Is a $24,930 carbon pack worth it?
FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. That’s how much the wheels on this Honda Civic Type R cost. They’re part of what Honda Aus calls the ‘Deluxe Pack’, and there’s another $10K worth of carbon fibre fitted. On a car that costs $51,990 before on-roads. So, what does paying for an extra half-a-Honda get you? The 20-inch wheels, which are 2.1kg lighter each than the stockers, plus a carbon wing, mirrors, sills, diffuser, and interior trim. Not only is the Civic Type R still as good as we remember, but the track is an excellent fit for the sharp-nosed front-driver. Wide tyres grip for as long as you could need them to, and the steering is excellently weighted to turn hard without needing to cross arms too far. Not to mention the willing turbocharged engine pulling out of corners harder than a front-driver feels like it should. But we could say all of this about a standard Type R. The lighter wheels should provide a slight improvement in performance, but you’d need to drive this car back-to-back with a standard Type R to notice. Even the ride isn’t affected, as the stock wheels are the same size. It arguably looks better with the DC2 Integra-inspired wheels. But enough to pay the price of a Suzuki Swift Sport? We’d rather a second car in the garage. - SPECS: 2.0 I4T; 228kW @ 6500rpm; 400Nm @ 2500rpm; FWD; 1380kg; $76,920
Tasty entree before full-fat ST arrives
WITH A HOST of ‘ST’ parts, the sportiest hatch so far in the new Focus range has enough character to keep even a proper hot-hatch enthusiast content - if not entertained. The twin exhaust exit, honeycomb grille, rear spoiler, and some of the bodywork sets the ST-Line apart, while the interior is mostly the same as other models. A stance lowered by 10mm is the result of fixed sports suspension replacing the standard setup. That suspension does make the car a little stiffer to ride in, but on a lively drive it’s a big plus. A relatively playful chassis feels like Focus ST DNA is present, and provides enough mid-corner adjustability to sharpen up if you find yourself running wide. Its three-pot engine also sounds rather fun, and eggs you on in the mid-range with a lively exhaust note. The only gripe found with its drivetrain when things get spirited is the gearbox. It’s not the most perky unit, with the same gears and ratios as its sibling models. It does come with paddle shifts and a ‘manual mode’, though its willingness to follow orders is low. It also shifts up well before redline. Mercifully, when left to its own devices, the ‘box is fine and the rest of the car makes up for it. If the ST-Line is the ‘warm hatch’, we are very eager for things to get properly hot. - SPECS: 1.5 I3T; 134kW @ 6000rpm; 240Nm @ 1750rpm; FWD; 1388kg; $28,990
EcoBoost drop-top rated
THE FORD MUSTANG EcoBoost Convertible is a head scratcher. Many think a Mustang should be a manual, two-door coupe, not an auto-only drop-top.
And as feisty as the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo is (thanks, Focus RS), it isn’t the go-to engine when there’s also a burly V8 option. For a princely sum of $59,490, the USP is starting to look a little shaky. Still, it’s packing 224kW/441Nm under its handsome bonnet and that newfangled 10-speed auto. The EcoBoost engine is a punchy unit, delivering the fabric-roofed pony surprising motivation and a tune that almost befits the open-air cinema. The new exhaust system has transformed the sound in all the right ways. Yet, the 6.0sec 0-100km/h claim is ambitious and there’s no use accessing the final 500rpm. The hyped 10-speed auto is impressive, especially when cruising in Normal mode, but it lacks obedience when using the paddles. It also goes ‘hunting’ for power/torque too often in Sport Plus mode. What chips away at the coupe’s impressive dynamic edge is the 1765kg heft, a lack of body control and scuttle shake through the inert steering. There’s a lot of relaxed charm here, but instead of letting the wind flow through your hair to the sound of turbo spools, wipe the sweat off your brow in a GT Fastback. A stock manual V8 is only $4k extra, meaning it’s not much of a head scratcher after all... - SPECS: 2.3 I4T; 224kW @ 5700rpm; 441Nm @ 3000rpm; RWD; 1765kg; $59,490