The Nurburgring is the world’s most notorious racetrack. Its 13 miles of tortuously twisty tarmac serve as a proving ground for new cars – with manufacturers competing to set the lowest lap times.
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Nowhere is that rivalry more intense than among hot hatchbacks. As Honda takes to the track in its 2017 Civic Type R, we’re celebrating the 10 fastest hot hatchbacks ever to lap the Nurburgring. Let the countdown commence…
10. Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring
Lap time: 8min 35.0sec
A dedicated Nurburgring special edition? Yep, and Vauxhall built 835 of them to celebrate the car’s 8min 35sec lap time. A Corsa VXR Nurburgring followed in 2011.
For £1,500 more than the standard VXR, you got an extra 15hp, a Remus exhaust, white alloy wheels and lots of stickers. Alternatively, replicate the look yourself with one of those two-quid Nurburgring stickers off eBay…
9. Ford Focus ST (2005)
Lap time: 8min 35.0sec
Fast and (usually) orange, the original Focus ST matched the 8min 35sec time of its arch-rival Astra. Its 225hp five-cylinder engine came from Volvo and is famously thirsty when driven hard.
Today, you can buy estate and diesel versions of the ST, but the 2005 original remains our favourite. Like many fast Fords, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but more characterful than a contemporary Golf GTI.
8. Ford Focus RS
Lap time: 8min 26.0sec
Brightly-coloured fast Fords, you say? Meet the daddy. The Mk2 Focus RS is a modern classic, with in-yer-face styling and a mighty 305hp turbocharged four-pot.
Ford hasn’t attempted the ’Ring in the latest (Mk3) Focus RS yet. However, with 350hp, it’s likely to be even quicker. We reckon the Ultimate Green paint seen here is worth a least 10 seconds off the lap time….
7. Renault Megane RS R26.R
Lap time: 8min 16.90sec
Meet the first in a string of ever-faster Renault Meganes competing for top honours at the Nurburgring. The R26.R was the most extreme version of the ‘shaking that ass’ Mk2 Megane. Only 450 were made.
This isn’t your typical hot hatchback. The stripped-out R26.R has no rear seats, passenger airbags or radio. Crucially, it came shod with super-sticky Michelin or Toyo tyres, which were biased for track (and dry weather) use.
6. Renault Megane RS Trophy
Lap time: 8min 7.97sec
Another Megane, this time the – even faster – third-generation car. The limited-edition RS Trophy boasted 265hp and a top speed of nearly 160mph. Heady stuff for a hot hatch.
More impressive, though, was the Trophy’s ability to go around corners. It lapped the Nurburgring in 8min 7.97sec – without resorting to the extreme weight-loss measures of its R26.R predecessor.
5. SEAT Leon Cupra
Lap time: 7min 58.4sec
Spanish carmaker SEAT is known for breaking ’Ring records – its Leon ST Cupra 280 is currently the fastest estate to lap the track. The hatchback Cupra can’t make that claim, but it still edges under eight minutes.
The record-breaking (at the time) Leon was fitted with beefed-up Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres – both available as part of SEAT’s Performance Pack option. The Cupra has since gained an extra 10hp, potentially making it even quicker.
4. Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R
Lap time: 7min 54.36sec
Our third Megane – and the fastest to date – is the RS 275 Trophy-R. The car was developed in response to SEAT breaking the front-wheel-drive record with the Leon Cupra 280, and it succeeded in taking the title back.
The 2014 Trophy-R was a serious performance machine with race-style Ohlins dampers, bigger front brakes and polycarbonate Recaro seats. With no air conditioning or radio, it’s more suited to track days than trips to Tesco.
3. 2015 Honda Civic Type R
Lap time: 7min 50.63sec
As a statement of intent, launching a new hot hatch by setting a 7min 50.63sec Nurburgring lap time takes some beating. The last-generation Civic Type R really is as fast as its furious styling suggests.
Honda set its lap time with a car ‘in a standard state of tune’. However, it did admit removing ‘equipment such as air conditioning, the front passenger seat and audio equipment’ in order to ‘offset the additional weight of a full roll cage (installed specifically for safety reasons and not to add rigidity)’.
2. Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S
Lap time: 7min 49.21sec
That brings us to the new runner-up: the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S. Built to mark 40 years of the Golf GTI, the 310hp hatchback has been dubbed ‘the GT3 of GTIs’.
The Clubsport S is even quicker than the four-wheel-drive Golf R and only 400 were made. Thank a strict weight-saving diet, including a smaller battery, less sound deadening and no rear seats. Hey, nobody said giant-killing hot hatches had to be practical.
1. 2017 Honda Civic Type R
Lap time: 7min 43.8sec
Honda has done it. Smashing the Golf’s record, the 2017 Civic Type R is the new king of the ‘Ring. With a lap time of 7min 43.8sec, it’s also nearly seven seconds quicker than its predecessor.
The Swindon-built supercar slayer packs a 320hp punch and serious aero. Honda promises: “the most rewarding drive in the hot hatch segment, both on-road and on the race track”. Stay tuned for our verdict on the new Type R soon.