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Motoring: Sportback Ralliart vs. Volkswagen Golf GTi

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 8th, 2010

If you're in the market for a practical hatchback that can not only carry you and your daily shopping, plus has an alter ego to annoy supercars on winding roads, then look no further than the cars featured this week.

Hot hatch enthusiasts know all about the Volkswagen Golf GTi, it has been the benchmark performance pocket rocket for about 25 years, and now there is a new sixth-generation version to carry the torch. However, there is a new competitor to take some of the market-share from the eager Golf.

It is the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart (long name I know), and it is seriously impressive, but which is best?

To start with, the GTi and the Ralliart have a lot in common. Both have 2.0-litre, turbo-charged, four-cylinder engines, and both are available in two guises. The GTi can be had either as a three-door hatch or a five-door hatch (my tester was the three-door model), while the Ralliart can be had either as a four-door sedan or the five-door hatch they like to call the Sportback.

There is another similarity, both vehicles come with dual-clutch gearboxes. However, while the Ralliart is only available with its six-speed SST dual-clutch transmission, the GTi can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.

From there on, things get quite different. For example, while the GTi has to be content with sending power to only its front wheels, the Ralliart has all-wheel drive. Not just some tired old, all-wheel drive system either, it's quite a clever one as it can send power to whichever wheel can best use it and also has yaw control. So the end result is that through the corners, this Ralliart is not just quick, it baffles your senses. You simply cannot fathom going through corners as quickly as this car allows you to take. The Ralliart is about as good as cars get when it comes to cornering.

Not to say the GTi doesn't handle well, because it does. But just having front-wheel drive does have its limitations. Push the GTi too hard into a corner and it will simply understeer. The GTi is still very entertaining to drive, but it feels like VW hasn't moved the game much further. After all, this GTi feels just like the GTi that came before it. Only difference I could work out is that this new GTi rides a bit better than its predecessor.

It even has the same power plant that produces the same 200hp, just like the previous GTi. The Ralliart has more power on tap too, 237hp to be exact. However, since the Ralliart is a bit heavier than the GTi, their performance numbers are quite similar. So expect a 0-100km/h run in about six seconds, and a top speed that will surely land you in jail.

However, their fuel-economy figures are surprisingly different. While I averaged 9.0-litres/100km with the GTi, the Ralliart only managed 14.0-litres/100km, which is quite poor.

They are priced quite similarly though, when equipped identically. The GTi with a DSG gearbox is yours for $31,000, while the Sportback Ralliart is yours for $33,700. However, a GTi can be had for as little as $28,700, which makes it quite affordable.

So if you're looking for the one of the best deals for the money, the new GTi is still an incredible machine. However, if you're looking for just about one of the best cars currently made, for pretty much any price, the Ralliart is about as good as cars get.
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