Speed Week: The Hot Hatches
Aspirational, affordable, and with blistering performance. And perfect for the school run. What more could you possibly want?
Posted: 28 Jul 2014
The Haldex diff makes dependable decisions, sending up to 100 per cent of power to whichever end needs it most. And where some diffs can be aggressive, this one's not. It's happy to let the front tyres do the initial hard work, then if it detects a little understeer, the rear is awakened after the briefest of thoughts. On hot, dry tarmac this is a fairly subtle process.
With 296bhp, it's the healthiest of the 2.0-litre turbos. But the extra shove isn't gained merely from a tweak of boost. The cylinder head, valves, valve springs and pistons have all been beefed up, allowing it to rev higher and harder than the S1 and Leon. Sounds good, too. At low revs, only the inner two exhaust pipes are played. At around 2,500rpm, the outer pair add a little more bass. All the while, an induction amplifier - not an artificial synth - adds a sort of gurgle effect before doing a surprisingly decent V8 impression as the revs pile on. For a four-cylinder engine, it has bags of character.