We compiled a similar list back in 2014 where the Renault Megane GT took top honours in the bang-for-buck contest. Over the last couple of years, circumstances have changed with new models joining the market and list prices changing amid a volatile economy. Again, we have set the performance threshold at 150 kW as that’s certain to result in willing performance in combination with a compact body shell. Obviously, we aren’t accounting for weight or a sporty chassis at this point, but it’s interesting to see where the power bargains are hiding.
The Kia Koup 1.6T moves up 1 position to the top spot as its list price has increased less than the (previously most-affordable 150 kW-plus car) Megane has over the last 2 years. The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine develops 152 kW and is claimed to accelerate from zero to 100 kph in 7.7 seconds. There is an automatic version in the range that claims to be slightly quicker (at 7.4 seconds) to 100 kph, but our experience with that transmission disappointed. For R378 995, the Koup constitutes great value (considering its very stylish looks).
Read: Kia Cerato Koup Review
The Megane moves down one spot on the charts to number 2. It produces more power than the Kia from its 2.0-litre turbocharged motor (162 kW) and is a tenth of a second quicker to 100 kph (at 7.6 seconds), nonetheless. The asking price is R382 900 which, is R55k more than it was 2 years ago. The current Megane is coming to an end of its lifecycle, so you may be able to haggle a deal on this model... Judging by the prices that dealers are asking for almost-new models, it's well worth a look...
Read more: Renault Megane GT Turbo review
The Hyundai Veloster Turbo is a new addition to the list. It meets the required power output by producing exactly 150 kW from its 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. With a claimed zero to 100 kph sprint time of 7.8 seconds, Hyundai's 4-door hatchback offers useable (if less-than-scintillating) performance. The Veloster Turbo squeezes under the R400k mark with an asking price of R399 900. Stick with the manual version as it is more affordable and more involving to use than the dual-clutch automatic version.
The 308 GT is another new entrant. It’s well-built and has a luxuriously finished cabin, but the pint-sized steering wheel takes some getting used to before you feel comfortable pointing the GT towards the nearest mountain pass. There’s 151 kW available from the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol motor and it costs the same as the Veloster Turbo at R399 900.
Watch the Peugeot 308 Pricing and Rivals Video
Ford still provides a relative bargain in the hot hatch segment. Its Focus ST1 offers 184 kW and a sportier driving experience than the examples listed above. It will sprint from zero to 100 kph in approximately 6.5 seconds and will top out at 248 kph. The ST1 is the entry-level ST, so there are a few luxuries missing, such as leather seats, daytime running lights and climate control. It’s a bare-bones performance bargain in most people's books. R420 900 gets you in an ST1, but to upgrade to the ST3 will only cost another R42 000.
Read: Ford Focus ST Review
The JCW is an eminently wieldy "pocket rocket" and (relative) performance bargain. With 170 kW on tap from its 2.0-litre turbopetrol motor, the JCW is said to catapult from standstill to 100 kph in just 6.3 seconds. Beware of the optional extras list, however; things can get pretty expensive if you specify many of the goodies that Mini offer. The basic JCW costs R443 104.
Read more: Mini JCW First Drive
Volvo isn’t known as a bargain performance brand, but in T5 Momentum guise the V40 offers excellent value courtesy of its 180 kW 2.0-litre four cylinder turbopetrol motor (mated with a Geartronic automatic gearbox). All this in a well-specced car with a raft of safety equipment makes the Volvo hatchback an intriguing option. The starting price for the T5 is R452 638.
Read more: Volvo V40 Facelift coming soon
Just behind the Volvo at R453 300 is the ever-popular Golf GTI. It has been around in its current form since June 2013, but still remains the default choice for those looking for a near-perfect blend of status, style and performance. There’s 162 kW available from the 2.0-litre turbopetrol and the GTI is said to dispatch the zero to 100 kph sprint in 6.5 seconds. Look out for the upcoming Clubsport model if you want a GTI with a little bit more power, but we believe the majority of prospective buyers will be quite satisfied with the standard car's balance.
Read more: VW Golf GTI - Which should you buy?
Not only is the Alfa Romeo claimed to be the fastest car on this list, it also has the longest name to type out in full. The 1.75-litre turbopetrol engine churns out 177 kW and is said to propel the QV from zero to 100 kph in 6.0 seconds. The dual-clutch model was recently added to the local line-up (with a bit more power than the previous QV). Its list price is R463 990.
Read more: Alfa Romeo Giulietta Squadra Corse review
BMW grabs the final spot in the top 10 with its 1 Series hatch. The 125i is powered by an uprated 2.0-litre turbopetrol powerplant that produces a peak output of 160 kW. The baby Bimmer hits 100kph from standstill in 6.4 seconds. BMW has many options that will increase the cost of the 125i M Sport, but its starting price is a not-unreasonable R466 876.
Watch a video: BMW 1 Series Facelift vs Old 1 Series