► Lease a Honda Civic Type R from £299pm
► Lease a Ford Fiesta ST from £179
► FWD 'Ring king and the mini hot-hatch maestro
The Fiesta ST is not a new car but it is still a profoundly brilliant one. New rivals have arrived, some with more power, others with greater outright grip and poise, but none have bested the Fiesta’s fluency. No other contemporary hot hatch appreciates quite so keenly that it is the sensations of speed – not the speed itself – that are the ultimate prize.
Being a Ford, the suspension pliancy and damping control feel at least twice as expensive as the car itself. To those enviable foundations the Fiesta adds easy, clearly communicated adjustability. The car’s attitude through every twist, turn and empty, rain-lashed roundabout is entirely up for discussion, the weight shifting first to the two outside tyres and then, as you lift, setting the tail wide to be enjoyed, gathered or encouraged wider still as you see fit.
All of which is wicked fun, as is the Ford’s ever-willing engine (180bhp; 197bhp on overboost, 212bhp with the Ford-approved Mountune kit in place). But because the ST is about nuance, not grim-faced grip and track-ready suspension, it’s an agreeably versatile weapon too, with a delicately judged balance of eye-widening ability and all-day usability. As a proposition it’s about as risky as an unsupported expedition across your village green to the Post Office. £180 a month? There’s nothing to think about.
You’ll need another £120 per month for Honda’s Civic Type R in non-GT guise (GT pack adds flashes of red outside; convenience features within), but you will be rewarded for the required austerity measures (gym membership, soap and food are all soft targets). If the Ford is an entirely rounded, acceptable-in-The-Avenue proposition, the Civic is sharp like skinny-dipping in liquid nitrogen. Single-minded? Like Donald Trump.
Climb in and while the slightly frenetic cascading Civic dash remains, so right are the touch points – serious low-set bucket seats, cool brushed aluminium gearlever – that the standard car feels almost entirely absent otherwise, like everything but the bare shell and the name were discarded.
Prod the button. For generations Civic Type Rs have alloyed startling chassis with engines with just – just – enough go. This car is not like that. The turbo 2.0-litre four is ferocious, a raucous, ill-tempered rapscallion with an unending appetite for queasy acceleration. In performance it is no generational evolution of the Type R motors before it. To use a V8 Ferrari analogy, it’d be like deleting the F355, 360, 430 and 458 from history and jumping straight from wheezing 348 to raging 488 GTB.
Fortunately the chassis is also mighty. The way it rides even rough roads, retaining body control and composure even at the limits of its suspension stroke, is eerie. Understeer isn’t a word in the thing’s vocabulary, and getting anywhere near the limits of grip takes either superhuman effort or epic miscalculation. So you sit low like a DTM pilot, tugging gears, thrashing the engine until the shift lights strobe, arcing this way and that on an embarrassment of grip, until everything – even time itself – grows small in your mirrors.
One we found: Honda Civic Type R
Finance type: Manufacturer PCP
Monthly fee: £299
Terms: 36 months /10,000 miles per year
Optional final payment: £15,496.55
The specs: Honda Civic Type R
Engine: 1996cc turbocharged 4-cyl, 306bhp @6500rpm, 295lb ft at 2500-4500rpm
Performance: 5.7sec 0-62mph, 167mph, 38.7mpg, 170g/km CO2
One we found: Ford Fiesta ST-1
Finance type: Manufacturer PCP
Monthly fee: £179
Terms: 24 months/ 10,000 miles per year
Optional final payment: £8331
The specs: Ford Fiesta ST-1
Engine: 1597cc turbocharged 4-cyl, 180bhp @ 5750rpm, 214lb ft @ 1500-5000rpm Performance: 6.9sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 47.9mpg, 138g/km CO2
More from CAR’s top leasing deals of 2016:
From £423pm: Jaguar F-Pace
From £499pm: Volvo XC90
From £293pm: Mazda MX-5 1.5 Sport
From £349pm: Mercedes C250D Estate AMG Line
From £326pm: Jaguar XE 2.0D 180 R-Sport auto
From £289pm: Mini Clubman Cooper S
From £84pm: Citroen C4 Cactus
From £530pm: Porsche Cayman and Cayman S
From £299pm: Honda Civic Type R
From £179pm: Ford Fiesta ST
From £219pm: Audi TT Coupe 1.8 TFSI Sport
From £852pm: Porsche 911 Carrera S
Find hundreds of thousands of deals in our brand new leasing section - carmagazine.co.uk/car-leasing
Read more from the March 2016 issue of CAR magazine