In South Africa the c in C segment category stands for competitive, with plenty of established players such as Ford's Focus, and Opel's Astra hatching plans to dethrone VW's Golf. Is the VW Golf still the best five door hatchback in this car category?
Mazda 3 1.6L Active
Out of the Land of the Rising Sun comes one eye-catching hatchback in the form of Mazda's 3 1.6L Active, whose sporty driving dynamic is accentuated by the low-slung front spoiler and 16" alloy wheels. Going Zoom-Zoom in this Japanese hatchback is certainly on the cards, since it boasts an in-line 1 598 cc four cylinder engine that churns out 77 kW at 6 000 RPM and 145 Nm at 4 000 RPM.
Pricing for the Mazda 3 1.6L Active hatchback starts at R225 780 (incl. VAT), which brings with it safety tech that includes electronic brakeforce distribution and anti-lock brake system (ABS). As reassuring as its safety features is this vehicle's five year or 90 000 km service plan, four year or 120 000 km warranty and three years of Mazda Motion roadside assistance.
Opel Astra 1.6 Essentia
It is vital for the Essentia to bring a bit of performance zing to the hatchback table, and this is delivered courtesy of its 1 595 cc four cylinder engine that pushes out 85 kW and 155 Nm. All this whilst managing to keep fuel usage below the six and a half liters per 100 km mark.
Cost for the 1.6 Essentia model starts at pricey R235 200, but this RRP includes a comprehensive set of standard features such as daytime running lights, ABS, six airbags, 17" alloy wheels and cruise control. Additionally, drivers get a five year or 120 000 km warranty along with roadside assistance and a five year or 90 000 km service plan.
Hyundai i30 1.6 GLS
Hyundai's lack of pedigree in this segment will be the farthest thing from your mind when you first set your eyes on the new 1.6 GLS and its sublime 'fluidic sculpture' styling that makes for a much more appealing hatch than the bland previous generation.
Powering this sensational looking dark horse is a 1 591 cc engine that churns out 95 kW at 6 300 RPM, as well as 157 Nm at 4 850 RPM. This is enough to propel this vehicle from 0-100 km/h in 10.5 seconds to a top speed of 195 km/h. Fortunately, sensible drivers can expect a frugal 6.4 litres per 100 km.
Climbing into the driver's seat costs you R229 900, with the i30 being covered by a five-year or 90 000 km service plan and five-year or 150 000 km manufacturer's warranty.
Ford Focus 1.6 Trend
Ford is intent on performance with its Focus, which is powered by a 1 596 cc powerplant delivering 92 kW at a high-revving 6 000 RPM as well as 159 Nm at 4 000 RPM. Included is Ford's Torque Vectoring Control, which transfers torque to the wheels that have the most grip when cornering in order to eliminate understeer. Beyond performance, fuel efficiency is also high on the Blue Oval's agenda with a combined usage cycle of six liters per 100 km. Ford's Focus carries an RRP of R235 750 which includes VAT, as well as a five year or 90 000 km service plan, three year (unlimited in terms of km) roadside assistance plan, four year or 120 000 km warranty, and five year (unlimited km) corrosion warranty.
VW Golf VI 1.6 Comfortline
Even though the Golf VI was not a monumental design leap over the Golf V, it still snagged both the 2010 South African Guild of Motoring Journalists car of the year award (1.4 TSI version), as well as the 2009 World Car of the Year award.
The 1.6 Comfortline's 1 595 cc four cylinder motor delivers an uninspiring 75 kW at 5 600 RPM, coupled with a very economical 7.1 liters per 100 km fuel usage figure. And while its 11.3 seconds 0-100 km/h acceleration and 188 km/h top end definitely not see the German champ provide buyers with class-leading performance, its beautiful (though not groundbreaking) design, improved ride, excellent build quality and reliability, as well as the best interior in this class, all add up to make this the poster child of the C-segment.
The 1.6 Trendline goes for R233 600 and includes a three year or 120 000 km warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion warranty, and five year or 90 000 km AutoMotion service plan.
This article first appeared in TechSmart 108, September 2012.