted. Truth is, we may have made a rod for our own back, because in isolation it felt worthy of that title, but now it’s time to earn it.
For the full story, check out TopGear.com, and watch the video this Sunday on Fox Sports.