Renaultsport has dominated the hot hatchback market for a while now, but trust me, Dieppe is about to take one in the eye.
Opel/Vauxhall's in-house performance division OPC - VXR to us Brits - has just launched the biggest threat to Renault's preeminence in affordable fast front-drivers that anyone has produced in years. It's the Corsa Nurburgring. On initial acquaintance admittedly, it could even be the best performance hatchback that Vauxhall has ever produced.
Thanks to its rather trick mechanical specification (explained in our first drive) this Corsa is a sensation on track. Can't tell you how good it is on the road, because Opel hasn't let us find out - but despite an apparent lack of wheel travel, those Bilstein springs and dampers didn't seem too harsh to deliver reasonable ride comfort over the kerbs here at the Lausitzring.
I can pay the car no greater compliment than to point out its uncanny similarity to Ford's original Focus RS. Its performance is broadly similar; cornering potential possibly even better. And the circumstances behind its expensive mechanical makeup are comparable too.
It's become the stuff of legend that, thanks in part to so many pricey chassis and drivetrain components, Ford failed to make money on the mk1 RS. Vauxhall will make money on this Corsa; wouldn't have built it otherwise, they point out. But its ability to make that money is due to one key fact: the specification, purchasing and development of this Corsa has been linked with that of the next Astra VXR.