21 Awesome Hot Hatches That Americans Can’t Drive
Yes, twenty oneby Safet Satara, on
The world of hot hatches is far more interesting than what we in the U.S. can ever fathom. The Europeans are particularly fond of them (the Brits especially), which led to the development of some of the most amazing cars. Some of them have never even appeared on U.S. shores. Believe it or not, I have found 21 awesome hot hatches from the past five years that have never set their tires on this side of the pond.
While compiling this list, I have come to a conclusion that buyers and drivers in the U.S. are usually really predictable. Apart from some producers who do not sell in the U.S. at all, international safety (UNECE) standards for car production are the ones to blame for a shortage of some of these cars.
We’re not compliant with those standards as we have our own set of rules called the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. In short, a disparity like this makes it very expensive for car producers to create two different versions of a car. And, that is exactly what is needed if you want to sell the same car in the U.S. and in the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, walk through this 4,853 horsepower list and imagine what your life would be like if some of these hot hatches could actually come here.
I am starting with this one intentionally. This is the closest to an M1 that BMW has given us. Of course, that designation will never land on a BMW hatchback, but believe me, the M140i is all you need. It is enough of an M car. The M140i is the only car on the list powered by a six-cylinder engine, with TwinPower Turbo tech at that.
While it can’t match the sheer strength, urgency, and insanity of the RS3, or the AMG A45, the BMW M140i is a blast. Apart from the straight six, this thing is RWD. Imagine that. A 335 horsepower hatchback with RWD and a six-cylinder engine. Can you possibly imagine a better hot hatch?
If equipped with the xDrive setup, the M140i can surge to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds. But man, that RWD setup. That’s some proper fun and risk.
Read our full review on the 2017 BMW M140i.
Ok, the CLA45 and the GLA45 are really, really similar to the AMG A45, but they are both bigger, somewhat different, and fall into a different niche. Just imagine having the smallest A-class in the U.S. and then garnishing it with a 376 horsepower engine that can catapult it to 60 mph in about 4 seconds. That is exactly what the world’s most powerful four-cylinder engine can do with a small A-class and its 4Matic system.
Although the CLA45 and the GLA 45 most certainly feature all the hardware usually found on the A45, I find the smallest of the bunch the meanest and the cutest. A new model is expected in the near future. However, before we get that anticipated A45, AMG will probably give us the A35. That one with an engine that delivers around 330 horsepower. Don’t worry; we won’t be able to buy it. A35 or A45 sedan though? Probably!
Read our full review on the 2017 Mercedes-AMG A45.
Never underestimate Toyota. Never! The 86 may not be as fast as we’d like, but it is a great car. Now, the Supra is on its way, but for those in Europe and elsewhere, Toyota’s new GRMN sports division prepared something really special - the Yaris GRMN. Yes, that Yaris! The smallest one, in this case with a supercharged 1.8-liter engine that develops 205 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It is a small, mean car of which only 400 of which were delivered in Europe. In case you don’t know, the GRMN abbreviation stands for Gazoo Racing tuned by Meisters of the Nürburgring. Exactly what you need to know, as the Yaris got a stiffer suspension, new Sachs shocks, a limited slip diff, 17-inch wheels, better brakes, stiffer anti-roll bars, new sporty seats, and numerous exterior additions to make it meaner and more performance oriented. This is not your everyday Yaris.
Read our full review on the 2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN.
The previous generation Ford Fiesta ST was here, and everyone who drove it loved it. Actually, you can still buy it. Yet, it seems that Ford did not sell enough of them to justify bringing the new model here. Not only is it based on a revamped architecture, but the new Ford Fiesta is actually powered by a three-cylinder turbocharged engine rather than the four-cylinder of the previous gen car. This does not seem convincing when it comes to small sporty cars, but the fact of the matter is that the new 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder develops 197 horsepower. Considering that the Fiesta ST200 had that sort of power, one can only conclude that the new car is plenty powerful. Instead of counting the cylinders count this:
- 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds
- Top speed of 143 mph.
