A hatchback is a type of automobile design, consisting of a passenger cabin which includes an integrated cargo space, accessed from behind by a hatch or flip-up window. Hatchbacks are also often called three-doors (two entry doors and the hatch) or five-doors (four entry doors and the hatch) cars.

As the top-of-the-line trim for the entire BMW 1-Series lineup, the M135i has a lot of expectations to live up to.

Fortunately, there are aftermarket companies like AC Schnitzer that are capable of helping cars like the M135i fulfill their potential. It certainly helps that AC Schnitzer is also considered one of the finest BMW tuners in the world — yeah, these guys know what they’re doing.

For the M135i, AC Schnitzer decided to launch an upgrade program that includes performance mods, suspension upgrades, and subtle aerodynamic improvements. That’s the trifecta right there.

First off is the performance upgrade, which AC Schnitzer achieved by tweaking various components in the engine. The result is an M135i that now produces 360 horsepower without increasing the CO2 emissions of the sports hatch. Coming from the original 320 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque produced by the car’s 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, the performance bump is pretty impressive, considering the CO2 levels remained the same. We’ll get you all of thee engine-upgrade details after its debut in Essen.

Moving to the suspension, AC Schnitzer installed a new spring kit that not only lowers the vehicle by 25 mm (0.98 inches) but also provides an improved balance between two key elements of the M135i: sports performance and driving comfort. A chromed "Racing" exhaust tailpipe was also installed, as well as a two-piece front spoiler, color-matched design stripes, a rear roof spoiler and a loading lip protection film make up the exterior modifications.

Finally, there are the interior upgrades, which include an aluminum Black Line gear knob or, should you opt for something a little more posh, an illuminated, leather-wrapped gear knob. Rounding out the interior upgrades for the M135i include a Black Line aluminum cover for the i-Drive, another gear knob with a digital gear display, aluminum handbrake handle with chrome accents, custom velour floor mats and an aluminum foot rest.

We admit to being one of the many sites that are enamored with Ford’s sports hatchback, the Focus ST .

Unlike sports coupes, which traditionally convey sporty looks with top-notch performance credentials, sports hatchbacks like the Focus ST are like the cute girlfriends that don’t command as many sexy clothes, but are just as beautiful as their Gucci-covered counterparts. This is doubly true after they’re given some kind of makeover.

In the automotive world, tuning companies are the ones that give cars makeovers. In the case of British tuner Superchips, that’s exactly what it did to the Focus ST, turning it from a cute sport hatch into a certified hottie. Relying on its specialty as one of the top ECU-remap experts in the world, Superchips was able to tweak the Focus ST’s ECU, particularly the system’s boost level, fueling and ignition timing.

The result is a significant power jump for the Focus ST’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which know produces an incredible output of just over 300 horsepower to go with along 233 pound-feet of torque.

A sports hatch pumping out 300 ponies? Sign us up for that one. And the best part is Superchips’ ECU remap only costs £455, which is just around $730, including VAT and installation.

By the way, if for nothing else, those candy blue rims certainly looks fly on the Focus ST.

The Fiat 500L is a rather unique car. Technically, it was born from the 500, but the 500L doesn’t really fit the bill of a compact car. On top of that, actually looks pretty fresh when you compare it to its bland base brother.

The 500L Trekking is being touted as the more adventurous side of the 500L and, true to the name it’s been given, it offers the kind of sporty and rugged look that some may not expect from the 500. Who knew that Fiat actually had this up its sleeve?

The aggressively styled front and rear fascias are the first things you’ll notice about the 500L Trekking. Pair that with the flared wheel arches that further accentuate the car’s aggressive stance and the body-side sill moldings, and you have a vehicle that’s far from your “typical” Fiat 500 . Let’s not forget to give some love to the set of 17-by-7-inch aluminum wheels, which complement the body well.

