Honda Civic Type R vs SEAT Leon Cupra & Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy

Can Honda’s new Civic Type R beat SEAT and Renault and blast to the top of the hot hatch class?

Sales of hot hatchbacks took a nosedive after the global financial crisis, but high-performance family cars are now making a comeback, and their popularity is most definitely on the up. 

Best hot hatchbacks

After a five-year wait, Honda is back in the ring with its new Civic Type R, and it’s spoiling for a fight against the best in the sector.

There are some big changes underneath that mean this hot Honda now has the firepower to potentially beat the best, including a new, more powerful 2.0-litre turbo. 

However, it faces a tough challenge in the form of our reigning hot hatch champion – the SEAT Leon Cupra – and the old-school favourite, the Renaultsport Mégane seen here in 275 Trophy guise.

Usable thrills are what the current crop delivers, and on the face of things the Civic Type R has the practicality to match its blistering real-world performance and agile handling. 

However, at £29,995 for the standard model, it’s more expensive than both rivals we’ve lined up. So, can the Honda’s extra on-paper pace and versatile cabin edge it ahead of the competition?

We put the hot hatch trio to the test on road and track to find out...

Honda Civic Type R review

SEAT Leon Cupra review

Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which hot hatch comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Track focus

Performance modes are the current trend. SEAT’s switchable Drive Profiles (above) let you tailor the different settings, but with no data readouts. Honda’s +R mode is less customisable yet provides extra info, including a 0-62mph timer. And Renault’s RS Monitor gives performance readouts such as cornering g-force.

’Ring record

SEAT started the hot hatch war with its Nürburgring lap record of 7:58.12, which Renault’s 275 then knocked four seconds off. Honda has now shattered this with a blistering 7:50.63 time, making it the fastest front-wheel- drive hatch to lap the track.

Styling

Looks are subjective, but the Honda’s eye-popping design may be a bit much for some. The Renault and SEAT are more reserved – although in the case of the Trophy, only just. Swap white for black contrast details on the Leon, and it looks even better.

Verdict

1st place: SEAT Leon Cupra

SEAT’s hold over the hot hatch class continues, thanks to the Leon Cupra’s huge spread of ability. In some areas the others may be more focused, but the figures don’t lie: the Cupra is still sensationally fast. It feels alive to drive, too, and responds to your inputs faithfully to inspire huge confidence. Settle down to a leisurely pace and it’s the easiest to live with. Plus, its price advantage seals the deal.

2nd place: Honda Civic Type R

Outright power isn’t enough to knock the SEAT off the top spot. However, the new Civic Type R is a resounding success and has been worth the wait. It mixes devilish speed with surprising practicality, but falls short in a few areas. Its styling will divide opinion, it isn’t as well equipped and it can’t match the SEAT’s comfort – but on a twisty road it’s devastatingly effective.

3rd place: Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy

The Mégane RS has aged nicely. Its chassis is as sweet as ever and delivers a brawny hot hatch experience laden with feel. However, costly options are needed to keep up with rivals, so combined with lower economy, steeper depreciation, poorer practicality and a more dated interior, the Renault finishes third. The margin isn’t massive, but rivals are starting to edge further ahead.

Coming soon…

Ford Focus RS

Due: 2016  Price: £30,000 (est.) Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl, 345bhp

Ken Block Focus RS - front driving

With similar pricing, plus more power and four-wheel drive, Ford’s new range-topping Focus RS could upstage the Civic Type R when it hits dealers next year. It’ll also offer the practicality of a five-door layout.

Key specs:

 SEAT Leon Cupra 280Honda Civic Type RRenaultsport Megane 275 Trophy
On-the-road price/total as tested£28,210/£30,450£29,995/£29,995£28,930/£34,475
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£12,080/42.8%£13,126/43.8%£12,249/42.3%
Depreciation£16,130£16,869£16,681
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,455/£2,909£1,719/£3,439£1,658/£3,315
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,991/£3,318£2,276/£3,794£2,378/£3,964
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost33/£526/G/£18033/£558/H/£20536/£598/H/£205
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£179/£229/£179£215/£285/£365£399 (3yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,271/2,631mm4,390/2,605mm4,312/2,640mm
Height/width1,434/1,816mm1,466/1,878mm1,423/1,848mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,984cc4cyl in-line/1,996cc4cyl in-line/1,998cc
Peak power276/5,600 bhp/rpm306/6,500 bhp/rpm271/5,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque350/1,700 Nm/rpm400/2,500 Nm/rpm370/3,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/space-saver50 litres/repair kit60 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)380/1,210 litres477/1,210 litres344/991 litres
Kerbweight/payload1,395/495kg1,382/318kg1,376/441kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.5 metres/N/A12.6 metres/N/A11.4 metres/0.75Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/2yrs3yrs (90,000)/3yrs4yrs (100,000)/4yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 (2yrs)/12812,500 (1yr)/19618,000 (1yr)/153
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.15th/32nd*18th/2nd*7th/14th*
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars94/92/70/71/5^94/83/69/86/5^^83/78/60/56/5^^^
    
0-60/30-70mph6.7/5.0 seconds6.1/4.7 seconds6.5/5.5 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th2.5/3.7 seconds2.4/4.0 seconds2.9/4.3 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th4.8/6.2 seconds4.1/6.6 seconds5.5/7.5 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph155mph/2,500rpm167mph/2,600rpm159mph/2,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph52.8/37.0/9.5m52.0/40.1/9.6m48.7/36.9/9.5m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph70/56/64/70dB71/56/65/71dB73/56/68/73dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range31.9/7.0/351 miles27.9/6.1/307 miles26.7/5.9/352 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined32.5/51.4/42.8mpg30.1/46.3/38.7mpg28.3/45.6/37.7mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined7.2/11.3/9.4mpl6.6/10.2/8.5mpl6.2/10.0/8.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket205/154g/km/26%234/170g/km/29%244/174g/km/29%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park. sensors/cameraSeven/yes/yes/£215Six/yes/£2,300+/yesSix/yes/yes/£350
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control£1,355/yes/yesNo/yes/yesNo/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,055/£360**Yes/no/noYes/part/no
Metallic paint/xenons/keyless go£575/LED/noYes/LED/yes£1,300/no/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yes£2,300+/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/no/yes

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