In a Fiesta...
A small, cheap Fiesta. And yes, the new car features a cylinder deactivation system for saving fuel and transforming the car into a two-cylinder under certain conditions. Insane, I know.
Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST.
The Hyundai Veloster N is something like the U.S. version of the Hyundai i30 N. The i30, for all of you who don’t know, is actually an Elantra GT. We do not have its performance version here and that is a bit sad. Available in two different guises - with 250 horsepower and 270 horsepower, the Hyundai i30 N is an astounding effort by Hyundai to create a hot hatch. Really, they needed some big balls for this. Tested at the Nurburgring, the car is sure to give some proper performance comparable to the likes of other similar European hatches such as the 308 GTi, the Seat Leon Cupra, and the Megane RS. All of them are on this list.
Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai i30 N.
Volkswagen did not beat around the bush with this one. They gave the latest Polo GTI the 2.0-liter TSI engine which in different states of tune resides under the bonnets of almost every spirited and dynamic Volkswagen car. Including the Golf GTI. The new Polo GTI is eight horsepower angrier than the last one with its power output reaching 200 metric horsepower. Linked with a standard DSG transmission and multitude of important sporty upgrades, the Polo GTI can crack 62 mph in 6.7 seconds. Not as fast as the Fiesta ST. Yet, if I were about to have a drag race from, say, 0-124 mph, I’d always pick the Polo GTI with this gem of an engine underneath its bonnet. Interestingly enough the XDS locking diff is also standard on the new Polo GTI. Rad.
Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI.
Coming from the same Renault Sport as the more popular Renault Megane RS, the Clio RS sports a small 1.6-liter turbocharged unit linked with the EDC transmission. It is not as track suited as the car of before, but Renault tried to keep the daily usability to an absolute maximum. Nevertheless, the Trophy version is offered with the same engine but tuned from 200 horsepower to 220 horsepower. All this grunt goes to front wheels and transfers into 0-62 mph passes which end in 6.6 seconds. Launch Control and RS Drive systems are also quite important for the Clio RS as they offer a perfect opportunity to use all the performance at all times. No room for error. Someone surging from the green light knows that there is no room for error.
Read our full review on the 2017 Renault Clio RS.
As far as European hot hatches go, this one is among the best. Not only is it less expensive compared to the Volkswagen GTI, but it usually comes with more power as well. When the Golf GTI had 180 horsepower, the Megane RS moved around with 225 horsepower. VW goes to 200 horsepower for its GTI; the Megane RS goes to 250 horsepower.
The latest generation, although available only in a five-door form, has many impressive features including four-wheel steering, Cup chassis option, and the top-notch Megane RS Trophy which is by far the best Megane RS that ever was. The standard version comes out to play with 276 horsepower. The RS Trophy, on the other hand, gains 20 horsepower more, loses some weight, and gets an all-around better-sorted suspension for even meaner driving experience. It will wow you on the track. A few years from now, the Trophy R may come to take the Nurburgring record for the FWD cars. Yup, the Megane RS can be THAT good.
Read our full review on the 2018 Renault Megane RS.
Trying to review the unhinged spirit of the iconic Peugeot 205 GTi, the French company that actually considers coming back to the U.S., released a quite courageous 208 GTi. It is the ultimate expression of the 208 platform and one designed to reignite the sleepy spirit of Peugeot Sport. If you don’t find the original 208 GTi with a 200 horsepower, 1.6-liter good enough, check out the 208 GTi 30th. It actually celebrates the 30th anniversary of the 205 GTi and comes with a 208 horsepower engine (I don’t think this power output is only by chance). Now, the power isn’t even the point here, the suspension is. The 208 GTi 30th gained a stiffer suspension, a lower center of gravity, sharper steering, and a throaty exhaust. The performance exploded. The 208 (a car-sized similarly to a Fiesta) can surge to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds.
