Audi RS3 Sportback quattro
Audi RS3 Sportback quattro
Volkswagen Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R
Audi S3 Sportback quattro
Audi S3 Sportback quattro
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS
Mini John Cooper Works
Mini John Cooper Works
Honda Civic Type R
Honda Civic Type R
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Volkswagen Polo GTI
Volkswagen Polo GTI

Gerotek, Pretoria - As winter starts releasing its chilly hold and the braai fires are getting stoked again, it’s an appropriate time for us to provide some petrolheaded subject matter for around-the-braai discussion.

With that, we present our list of the quickest accelerating hot hatchbacks you can buy in South Africa today. They’re all cars we’ve tested ourselves at the Gerotek centre near Pretoria, using satellite-based Racelogic Vbox testing equipment (the numbers may differ from the manufacturer-quoted figures that are gained at sea level).

The list reveals the Audi RS3 Sportback quattro - which we tested in April this year - as the king of hot hatches by a comfortable margin. It puts its 294kW and 480Nm to great use with its grippy quattro drive and a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch transmission with launch control.

This cocktail of all wheel drive, an auto gearbox, and a launch control system that allows you to build engine revs before releasing the brake, is the modern standard for quickest off-the-mark acceleration – and the top four cars in our list are all equipped with this quick-sprinting trinity.

The importance of those three factors is underlined by the relatively mediocre standing-start performance of the Honda Civic Type R in this list – it’s the only non-automatic in the line up, and it’s front-wheel driven. That said, it should still be quicker than 0-100km/h in 6.4 seconds (sneaking in just ahead of the much more humbly-powered Polo GTI), and the Honda’s other drawback is that it bogs down because of an engine-saving system that won’t let the revs rise above 3500rpm before the clutch is dropped.

It’s a curious performance-muzzling feature in an otherwise exceptional hot hatch which has demonstrated its brilliance as a track car by setting a string of front-wheel-drive lap records at European racetracks.

Power-to-weight ratio is the other big factor in achieving a heroic sprint time at the traffic lights grand prix, which is why lighter cars like the Mini Cooper JCW and VW Polo GTI, despite their relative power deficiencies, make it onto this list.

So here it is, our list of hot hatch kings, with the RS3 Sportback occupying the throne - until the next-generation Mercedes-AMG A45 possibly comes along to oust it next year. And in terms of best bang for buck, the new Polo GTI is the easy winner here by playing in the big dogs league at a huge price saving.

MODEL PRICE POWERTRAIN POWER/TORQUE 0-100KM/H 1/4 MILE
1. Audi RS3 Sportback R903 500 2.5-litre 5cyl turbo, auto, AWD 294kW/480Nm 4.0 secs 12.4 secs
2. VW Golf R R664 400 2-litre 4cyl turbo, auto, AWD 213kW/380Nm 4.9 secs 13.2 secs
3. Audi S3 Sportback R651 500 2-litre 4cyl turbo, auto, AWD 228kW/400Nm 5.0 secs 13.3 secs
4. Ford Focus RS R712 900 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo, auto, AWD 257kW/440Nm 5.0 secs 13.4 secs
5. Mini Cooper JCW R512 865 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, auto, FWD 170kW/320Nm 6.2 secs 14.4 secs
6. Honda Civic Type R R635 500 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, manual, FWD 228kW/400Nm 6.4 secs 14.4 secs
7. VW Golf GTI R548 600 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, auto, FWD 169kW/350Nm 6.6 secs 14.8 secs
8. VW Polo GTI R375 900 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, auto, FWD 147kW/320Nm 6.6 secs 14.8 secs

* All cars tested at Gerotek test centre near Pretoria, using a Racelogic Vbox.