Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Top 10+1 FWD Cars

*WARNING: The following article contains opinions and doesn't reflect the view of yours. Maybe a bit. But I don't care.*

Front-wheel drive can be considered the second biggest boom in the industry almost since the Model T. It's consumer friendliness in every way made the second push towards mass productivity. You can get a bigger interior and a better grip and handling under traction-undfriendlier situations than with an RWD car - supposing everyday trafficing, of course. On the downside you lose a great amount of fun factor that the manufacturers frantically try to regain. So now, here's a list of the best attempts of all. Get you seatbelts right.

10. Daihatsu Charade GTti
 The smallest, and the meanest. I mean who would have ever imagined to turbocharge a one-litre DOHC engine? The ultimate essence of what the term "hot hatch" stands more. Most power into the smallest car. While that 114bhp is laughable amount of force, it is enough to go head-to-head with big block muscle cars even on a quarter-mile. Surely, it's not the FWD factor that makes it legendary. It's the finger it gives everyone else.

9. Volvo 850 Wagon
Boring, boring all the way. Square edges, big trunk... Why did I sign up for it in the first place? Well, it's the biggest boot you camn ever get. One awesome chassis that makes it a handler, too, and the ultimate fact that a BTCC racer was made out of it. Name other station wagons in touring car racing or any other competitions that are in police fleets as well.

8. Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari
The Fiat 500 is one of the best retrocars ever conceived. Surprisingly it's not ripping off the legacy of the vintage car. It continues it. The Abarth 500 came along as a mean machine and the 695 Tributo? Well, it's virtually a bit of powerwise upscaled Abarth 500 with the "Ferrari" name in it. Yes? No? How many FWD cars can you get with the "Ferrari" name in it? Thought so. The Aston Martin Cygnet is not a player here, believe me. Just don't listen.

7. Saab 900 Turbo
Not the first one, but made legends by turbocharging FWD cars. Out of the jetfighter factory (sort of), tested on the Swedish rallies (sort of) it has the power, the handling and the unique Nordic ice-hooning factor you can't get in any other cars. Plus it looks awesome. Not the sort of looks you would expect from a dily driver, like a supermodel with a duckface, but that just adds to the experience.

6. Fiat Coupe
It's all Chris Bangle's fault. The guy who put BMW on the binging line, did this beauty. A nice, enjoyable drive, full of Italian sunshine, and to this day I firmly believe it deserves an Alfa Romeo badge. It has the character, the style, and for a matter, it is a quite reasonable catch for any car-lover. Yes, the MX5 drives better with FWD. Yes, the Lotus Elan is a L-O-T-U-S, and they are both cabrios. But boy, this is heart-racing to look at.

5. VW Golf GTD
I know, and I agree. It should have been the GTI. But the GTD was the next logical evolutionary step. The GTI introduced the "hot hatch" category that is basically the European counterpart of American Muscle cars. Up to that point, no one really thought a family car could be sportish, and up to the GTD no one ever believed a diesel engine could be a performance thing. It is competitive now, and most of the cars sold in Western Europe are diesels. Waaaay ahead of its time. Deserves the spot.

4. Peugeot 205 Gti
Probably the best-handling FWD car Europe could come up with. Following the footsteps of the Golf GTI, Peugeot has come up with its own street and rally fighter. While the T16 Group B version taught a lesson at Col de Turini, the GTi taught another one for daily drivers and pumped fresh life into the industry and made a legend among enthusiasts. You just can't have better handling for the money it costs.

3. Ford Focus RS 500
If you seek the best, go for the best. The RS 500 is the most hardcore drivers' version of the Focus. Limited edition, FWD stealth fighter. The RS line continued where Cosworth left off and made the FWD a performance factor again by reviving and old technology renaming it RevoKnuckle. The theory of the unnecessitiy of putting more than 200bhp into a car has vanished and made its way to a new era of performance cars.

2. Mini Cooper
I'm talking about the original. The one that humiliated every other competitors at the Monte Carlo Rally. The car that basically introduced the hatchback category, made a sporting name as well. The awesome handling due to excessive grip and tricks to bring out the max (left-foot braking, Scandinavian flick). It is indeed Britain's pride.

1. Honda Integra Type-R
The ultimate FWD car. You just cannot top the zen of its perfect match of handling, traction and power. It could almost be cited as a FWD NSX. Japan succeeded to put a period on all the debates whether a FWD car can ever be as good as a RWD. It can. By far. And we love it. Arigato!

+1. Citroen DS
To put it simply - one of the best cars ever made. So much ahead of its time, that some of the solutions are returning NOW as "innovative" engineering features. Air-suspension, dynamic lighting, mid-engine, FWD layout. You just stand in awe and watch the French revolution on four wheels. Definitely deserves a place here, although it is not the FWD factor we love it so much. Hence +1.

(Editor's note: some of the images do not always represent the acutal car highlighted)

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