Ever since I test drove the original Honda CRX a quarter-century ago I’ve been a big fan of small cars. In everyday driving I’d rather have a small car with limited power than a large car with a lot of it. And yet I’ve never quite connected with the MINIs I’ve driven. Perhaps I just needed more time in the seat? To find out, I recently spent a week with a MINI Cooper S—a small car with plenty of power.
Tag: Hot Hatch
Fresh on the heels of today’s release of Opel Zafira pictures, Buick has confirmed to Automotive News [sub] that rumors of a rebadged Opel Astra for the US market are indeed real. But wait, you say, isn’t the Buick Verano just an Astra sedan? Perhaps… but since there’s no Astra sedan to rebadge, that leaves only three choices for this future Buick Astra: the five-door hatch, the three-door coupe-hatch or the “Touring” wagon. C&D would like to see a 300 HP Buick Hot Hatch to come in the form of the Astra GTC OPC, although we’re skeptical that Buick will offer 300 HP in a car smaller than its “detuned image changer,” the Regal GS. If the Meriva represents the “Baby Enclave,” it’s possible there’s room for a C-Segment wagon, but the rumors insist that younger buyers are the target for this US-market Astra. So, chromed-out five door? Detuned “Skyhawk” GTC coupe? Gentlemen, start your speculation…
No? Never? Well, technically this isn’t a Buick, but an Opel Astra GTC OPC (at least according to Auto Motor und Sport). And given that Buick is holding off on bringing serious power to its Regal GS (at least until a coupe comes out of Germany), it’s fairly unlikely that they would bring a 290 HP, limited-slip, six-speed hot hatch to the Buick brand any time soon. Or is it? The line for “Mr Euro”-style self-delusion forms here…
Most cars today avoid doing anything terribly well so as to avoid doing anything terribly badly. Then there are Mazdas. I love my Protege5. The agile chassis is a joy around town, BUT refinement and rust prevention were clearly not on the engineers’ to-do list. I love the RX-8 even more. Outstanding handling, surprising utility for a sports car, BUT the rotary is torque free and can drink a Corvette under the table. And then we have the MazdaSpeed3. You already know what I’m going to say about the MazdaSpeed3. But I’m going to say it anyway.
Driving the Renault Mégane R26.R on the snow-covered L-10–a public road-cum-rally track near the famous Nürburgring–is an unforgettable affair. And not simply because summer tires and slush don’t mix. This particular Mégane is a stunning piece of machinery in any condition: no Stateside machine comes even remotely close. And unlike most European unobtainium, it’s no sculpted, Teutonic monument to cash-flow either. It’s French. Cheap gas, Japanese quality and the Detroit-centric Eisenhower Interstate System have given Americans no reasons to contemplate, let alone lust after, French cars in the modern era, but not having this Ferrari-killing hatchback on crack is a bummer. The Mégane R26.R is so wrong it’s gotta be right.
Here’s some encouragement for the folks freaking out about BMW’s front wheel drive heresy. Ford has found a way to make 345 horsepower work in an FWD chassis, shattering the conventional wisdom that 250 hp marks the reasonable limit for front-drive performance. Well, at least until the 500 lucky owners of this limited-edition mega-hatch start adding up their tire bills in a few years. According to Ford, the RS500 should be looking at a 5.6 second 0-60 time and a top speed of 163 mph. And no, you can’t order one at your Ford dealer in the US.