G five current athletes in the compact class are taking part in the test of sport car against each other. 250 to 305 hp are available at entry-level prices between 26,650 and 35,900 euros. Which manufacturer puts together the sportiest package? Our test of Ford Focus RS, Mazda 3 MPS, Renault Mégane RS, Seat Leon Cupra R and VW Scirocco R clarifies the question.
At least 250 hp act on the front axle
It's winter in Hockenheim - the test track is finally free of snow, the weather is still bitterly cold. You could now sit snuggly in front of the stove at home. But who wants that, considering the concentrated power and color of the many, many brightly colored Smarties with manual transmission and front-wheel drive that competed in the sport auto test. The Mégane Renault Sport, with its weakest motor, mobilizes 250 hp, hereinafter referred to as R.S. called.
The upper end of the flagpole in the test field marks the Ford Focus top model, which, ironically, has the same letters in its name and is the only contender to have five instead of four cylinders connected in series along with turbocharging: here even 305 pull Horses on the front axle, which is required twice by steering and driving forces. The Mazda 3 MPS, the Seat Leon Cupra R and the VW Scirocco R are in between with 260 and 265 hp respectively.
Ford's squaring of the circle is made possible by an elaborate front axle construction that allows the steering and drive forces to be decoupled. 'Revo' is the magic word that minimizes the steering wheel distortion that is often criticized with strong front-wheel drives. It basically describes nothing more than the division of the normally one-piece steering knuckle into two parts: one part fixes the strut and lower wishbone, one part rotates around the steering axis of the car. In combination with a modified geometry of the front wheel suspension, this reduces the influence of the engine torque on the steering.
Renault has been following a similar concept since 2004, but names its child who promotes precision and traction differently. In France, the somewhat less catchy abbreviation ISAS (Independent Steering Axis System) describes a similar system. Here, too, the steering axle is decoupled from the spring /damper unit. In addition, the Ford and the 260 hp Mazda 3 with 2.3 liter displacement and exhaust gas turbocharger have a mechanical limited-slip differential on the front axle as standard. At Renault it isPart of the cup package that is subject to a surcharge.
VW Scirocco R and Leoan Cupra R regulate everything electronically
The Volkswagen Group, on the other hand, relies entirely on the electronics in its compact R models. Here, an electronic differential lock called XDS is responsible for the needs-based torque distribution between the wheels by means of selective braking interventions. Ergo, the ESP cannot be completely deactivated in the test neither on the Seat Leon Cupra nor on the Scirocco with R identifier.
Where ESP says off, ESP Sport is inside in both cases. In the rule algorithms themselves, however, the Spaniard and the North German do differ - but more on that later. Mazda does not let the last survivor of the MPS series completely off the leash either. Mechanical limited slip differential or not - the Japanese might not miss the electronic lifeline either. It can be used to highlight perfect traction and line loyalty, where the 260 HP plus front-wheel drive system along with traditional axle construction has long since reached its limits.
In this case, the unpopular twisting of the steering wheel is concealed by an electronic boost pressure control that cuts suddenly occurring torque peaks as needed and thus subjectively smooths the power development of the four-cylinder engine largely taken over from the previous model.
Ford lets the ESP intervene late in the Focus RS
The Ford Team RS went to work a little more courageously: Although the electronic driving stability program remains in the be-careful position here too, it intervenes But only when the Focus RS driver drives it too colorful and the drift angle of the nicely steered tail exceeds 45 degrees. However, if you have the fast, distinctive and loudly blowing load under control, you can go unhindered - unhindered by the electronics.
ESP can be deactivated - Renault Mégane RS trusts its pilot
In the compact car provided by the Renault sports department, which is always 18-inch, but in the case of the Cup package with slightly wider rubber-covered wheels if so, this is the case anyway. The French express their confidence in a solid coordination work by the fact that the ESP at the Mégane R.S. can be completely deactivated if necessary. This requires a conscious long press on the ESP button.
If you just put your finger on, you activate the sport mode of the electronic lifeline. In this case, the stability program intervenes much later, and the traction control allows more slip on the driven front wheels when accelerating strongly in the test, without braking or reducing the engine torque. In addition, the intervention threshold of the standard ABS is raised and the map of the electronic accelerator pedal is changed. The latter now reacts faster to commands from the driver's foot.
The compact Renault Sport model would havewhat it takes to be a high-flyer
If you treat yourself to the optional R.S. monitor, you can even choose between three different maps or find out more information about the current lateral acceleration values. In spite of this extra gimmick, which is highly conducive to the play instinct, the Mégane RS comes out as a purist among compact athletes. If you like, you can pull in quick circles at the lowest price of 26,650 euros, even without a net or double bottom, without having to forego a high level of active safety.
The grip level of the 235 millimeter wide Michelin Pilot Sport-Reifen is exceptionally good in the test, the set-up of the cup chassis, which is tight but still suitable for everyday use, is exemplary in neutral. In combination with the sensational direct steering behavior, flawless traction and a gripping and stable Brembo brake with internally ventilated and - in the case of the Cup package - all-round slotted discs in the Mégane Renault Sport, even without ESP, there is no need to worry at any time.
