Hmmmm...your GTI-6 has a slightly higher kerb weight than a CTR, identical torque output, and produces peak torque at only very slightly lower rpms (5500). So I'm struggling to understand why the Pug should feel anything other than "spectacularly ordinary" at lower revs either!? It's rather like a tamer and slower CTR in concept.
What you fail to mention is that 90%+ of peak torque is available from 3000rpm in the CTR, which means it pulls in a linear fashion and is quite driveable as long as you don't expect to trundle around in 6th at 30mph.
Your views about the chassis are fair comment - even the most basic 306s handled superbly, as I know from experience, while the CTR is really about lots of grip and very little body roll - it's an efficient tool for going round corners quickly rather than being particularly fun.
And your final paragraph nicely summarises why I have a problem with the CTR. Surely, outright fun is the key ingredient of a hot hatch. What's the point otherwise? The trouble with making a hot hatch all about performance and grip is that a front drive hatchback, by definition, is among the worst kinds of cars you can buy in this respect. If you want pure speed, and rapid ground covering ability you won't buy a Civic (or a 306 for that matter). You'd buy a used Porsche, Lotus or TVR which would make any hot hatch look daft on most roads.
Relative to a true sports car or supercar, the average hot hatch is slow in a straight line and even slower on the bends. There is only so much you can do with a front drive chassis designed primarily for carting the shopping home from Tesco's. To my mind, fun, feel, involvement and ensuring that even "eight tenths" driving plants a Cheshire cat grin on your face are the hot hatch's reasons for existing. Grip and speed are nigh on irrelevant in this respect.
I would agree that the Focus ST looks very interesting, and I am a big fan of that 5 pot Volvo engine, so I await that one with baited breath. I have always liked fast Fords, and they usually manage to be half decent even when based on a crap base car (look at the mkV Escort RS2000 for example). The Focus should be a corker. That said, 200+ turbocharged bhp and front drive never strikes me as a particularly wonderful combination.
Funny you should mention the MX-5, as I happen to be a huge fan. My better half had a 1.8iS (the one with the LSD and 146 bhp) for two years and I have to say it was brilliant. Lively enough to be a laugh, and so chuckable and full of feel that a run to the shops turned into a 10 mile detour around some favourite twisties. I take your point, it's slower than a good hot hatch, but it reminded me just how good a well set up rear drive chassis can be. Once I remembered how to drive a RWD car again of course (and it took a few spins!)
The MX-5 is a car you really have to drive to appreciate. I groaned when she asked me to accompany her on the test drive, but by the end I was asking where we sign. I liked it that much. In a final point that also applies to the CTR, it was when I finally appreciated the fact that nobody engineers cars like the Japanese. They just don't break down or go wrong and that is not to be underestimated for day to day use.
The ZS is dead. Rover is no more. Very few people beyond the unfortunate people affected by the job cuts could care less. Get over it!
Most people wouldn't pay five figures for a two generation old Honda Civic saloon, whatever wheels they put on it, wherever they move the badges to or whichever grille or lamp design they choose this month.
At the end of the day, the ZS is only a tarted up mid 90's Civic. A 2 grand VTi out of the classifieds is just as capable, barely any slower, and doesn't have a Rover engine under the bonnet. Which makes it worth more in my opinion!