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Fastest hot hatchbacks - the top 10 by Nurburgring lap time

Tom Wiltshire
30 Apr 2017

You don’t need a track day weapon or an exotic hypercar for a quick Nurburgring lap, the fastest hot hatches will do the job...

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Judging cars by their Nurburgring lap time is a famously flawed process.  The famous racetrack is fiendishly difficult to master, and provisions are rarely made to standardise things like driver skill, prevailing weather or even how close a car is to standard production form. 

But, comparing Nurburgring lap times is still good fun and quite interesting, so we’re doing it. And we’re kicking off with the one of evo’s favourite breeds of car – the hot hatchback.

Part of the appeal of a hot hatch is that they are generally more practical, cheaper to run and (sometimes) more discreet than their sports car counterparts. Critics will say that hot hatches can’t compete on the track – but these Nurburgring lap times prove that they absolutely can, and that being based on a front-wheel-drive family hatchback doesn’t mean you can’t mix it with the big boys.

> Click here for our best hot hatches of 2017

The debate will rage on over whether the fastest hatchbacks can really compete with a sports coupe for driver involvement but for sheer road and track pace, many of them are certainly formidable. The cars on this list post faster ‘ring lap times than quite a few thoroughbred sports cars and super-saloons that cost far more and offer far more power. As the Nurburgring front-wheel-drive lap record has become something to be prized and competed over by manufacturers, so we’ve seen a series of progressively faster performance hatches created specially for the purpose of taming the ‘Green Hell’.

Scroll down the page to see the top ten fastest recorded Nurburgring times set by hot hatchbacks. Just remember to take them with a pinch of salt – it’s a very unscientific way of separating cars! The times in question were recorded by a series of different publications and manufacturers, driven by different drivers, and with cars in different states of road-readiness…

The top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks around the Nurburgring Nordschleife 

10. Ford Focus ST/Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring - 8:35

Comparable lap times: Volkswagen Golf R32 (8:36), Honda S2000 (8:39)

 

These two cars post exactly the same time, so we had to lump them in together. With a fierce rivalry traditional between Ford ST and Vauxhall VXR models, it’s interesting that they should be so close together. Admittedly, this isn’t a straight battle – while the Focus ST was a standard model, it went up against Vauxhall’s Astra Nurburgring edition – which got a styling upgrade and a power boost. Together the two cars manage to edge out the Mk5 Volkswagen Golf R32 – another keen rival – as well as the high-revving Honda S2000.

9. Ford Focus RS - 8:26

Comparable lap times: Nissan 350Z (8:26), Audi S5 (8:26)

From ST to RS, next up is the Mk2 Ford Focus RS – a giant-killer at the time, evidenced by its ability to match both the Audi S5 and the Nissan 350Z around the ‘ring. With a mighty 305bhp from its turbocharged five-cylinder engine, the RS is also anything but discreet. The masses of vents won’t have aided its time at all – but it’s still impressive.

8. Renault Megane RS R26.R - 8:16.9

Comparable lap times: Porsche Cayman S (8:16), Honda NSX (8:16.2)

Renaultsport conducted this test itself (so you know it must be accurate!) and posted an at-the-time staggering performance, getting round the Nurburgring in just under 8min, 17sec. Those can’t have been a comfortable eight minutes though – the R26.R was the most extreme version of the Mk2 Megane, and came without the niceties of rear seats, a radio, or even a passenger airbag. That weight loss allowed it to make the most of its 227bhp.

7. Renault Megane RS Trophy - 8:08

Comparable lap times: BMW Z8 (8:07), Audi RS4 (8:09)

Trust us, this isn’t the last time you’ll be seeing Renault in this list. Next on the performance tree from the R26.R was the RS Trophy – based on the bigger, softer Mk3 Megane. Unlike its more hardcore Trophy-R brother it actually came with some concessions to comfort – like rear seats! The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produced 271bhp, which meant it wasn’t the most powerful hot hatch of its generation – but its Nurburgring time cements it as one of the fastest nonetheless.

6. Ford Focus RS - 8:06.3

Comparable lap times: Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack (8:07), Subaru WRX STi Spec-C (8:06)

The current-generation Ford Focus RS knocks a not-inconsiderable twenty seconds off the time of the Mk2 model. You’d almost expect it from one of the most powerful hot hatchbacks on the market, though, especially as it’s equipped with four-wheel drive to make the most of its 345bhp. In this test it managed an impressive 8:06.3, just edging out its Mustang GT sibling – despite only being equipped with half the cylinders.

5. SEAT Leon Cupra - 7:58.4

Comparable lap times: BMW M2 (7:58), Cadillac CTS-V (7:59)

The first car on this list to edge under the magical eight-minute mark, the Leon Cupra is still one of our favourite hot hatches, thanks to a good-value pricetag, comfortable interior and plenty of performance. Enough performance, in fact, to keep up with a BMW M2 around the Nurburgring… SEAT also holds the record for estate cars around the track, with the Leon Cupra ST 280. The latest model is more powerful, but hasn’t yet been taken around the ‘Ring.

4. Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R - 7:54.4

Comparable lap times: Mercedes E 63 AMG (7:55), Caterham R500 Superlight (7:55)

The Megane RS 275 Trophy-R was the most extreme of the breed – building on the Trophy that came before it. Or should that be ‘taking away’ from the Trophy? It made do without rear seats, air-conditioning or a stereo, and the front seats were fixed-back buckets with six-point racing harnesses. A stripped-out beast, then – and one that could match the blistering track time of the Caterham R500 Superlight.

3. Honda Civic Type R - 7:50.6

Comparable lap times: BMW M3 CSL (7:50), Mercedes SL65 AMG Black (7:51)

Back in 2014, this lap time made headlines – the Civic Type R, a comparatively plush and luxurious car, smashed the front-wheel drive Nurburgring record set just months before by the hardcore, stripped-out Megane RS 275 Trophy-R.

We say that, but Honda was cheeky when setting this lap time, stripping out the front passenger seat, audio equipment and air-conditioning. It said that this was to offset the weight of a full roll-cage, but we’re shaking salt all over this one.

2. Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S - 7:47.2

Comparable lap times: Lamborghini Murcielago (7:47), Porsche 911 GT3 RS (7:47)

First-runner up on this list goes to the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S. It’s the most powerful car ever to wear the GTI badge, and is set up for track supremacy – ditching the rear seats just like the Megane Trophy-R. It’s still fairly usable every day, though (not that it matters to you or me – only 150 units came to the UK, and they sold immediately). Its 306bhp engine and lower weight helped it set a cracking 7min47sec time around the Nurburgring, beaten only by…

1. Honda Civic Type R - 7:43.8

Comparable lap times: Nissan GT-R (7:43.7), Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (7:42.9)

The new Civic Type R – an amazing achievement, especially when you consider it doesn’t have a great deal of extra power over its predecessor. It’s not just beaten the Golf Clubsport S, either – it’s smashed it, with almost four-seconds between the two. We’ll have to wait to drive it, but we can say one thing for sure already – the new Honda Civic Type R is really fast.

Fastest hot hatches top 10 recap

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