Renault Mégane RS is the fastest front-wheel drive car on the slalom course
The sporty and harmonious whole is rounded off with small but effective delicacies such as the acoustic gearshift warning, which is timely for changing to the next higher gear and a very precise, crisp, short gear ratio in Hockenheim. Expressed in numbers, the successful French model can be described as follows: 69.5 km /h average speed in the slalom test. No front-wheel drive car with normal tires has been faster here.
1.16.6 minutes on the small course in Hockenheim. From zero to 100 km /h in 6.3 seconds and back to zero within 35.2 meters. If it weren't for the relatively moderate engine with 250 hp, which costs the top Mégane valuable points in the price-performance category - the compact Renault Sport model would have what it takes to be a high-flyer.
As it is, the Frenchman, who appeared in virgin white but not innocent at all, had to give way to the phalanx from the VW group in the overall evaluation of the test. The bottom line is that the VW Scirocco R, which is 265 PS strong and with a live weight of exactly 1,400 kilograms, is comparatively light, and the Seat Cupra R with an identical motor is one point ahead of the Renault, while the 305 PS Ford Focus RS with five-cylinder turbo is just as far behind.
VW relies on foolproof driving behavior with the Scirocco R
Basically, that's okay - but the objective result is to be viewed differently. After all, compact cars in this quality and performance class are not bought with the primary goal of a leisurely ride on Sundays or public holidays. Rather, it can be assumed that the sporting spirit is also of great importance in this class. Now that one can be unquestionably differentdefine.
While the die-hard hardcore faction of the not very young generation tends to feel incapacitated by stability programs that cannot be deactivated, this may not be an issue for younger drivers who have grown up with these systems . And with its excellent performance in the fast-track race on the small track, which is undoubtedly the focus in the sport auto test, the VW Scirocco R in full regalia, which costs 41,355 euros, underpins the practicality of the overall electronic package quite impressively.
Alone - and here the philosophy has to face the subjectively perceived realities - the test drive on board the Über-Scirocco is not as fun and entertaining as at the pure and electronically completely unfiltered limit. Foolproof for sure. But that is ultimately also the Renault Mégane R.S. to assume.
And whoever wants to enjoy not only the final lap time of an unquestionably impressive 1.16.3 minutes, but also the way there, must like the constant clambering of the 265 PS coupé along the limit of the ESP. Even if the VW engineers are to be admitted with no jealousy that their electronic work on dry terrain bears flawless fruit. The direct comparison with the Seat Leon Cupra R proves that this is not a given within the group.
Thick Cologne: The Ford Focus RS is the heaviest car in the test at 1,480 kilograms
Although the Spaniard operates as a street version of the Supercopa cup racer, the electronics put the tree frog-green southerner in a more noticeable manner than the northern German, which is shiny in green metallic. Both the sometimes quite rude behavior of the brake assistant and the later but more powerful accesses of the ESP are more reminiscent of the VW Golf GTI than the Scirocco with R identification.
This causes the Seat, which competed in the test with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A in size 235/35 R 19, to lose seven tenths of a second on the Scirocco R on Dunlop SP Sport 01 tires in size 235/40 R 18 . Which would have served the in-house ranking.
Only the Mazda 3 MPS takes on even more leisurely on the test day, which is down to minus one degree Celsius. With 1.18.0 minutes, the Japanese is at the lower end of the range. The dead and very smooth steering around the central position is just as to blame for this as the increasingly soft brakes and the fact that the ESP keeps the compact sports car, which weighs 1,469 kilos, on course by braking on the inside wheel. Although this prevents sustainable pushing over the front wheels, it doesn't make it really fast.
The heaviest car in the test at 1,480 kilograms, the Ford Focus RS, has to be behind the Mégane and the Scirocco, despite the nominally best power-to-weight ratio of 4.9 kg /hpline up. With a time of 1.16.8 minutes, he took third place on the podium in the rush of times.
On this terrain, the Cologne resident suffers in particular from the inertia of its larger mass and the more heeling, because it is comparatively high, structure as well as the also quite smooth steering to the disadvantage. The agile steering behavior, the power delivery of the beguiling sounding five-cylinder turbo engine and the gripping braking system are on the credit side.
How do the compact athletes fare in everyday life?
The athletic suitability of the five opponents would thus be adequately described and appreciated. But what about the equally important suitability for everyday use? Mazda and Seat earn additional points due to the additional rear doors. On the comfort side, the Ford Focus RS and the Mégane R.S. make the biggest compromises with cup package.
The fuel consumption of the two cars just mentioned was also the highest, in keeping with the extroverted look here and there. The most coherent compact packages for every day are therefore Volkswagen, Seat and - with certain cutbacks in terms of usability (e.g. navigation system) - Mazda. The cheapest and at the same time most fun package is available from Renault, the visually and acoustically stimulating from Ford.