We’re getting to crisis point in Hatchbacksville. These cars and trucks are basically standard littles set, created to market in their plain, diesel droves to an unquestioning group of A to B drivers who load them with pleasant wrappers as well as baby unwell. Only a small percent of these worthy little runabouts get offered any kind of efficiency treatment. And then it’s a matter of modern technology prevailing over physics and also company budgeting to create and also market something deserving of, and capable of, gathering a showing off online reputation. The outcome is usually a front-wheel drive family members cars and truck with a bodykit, boot looter as well as doubtful amounts of power being spun away at every T-junction. A little minority think you’re the bees knees, while the bulk believe you’re an estate agent.

The unavoidable advancement of this engineering/marketing standoff is to make use of 4×4. If you desire even more power, and also with it a lot more efficiency kudos, that’s the only method you’re going to get it on the floor and keep it there. Thus the truth that Audi’s new S3, with a 2.0-litre turbo engine somehow squeezing out a full 261bhp, features 4×4 as standard. As does the 247bhp Volkswagen Golf R32. The various other solution, favoured by BMW for its 261bhp 130i, is rear-wheel drive. A handling perfectionists’ desire, or two BMW would certainly have you believe. Yet can any one of it truly convince a correct vehicle driver, as well as therefore justify hefty premiums for the punters? Risky as it is, we have actually chosen to open the Stig for an answer. Oh, and because of all that traction, it requires to be really bloody damp. So we arranged that as well.

The Top Equipment track is where things begin, rain breaking in straight waves over the windscreens of the three autos. With exposure down to an issue of metres we do not see the Stig up until he’s upon us, resplendent in fire-retardant white, the water evaporating in a halo of steam off his superheated form.

The first automobile he heads for is the S3. Maybe since it’s the one he’s never ever driven. Or perhaps even if, in bright red, it’s the only one he can see in Guildford’s very first gale.

The vehicle appears to start broadside. We have actually hardly realised it remains in equipment before he disappears sideways. The exhaust note reaches a hurt holler somewhere before the initial hairpin and after that silence. Blinking versus the wind, with hands propelled deep in pockets and also cold ears cocked in expectation, I’m counting under my breath. It can’t be a min later on in the past there’s another bark from the S3’s twin pipes and also a flash of red under massive stopping. Scorching out of the grief with headlights blazing, the Audi slides round the final corner. Everyone takes a reflex action backwards as a huge four-wheel drift endangers to cut in half the Top Gear editorial head count in just the type of case Auntie’s Health and wellness are a bit sensitive about at the moment. But at the last gasp the S3 is gathered and dives across the line.

The Golf is next, and also gets a comparable neck-wringing. The V6 growls up the roadway as well as the last point we see is a strenuous and also defiantly late explosion of brake lights. A number of times the balanced thrumming of moisten the Audi’s steaming hood is broken by a ruptured of far-off throttle, however no person says a word. Pre-empting the unavoidable, we take one more synchronised action backwards as the initial glimmer of VW’s trade- mark ‘R’ blue hammers down the back straight. As the cars and truck leans into the final corner it, also, is punched horribly sideways. But this time on-board treatment eliminates the power, and the Golf passes with a burp of re-applied throttle.

The Stig strides with alarming conviction for the BMW. Most of us take another step back forever action as well as cast a supportive glance at the deprived rear-wheel drive alternative. There’s a momentary pause while a Nomex finger stabs at any switch relating to security, adhered to by another sob of six-cylinder revs as the clutch is extremely side-stepped. The back tires displace sufficient standing water to brighten on completely dry tarmac before catapulting the auto concealed. The idea that similar rubber needs to obtain us to Wales as well as back amidst a forecast that would certainly obtain Noah into his oilskins loads me with dread. But not as high as the moment, a min later, when the right back drops onto the lawn next to us, sculpting a deep wrinkle via the grass straight in accordance with our cowering cluster. A 6 foot divot pirouettes over our heads as the cars and truck fishtails wildly back on to the track, completing the lap on a generous armful of lock.

The important things about hatches, as well as warm hatches particularly, is that the best of them are obtaining so excellent that they’re threatening to provide most various other cars obsolete. Our editor spoke highly of his GTI Lifer, and also our publisher went as well as purchased a Focus ST. Compact outside yet spacious within, overwhelmingly practical, as well as currently with unprecedented degrees of poke, you do begin to question specifically when you’ll need anything else.

