BMW M140i vs Honda Civic Type R
No matter how many times you’ve driven the 308 GTi in the past, it always takes time to adapt to its unusually small steering wheel. That’s a shame, because it means the first impression is a less than positive one. You drive it as you would any other front-driven hot hatch at first, but the tiny helm makes the car feel nervous and unsettled. Soon, though, you learn to calm your steering inputs and it doesn’t seem like such a hindrance any more.
The Peugeot’s engine is about as good as four-cylinder turbo units get. Response is decent, power throughout the mid-range is very strong and the top end is lively
and energetic. The differential, meanwhile, can be a little grabby, but it gets the power to the road effectively and tightens your line in bends. The body is tautly controlled and the natural chassis balance is actually quite pointy, which means the GTi has a tenacious front end and lots of adjustability.
Down at road level the Peugeot feels very good indeed, but it’s let down by a handful of things that should be simpler to get right. For example, the gearshift is rubbery, the steering is a little vague and the seats don’t hold you in position, all of which means you have to work unnaturally hard in order to tap into the brilliance of the engine and chassis.
The hot hatch formula used to be a simple one: drop in a potent engine and fit stiffer springs. Today that approach just doesn’t cut it and most modern hot hatches feel as though they’ve had care and expertise heaped upon them. The Leon Cupra sits somewhere in the middle. It isn’t necessarily a half-baked hot hatch, but it never transcends its humdrum roots to feel like a brilliantly well- executed performance car.
The way the front axle leaps up and down under load is perhaps the surest sign that the Seat isn’t
a world-class hot hatch. By way
of contrast, the Peugeot gets its power down much more cleanly. And whereas really effective hot hatchbacks seem to hunker down onto the road when driven quickly, the Cupra always floats above it.