Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Taylor, Swiftly

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Taylor, Swiftly

Article excerpt

Molly Taylor is one of the lucky few who can drive performance cars to their limit. The 2016 Australian Rally Champion has been motor racing since her teens, honing her craft in a paddock before getting her road licence. Today at Sydney Motorsport Park, Taylor has parked her allegiances to rally sponsor Subaru to put through their paces the recently revised Ford Focus RS LE, hyped up Honda Civic Type R and just released VW Golf R Grid Edition.

Here's how the hot hatches compare on the road and track.

Ford Focus RS LE

Production of the Focus RS will end soon so Ford has released 500 limited edition examples.

Boosting the all-wheel drive hardware are a mechanical limited-slip front differential, stickier tyres and forged-alloy wheels. Racing seats and black painted roof, side mirrors and rear spoiler are part of the package that adds a hefty $6000 to the price, to $62,000 drive-away, making it the most expensive here.

"The racing seat is really comfortable but it's mounted too high," Taylor says.

With a crackle and pop from the exhaust she's off, returning just a few hot laps later with brake trouble. "The pedal went long. It feels like the brake fluid got too hot," she says.

Still, she likes the car. "It sounds like a race car and you can feel the extra torque of the engine down low in the rev range," she says.

"It feels heavier than the others but it has good grip and claws out of corners."

The stiff suspension that gives the Focus poise on a track makes it a touch too taut on the road. Passengers prone to motion sickness would be well advised not to read a book.

In other regards, it delights the senses.

As the heaviest car here, the extra kilos also make it the thirstiest, even by performance car standards, and the Focus is the least likely to get near its rating label claim. In the 0-100km/h dash using GPS timing gear, the Focus is the fastest here at 5.3 seconds, shy of its 4.7-second claim.

The Focus briefly nudges 102km/h in second gear before the rev limiter brings the speed back to 97km/h.

Honda Civic Type R

Honda has finally returned to the hot hatch market with a car worthy of the coveted Type R badge.

It has been bold with the price, too. The $56,700 drive-away sticker puts it squarely in all-wheel drive company even though the Honda powers only the front wheels.

On paper, it would be easy to underestimate. On track, it takes just one lap to earn Taylor's respect.

"It feels like a go-kart," she says. "It definitely surprised me. Even though it's not all-wheel drive you feel more confident because the suspension, steering and brakes are so precise.

"You can really take it to the limit and get the most out of it. The brakes are phenomenal. This is a real surprise package."

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