On the long, damp shlep to Wales, all these autos confirm to be highly capable cruisers. Lots of torque and also affordable economy create a careless and also mainly nonstop flow. The BMW comes in for a little stick for its bobbly ride, an impatience that demands that bit a lot more guiding input than either the Audi or VW requests for, yet inevitably there isn’t an uncomfortable car below.

So we’ve thrashed these autos on a circuit, as well as stretched their legs on the long run. As well as none has actually been discovered desiring. What’s delegated do, and also what Wales uses in abundance, is the quick, challenging, and, most importantly, empty An and also B roads. The other aspect of hot hatches, something that any type of supercar vehicle driver will only confess with gritted teeth, is that they can be quicker point-to-point than anything else available. If your path takes in narrow, twisting back roads and also tongue-biting barrettes along with anything from another location metropolitan, and unless you were Satan’s escape driver in a previous life, the blown 2.0-litre is most likely to leave a mid-mounted V12 for dead.

Early morning near Aberystwyth in the middle of what becomes a record rains for a 1 day duration, these automobiles, as well as their drivers, are mosting likely to have their guts tested. The very first couple of miles are awkward for all as we obtain used to the tightening up bends, sudden camber adjustments and also plunging hills. There suffices standing water in position to induce a deadly aquaplane as well as progress is stable at ideal. Hopping rapidly from vehicle to cars and truck, their qualities and also defects are brought right into sharp alleviation in an area similar to this. The BMW remains to really feel considerably less resolved than the others, and it’s not all down to a lack of 4×4. Basic runflat tyres seriously endanger the trip, and also a sensation, perhaps simply in our heads, that this vehicle is somehow taller, makes it feel a lot much less planted as you pitch it in. The Golf brings substantially even more weight with it than either of the others, as well as this equates right into a soothing perception of strength. The downside is a shortage in immediacy as well as tactility in the guiding. It still really feels controlled as well as relatively active, but there’s a thickness to the nose of the R32 that you ‘d never really feel in the GTI. As well as it isn’t there in the S3 either. Sharing the same 2.0-litre turbo powerplant as the GTI, but tweaking a full 64bhp even more out of it, the S3 integrates both agility and power to such effect that its prevalence right here is quickly evident.

That never makes it the straight-out winner though. If you had to make clear country in the fastest time feasible with the least probability of unexpected as well as unpleasant death, the S3 is most definitely your cars and truck. But it looks relatively bland, returns simply 25.7 mpg as well as sets you back a completely unreasonable ₤ 26,995 prior to playthings. Which you require in abundance in the flagship A3. In stark comparison the R32 looks excellent (threatening to veer right into Chessex cruiser region though it might be), returns 26.4 mpg in spite of those additional cyndrical tubes and costs a far more alluring ₤ 24,740. And also for that you get all the aural in addition to visual dramatization that’s so lacking from the S3. From within or out, it’s difficult to overstate just how staged and emotive the R32 both looks and also seems.

Which leaves the BMW, a cars and truck with even less visual garnish than the S3. No’M’ badge right here; rather simply beefier body-coloured skirts and 18-inch dual spoke alloys. There’s the weird tip of’M’ describing in an otherwise very conservative inside, but eventually this is an extremely straight play. As well as maybe that will appeal to some customers. Yet BMW buyers? BMW customers who are prepared to spend ₤ 26,540 on a cars and truck most individuals couldn’t distinguish from the 116i M Sporting activity setting you back virtually ₤ 7,000 much less? The 130i’s exceptional straight-six does return 30.7 mpg, yet whether that’s enough of a distinction to convince a performance-oriented buyer out of a better handling as well as quicker vehicle is uncertain. Probably in the completely dry, with even more self-confidence to discover the BMW’s limitations, it may persuade us, however in the maelstrom of a saturated hill switchback we recommend the rate and safety of 4×4.

The Stig’s laps went like this incidentally: BMW: 1.36.9, VW: 1.35.4, Audi: 1.33.1. Much less intervention and much less weight than the Golf, as well as bags even more traction than the Beemer, provide the S3 a comfy benefit. It’s a scientific little bit of design, possessing exactly the right equilibrium of efficiency, comfort and also refinement. Yet possibly it’s simply also scientific. For my component, I was positive before I also drove these cars and trucks that the Audi would certainly prevail. However I was similarly certain that if I needed to go residence with one forever, it would certainly be the dramatization of the Golf that swung it. And a week behind the wheel altered nothing.