Read our full review on the 2017 Peugeot 208 GTi.
Although larger, the 308 GTi received much the same engine as the 208 GTi. True, for the bigger car and the one to tackle the likes of the Volkswagen GTI and the i30N, the 1.6-liter THP had been massaged to 250 horsepower and 270 horsepower (depending on the version). It is almost the same engine as in the discontinued Peugeot RCZ R, but the 308 GTi apparently carries it with more poise and better stature. Some reported that the chassis is a perfect balance between serious dynamism and comfort which gives a certain suppleness to the whole 308 GTi spirit. The performance figures aren’t as extreme as on the Type R or similar cars, but with 6 seconds needed for 62 mph, the 308 GTi certainly is a capable hot-hatch. And, dare I say, it looks kinda cool. It’s sophisticated with just the right dimensions.
Read our full review on the 2017 Peugeot 308 GTi.
Whenever I try to find a car to compare with the Megane RS, the Leon Cupra seems like an obvious choice every time. Similarly priced and similarly powerful, these two cars hover in a rather special sub-niche within the hot hatch segment. The Cupra R is a FWD machine powered by a 2.0-liter TSI engine that develops 300+ horsepower (a bit less with the new emission standards in place). Powerful enough. Apart from the most hardcore Cupra R, Seat offers the Cupra 300, and now one with the 4Drive AWD system. Also, it was available as a three-door car. A dying breed that one. The thing about the Leon Cupra is that this car is basically the Golf R, or the Audi S3, without AWD and for less money. What’s not to like?
Read our full review on the 2018 Seat Leon Cupra R.
Škoda Octavia RS 245
As far as I am concerned the Škoda Octavia RS 245 is the coolest car on this list. See, the Octavia is probably the most honest car in the world. It takes all the great tech from the Volkswagen, scales its price down, and then offers it to buyers in emerging markets. It did so well that Volkswagen actually felt threatened by its success. It is a liftback sedan. A large one at that, but it carries all the hatchback qualities one could want. The Škoda Octavia RS 245 is the most powerful version yet, and apart from the massive boot, awesome equipment, and powerful engine, it carries an electronically regulated VAQ limited-slip differential and can do 62 mph in 6.6 seconds. It can even offer three driving modes thanks to adaptive Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). I feel like reasonable but fun-loving Americans may love this car. A lot.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is the least powerful car on the list, yet, I think it deserves to be a part of this group. The new car is 170 pounds lighter compared to the previous generation, and it features a Boosterjet engine with 138 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. For a car tipping the scales at 2147 pounds, this may be plenty. Especially with alow center of gravity, stiff damping, and cool exhaust sound.
As for the performance, it’s obvious, the Suzuki Swift Sport isn’t as fast as other cars on the list, but you probably would not need anything meaner than 8.1 seconds to 62 mph any time soon anyway.
Read our full review on the 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport.
Seat did reveal the new Ibiza. The new Cupra Ibiza is still in the pipeline, and we may get it sooner or later. However, with the latest Ibiza Cupra appearing in 2016, Seat showed that it didn’t forget how to make crazy fun subcompact cars. The 1.8-liter TSI, basically taken from the previous gen VW Polo GTI, develops 192 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Channeling the power to the front wheels via an XDS regulated differential, the Ibiza Cupra will surge to 62 mph in 6.7 seconds. Add to this a top speed of 146 mph, and the Ibiza Cupra makes for a rowdy little car.
Read our full review on the 2018 Seat Ibiza Cupra.
We have the 4C (well, had), the Giulia, and the Stelvio. Yet, guys in Europe had this - the Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde. It was an expensive piece of kit. Basically a really posh Fiat Punto with a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that developed 170 horsepower. Is it fun? Well, I drove the next best MiTo - one with 140 (or 150 horsepower engine, I don’t remember by heart) for seven days, and, hands down, I felt what it means to have an Alfa. It is not a car; it is an emotional outburst pushing you to do things you’d usually do only out of passion. You know, sacrifice a bit of character, a bit of ethics and a bit of credibility. The Quadrifoglio Verde is that and then some. Performance is always the second or the third most important thing with Alfa. Passion is always the top priority. And this one is passionate, as well as the next one on the list.