Inside the cabin there are more of the same enhancements. The cabin is highlighted by a two-tone Nero/Marrone (black/brown) interior environment, which elevates the rugged characteristics of the vehicle to q whole new level. Combine the appearance with high-tech equipment, like the all-new Uconnect 5.0 system, makes for a great balance of looks and practicality. This standard Uconnect system features a 5-inch intelligently and intuitively designed touchscreen interface, hands-free calling and Bluetooth streaming audio. Add in the voice-controlled audio system, and you have a technology masterpiece.

Expect to see the 2014 Fiat 500L and its Trekking variant in U.S. showrooms in mid-2013. No pricing details are available just yet.

UPDATE 02/28/13: The Fiat 500L Trekking Concept is making its way to the Geneva Motor Show. Better keep an eye out on this bugsy concept because there’s a good chance that it’s going to catch some stares.

Eco-friendly car buyers throughout the U.S. were anxiously awaiting the release of Chevy’s newest subcompact car, the Spark . Now that its release has come and gone, it is time to focus on the upcoming electric variant. After testing the car for quite some months, Chevrolet will officially unveiled the new Spark EV at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show.

With the Spark EV, Chevrolet adds another car to its electric-powered lineup that includes the Chevrolet Volt, a car that accounts for more than 50 percent of all plug-in electric-vehicle sales in the United States. Building on Chevrolet’s tried and tested electric motor and battery development program; it is expected to have among the best EV battery range in its segment and will be the first electric vehicle to offer SAE Combo DC Fast Charging capability that enables the Spark EV to reach 80-percent battery charge in just 20 minutes. That may not compare to the several minutes it takes to fuel-up your gasoline-powered car, but it’s certainly the fastest in its segment.

Will the Chevrolet Spark EV be another boring electric car to impress the government or is it one of the very few cars that are capable of drawing new customers towards the noble cause of environmental protection?

UPDATE 5/23/2013: Chevy has just released the base price for the new Spark EV, as well as a special lease offer. See more after the jump.

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Another modest addition to the compact hot-hatch segment, that includes the likes of the Mini John Cooper Works and the Fiat 500 Abarth , is America’s very own Ford Fiesta ST. With the initials “ST,” this variant of the Ford Fiesta brings more power and a sporty looking exterior kit to the table, a standard expected in every hot-hatch that is sold today.

Developed by the combined efforts of Team RS in Europe and SVT in the United States, the Fiesta ST is the latest that sports the “Sports Technologies” badge, a global performance brand that debuted in North America earlier this year with the launch of the Focus ST.

The ST brand is Ford’s initiative to prove to its customers that small cars can be fun and exciting to drive. People can not only enjoy the practicality of a hatchback but also a delicate mix of power, looks and fuel economy.

UPDATE 03/04/13: Ford has officially released the price for 2014 Fiesta ST. Hop on over after the jump to find out how much it’s going to cost.

Click past the jump to read our full review on the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

TheFiat 500 has enjoyed tremendous success since it arrived a couple of years ago. So much so that the Italian automaker has released a number of spinoff models, like the 500L , 500C, and 500XL , to capitalize on the core 500’s increasing popularity.

We recently found out that in addition to extending its 500 model lineup, Fiat is also releasing a top-of-the-line variant of the 500L, called the Panoramic Edition.

The biggest addition to the 500L Panoramic Edition is the newly-added glass roof, which pretty much explains why Fiat dubbed it the Panoramic Edition. On top of that, this model also comes with a number of modifications, including new leather seats, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, a touchscreen infotainment system that comes with Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connectivity, a set of 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels and two new exterior color options: Bianco Gelato and Grigo Moda.

No mechanical modifications were performed on the 500L Panoramic Edition so you can expect it to carry the same 1.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine from the standard 500, one that produces 101 horsepower.

Mini Cooper

It’s been a while since we brought you any new details on the next-generation next-generation Mini Cooper , but we believe it’s well worth the wait. Today, however, we finally have some new info for you Mini lovers out there, as our spy photographers have caught the car testing once again. This time around, we got a good look at the car’s real headlights and taillights.

