On road and track, they go head to head in a bid to prove they’re the best car sensible money can buy.
For several reasons, this year’s Britain’s Best Affordable Driver’s Car competition had to be done a little differently from previous ones. In past years, the test we simply know as Junior Handling Day (to save us from giving it its not-so-punchy full title around the office) has been fought out between the best new driver’s cars available below a given price threshold. The test’s mission is always to identify the most entertaining new driver’s car that not a lot of money can buy. Historically, the price limit has been set at £25,000 and £30,000 – and we’ve given the gong to the Toyota GT86, Ford Fiesta ST200, Mazda MX-5 and others.
But this year, the new cars on offer farther up the price scale were too compelling to ignore. So we’ve elected to worry less about list price and to focus much more closely on the cost that defines what most of us can and can’t afford to drive: monthly outlay on a typical PCP deal. Meanwhile, the arrival of a brand-new Honda Civic Type R, an equally new Audi RS3 Sportback and nothing new of note with a driven rear axle and a sub- £50k price made it plain that 2017 should be the year we focus on the affordable performance car’s leading vehicle type: the hot hatchback. Although we’ve included cars here that are much more expensive than those from previous years, we haven’t included anything you couldn’t make yours for a typical trade-in and monthly outlay of around £100 a week. Most of the cars about which you’re shortly to read will cost considerably less than that and among them are some of the greatest affordable driver’s cars of the past few years as well as this year’s debutants, tested on road and track.
We hope the results, which you can read on the site, are as much fun to read as they were in the making and that their recommendations inspire you.
The opening rounds
MATT PRIOR - editor at large
Has the experience, gravitas and facial hair of a tester who’s been there and done it all before. Would appreciate it if you’d nip along to watch the videos he lovingly made between the many cups of coffee and Twixes.
MATT SAUNDERS - road test editor
Booked the track, booked the digs, bought the lunch, set the lap times and survived almost entirely unscathed. Also the man with the job of writing the final showdown section of this test and ensuring everybody else filed their copy on time. Pity him.
DAN PROSSER - contributing writer
Showed up on time, drove well and acted with professionalism. Apart from that, fitted in a treat on his Junior Handling Day debut. Claimed growing up near Llandow circuit gave him no lap time advantage. Hmm.
NIC CACKETT - special correspondent
Arrived just in time to go to the pub at the end of day one, hardly drove at all and acted the fool whenever possible but our rate of snack consumption wouldn’t have been the same without him. Also managed not to fall off the track — unlike the road test editor.
MAURO CALO - special correspondent
Autocar’s long-time stunt driving specialist turned video presenter and ‘bantz’ provider. Made sure we were all scrupulously fair to the powerful, driftable, rear-driven BMW. Responsible for the most loonatic driving evident in most of the photos.