Read our full review on the 2010 Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde
When the “normal” version of the Giulietta came out, Alfa purists simply wanted to know what kind of awesomeness the name Quadrifoglio Verde would lay. It received a strangely cool sounding 1.75-liter, turbocharged engine with a tad less than 240 horsepower. It is the same engine as in the 4C, here coupled with the dual clutch transmission and launch control. Massive brakes, specifically tuned suspension, and a fast transmission made the Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde particularly impressive. It is a car capable of surging to 62 mph in 6 seconds flat while sounding like a race car thanks to special “QV Intake Engine Sound.”
Read our full review on the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde.
The DS has become something like a standalone brand within the PSA group (Peugeot, Citroen, DS, and Opel/Vauxhall), but before it happened, Citroen revealed the DS3 Racing. It was the most potent version of the DS3 actually based on top of the high-end model with a 150+ horsepower engine. Reworked by Citroen Racing, the car gained additional power for a power output of 207 horsepower. I bet it has the same engine as that was in the 208 GTi 30th. Nevertheless, the DS3 Racing can reach 62 mph in 6.5 seconds. This is an expensive car, mind you. Especially now with DS being a standalone brand. In its latest iteration, the DS3 Racing actually features an updated engine with even more power. At the very start Citroen included a carbon fiber body kit on it. It was that special.
Read our full review on the 2010 Citroen DS3 Racing.
The ProCeed is like a poor man’s coupe. However, it does look nice and, in its most potent version, the ProCeed GT can pull some fine performance. Bear in mind that Kia replaced this generation of the Ceed a few months ago with the ProCeed - a stylish five-door replacement. Nevertheless, the ProCeed GT was the best Kia ever did with the name up to this point. The GT featured a 1.6-liter, turbocharged engine with 200ish horsepower. Nowhere near the rest of its European competition, but it was priced right (read cheaper) so that’s that. Some did not like its dull steering feel, but it was a nice daily driver that could be fast enough when needed.
Read our full review on the Kia ProCeed GT
With the introduction of the S1 Sportback, I think that Audi demonstrated what it really means to have fun. The Audi S1 is a Polo-sized car with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, AWD system, 227 horsepower, and a manual gearbox. Honestly, Audi seems to have found every cliche a car guy can think of and placed it in this car. The results are awesome, incredible and heck, I can’t wait for the new one as this one isn’t available anymore outside of the used market. When it was available, the S1 Sportback was able to reach 62 mph in 5.8 seconds.
Read our full review on the 2014 Audi S1 Sportback.
The Buick Regal GS is basically an Opel Insignia OPC. If Buick ever had the balls to sell a hatch in the U.S., the Astra would have been chosen. And the Astra OPC is the ultimate the Astra can ever be. Based on top of an awesome looking Astra GTC, the Astra OPC features a 280-horsepower, four-cylinder, a lower stance, stiffer springs, and massive wheels. Add to this the limited slip differential, Brembo brakes, and HiPerStrut suspension and the Astra OPC becomes something comparable with the very best. All important 62 mph time - around six seconds.
Read our full review on the 2015 Opel Astra OPC.
The Scirocco R is actually based on top of the Golf V chassis (you read that right), but the R is its most extreme interpretation. This sexy coupe was all the rage in Europe for a few years, but its importance did suffer from the SUV craze and obvious old-tech aura the Scirocco and the Scirocco R show. Nevertheless, the 2.0-liter TFSI developed 276 horsepower in its most potent form. It was apparently an engine based on the racing Scirocco GT24 engine.
Read our full review on the 2014 Volkswagen Scirocco R.