Unfortunately, the daytime running lights where off, but if you take a close look, you will notice a ring around the headlamps with an integrated turn signal. On the back end, you’ll notice that the taillights have grown slightly and, for the first time ever, we get a pretty clear view of the taillight graphics.

The next-gen Mini Cooper will be built on BMW’s new UKL platform and will offer a new three-cylinder engine – possibly several three-cylinder engines – along with the conventional four-cylinder lineup.

The new-generation Mini Cooper will be launched sometime in 2013 and, as previously reported, there will be 10 different body versions offered.

Opel’s offering to the city car segment, the Adam , is getting a race-spec version in the form of the Adam Cup Rally Car.

In announcing their return of to the motorsport world, Opel’s Adam Cup Rally Car will compete in the ADAC Opel Rally Cup as part of the ADAC Rally Masters race. It’s hardly the WRC, the highest level of rally racing in the world, but for a company that’s only returning to the rally scene after a prolonged sabbatical, the Adam Cup Rally Car is being prepared for great things.

Full race-spec details of the Adam Cup Rally Car have yet to be announced, but we do know that the car will get the full complement of aerodynamic racing components. There’s the full-on livery dress-up and a new set of wheels and tires on the body and an interior that carries a full roll cage, sport bucket seats with six-point harnesses, and a new steering wheel.

Keep an eye out on the Opel Adam Cup Rally Car next season when it officially enters competitive racing again. As a race-spec machine, the race car was built to adhere to FIA R2 regulations.

UPDATE 02/04/13: Speaking of being updated, the Opel Adam Cup Rally Car will be on hand at the Geneva Motor Show. Be sure to keep an eye out on it when it hits the stands in Geneva.

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Fiat 500L

Thought to be impossible to pull off by many skeptics, it seems that engineers at the Fiat Megafactory are now celebrating with a nice bottle of the champagne (we guess). Why the celebration, you ask? The factory rolled out a Lounge version of a funky white Fiat 500 that is powered by Fiat’s 1.2L 67bhp engine. And, apparently, this 500 happened to be the one millionth example that Fiat has built, since launch in 2007. Skeptics couldn’t believe the fact that an overtly costly, two door hatch pulled-off the feat in 5 years.

The Fiat 500, since launch, was surprisingly a success for the Italian giant. Thanks to the 500, Fiat managed to grab around 13.9% market share in the European market. The following year Fiat managed to sell a record breaking 186,000 units. This is an impressive feat considering the fact that the original Fiat 500, while selling 3.4 million units till end of production at ’75, managed to take four years to sell 180,000 units.

The key selling points of this little hot hatch is its ease of driving around and the plethora of customization by Fiat themselves that the customer can opt for, making each Fiat 500 a unique example.

Do you think the Fiat can sell even more of the 500, say 1.5 million or (we are stretching here) 2 million units? Let us know in the comments section

The last time Opel achieved success in motorsports was 2003 when the Astra V8 Coupe conquered the 24 Hours of Nurburgring race. Since then, Opel has kept a low key profile in racing. All that, though, is set to change when the new Astra OPC returns to racing.

The new Opel Astra OPC has been given some racing juices, and thus, the Astra OPC Cup was born. The future race car is set to compete in the 2013 season and has been built to fully comply with "VLN Endurance Championship" standards, considered as the most popular grass roots racing series in Europe.

In addition to competing in its own brand trophy class as part of the VLN Endurance Championship series, the Astra OPC Cup will also ply its wares in the race that its predecessor once conquered: the 24 Hours of Nurburgring.

Full-spec details weren’t announced surrounding the Astra OPC Cup, but according to Dr. Thomas Sedran, Opel’s Deputy CEO, the race car being built plays into Opel’s new direction as a company. These new motorsports activities play an important role in the strategic re-alignment of the company; they are a fundamental element of our brand profile," Dr. Sedran said.

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