Hot hatches have a major problem on their hands. Perhaps one they will not be able to overcome. Ever. This is the plot:

You are in your late twenties or early thirties, and you want something mad, rowdy, and catchy for yourself, but, as usual, the budget is a bit tight. A hot hatch seems to be the perfect fit for your dream Sunday morning stint in the mountains (or the occasional illegal drag race in the middle of the night down in Mexico.) A lot of “hothatchness” now resides in the 300 horsepower range, can hit 60 mph in low 5 sec (some even quicker) and have features with strange names like torque vectoring, damper control, dual-axis struts, and titanium exhausts.

Perfect!

You’ll buy one and be happy for a short while. However, after you actually find out that you simply do not have the time to visit twisties in the mountains (or will ever go down to Mexico, for that matter,) a strange thing will happen. The Audi SQ5 diesel SUV with a mildly reprogrammed ECU will line up next to you. Behind its wheel sits a middle-aged man with a smirk on his face, eager to impress whoever sits next to him. Your hatch and your heart are ready to rumble.

Launch control on, sweaty palms on the steering wheel, and eyes on the traffic light.

Let’s go!

Plot twist:

The black diesel SQ5 TDI SUV will smoke you, literally and figuratively. You’ll try to reason with the situation driving in your hot hatch with massive exhausts, shouty spoilers, and red paint job, but deep down you will have one thought, and one thought only - “WTF am I doing with my life?”

Do you not think this is a problem? Just take a look at how many overpowered SUVs are sold every year!

Now, this may not be the only reason why hot hatches are going overboard with power, technology, and, ultimately, price, but it is a part of it. Apart from being fast, they need to be cool or incredible in some [expensive] way and offer something more than just being fast.

These are all hot hatches with engines developing 300 horsepower or more. They were all made to liven up your life before someone with an SQ5, or its likeness takes it away from you in 5 seconds. Or less.

The Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R High Resolution Exterior
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The Honda Civic Type R is the fastest FWD car at the Nurburgring, ever

Ever since Honda decided to go all turbocharged on the Civic Type R, the Japanese machine has proudly displayed all of its 300+ horsepower glory to the world. Two generations of the 300+ horsepower Civic actually existed with the first one hitting the production line and the market from 2015 to 2017. The latest Honda Civic Type R is probably the most important of them all. It is the first one to appear in the U.S. and in pseudo sedan form at that.

Obviously, its sheer looks attract a certain degree of boasting with all the massive spoilers and add-ons. These definitely show how teenage hot hatches can look. Regardless of the questionable choices for the exterior, the Type R is actually a serious front wheel drive car. After all, Honda was mad enough to put it on the Nurburgring in its quest for FWD supremacy. It succeeded. The Honda Civic Type R is the fastest FWD car at the Nurburgring, ever. It lapped the ‘Ring in 7 minutes and 43.80 seconds. That’s faster than cars outside of its class, like the Audi R8 Coupé 5.2 FSI Quattro, or the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

Honda Civic Type R Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 2.0-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
Horsepower 306 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 295 pound-feet @ 2,500 – 4,500 rpm
Max RPM 7,000
Valvetrain DOHC; i-VTEC
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Max Boost 23.2 PSI
Fuel System Direct injection; Premium Unleaded
Fuel Economy 22 city / 28 hwy / 25 comb
Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List High Resolution Exterior
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After the ‘Ring, Honda set some records on other tracks as well, but the one set in Germany is definitely the one for bar talk. Apart from the furiously powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, it is really impressive that Honda actually resolved the issue of torque steer on the car. This is a huge problem for high-powered FWD cars when, under acceleration, torque actually steers the front wheels. After a lot of science, Honda managed to change the steering geometry quite considerably by moving the steering axis very close to the center of the tire. Now, I could go into details forever trying to explain what all of this means, but the end result is more important. Torque steer is almost nonexistent with the Civic Type R, which is definitely one of the reasons this car is so freakishly fast.

Honda was really adamant in setting records with the Civic Type R. The Civic Type R holds the record for a FWD car at:

Nürburgring in Germany 7:43.8
Magny-Cours GP in France 2:01.51
Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium 2:53.72
Silverstone in Britain 2:31.32

Read our full review on the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.

The Ford Focus RS

2016 Ford Focus RS Exterior
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The new Ford Focus is one of the few dominant figures on this list

This is easily one of the most hyped-up cars of all time. I remember the time they revealed it - Ken Block actually drove it in front of journalists in some kind of an abandoned factory or a construction site. It was quite an event. The latest Ford Focus RS is the most extreme interpretation of the Focus paradigm with its specifically tuned 350 horsepower, 2.3-liter, EcoBoost that is paired with features like AWD, Launch Control, and even a Drift mode. This isn’t the first 300+ horsepower Focus. The second generation car introduced us to a FWD Focus RS with an engine developing 305 horsepower, so the wait for the new one, with added goodies for a better measure, was a rather painful process for every gearhead.

The new Ford Focus is one of the few dominant figures on this list. It takes some of the most important Ford Rally Sport ideas and transforms them into a usable package that can accelerate to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds. With the industry first drift button, Ford went a step further in offering drivers and owners an experience unlike any other. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this car actually has a Drift button. Soon after, similar tech landed on some of the AMG branded cars. Amazing.

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List High Resolution Exterior
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The installation of a system like this and creation of a hot hatch capable of honing the rally skills of its drivers was made possible thanks to the installation of the Torque-Vectoring All-Wheel-Drive system. Of course, the suspension, the brakes, the aero package, and even the Quaife mechanical limited slip differential are all specifically designed for the Focus RS.

With 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, this little beast erased the line between cheap transportation and rally pedigree.

Ford Focus RS Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine
Horsepower 350 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 350 LB-FT @ 3,200 RPM
0 to 60 mph 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 165 mph
Transmission 6-speed manual
Fuel economy city/highway 19/25
Curb weight 3,459 Lbs

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Focus RS.

The Audi RS3 Sportback

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List High Resolution Exterior
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The latest Audi RS3 Sportback is quite possibly the most extreme and quickest hot hatch ever devised

Securing its place among the hot hatch royalty, Audi created possibly the best hot hatch there ever was. I am talking about the RS3 Sportback, a model that first appeared all the way back in 2011. The evolution of the car gave us a unique opportunity to see just how mad the hot hatch market has gone. All the versions from 2011 to this day feature a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder. It is a high-performance engine developed for the Audi RS cars and is a clear throwback to the five-cylinder engines Audi used for its rally legends of the Eighties.

For the RS3, the engine comes with three states of tune. The first one with 340 horsepower appeared in 2011, the second one with 367 horsepower appeared with the launch of the second generation in 2015, with the latest one - with 400 horsepower - reaching the market only this year.

With 400 horsepower on tap, a Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and a special suspension setup, the latest Audi RS3 Sportback is quite possibly the most extreme and quickest hot hatch ever devised. The numbers are staggering, to say the least. The Audi RS3 Sportback can fetch 62 mph in 3.9 seconds - same as, say, the Porsche Carrera GT. Its top speed is limited to 174 mph, and the car already proved quicker compared to anything BMW or Mercedes-AMG have thrown out. Sure, we are still waiting for the new AMG A45, though, so things could change. Nevertheless, this Audi RS3 Sportback feels like an utter nutjob and the most extreme a hot hatch has ever got.

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List High Resolution Exterior
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Audi RS3 Sportback Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 2.5-liter five-cylinder
Horsepower 400 HP
Torque 354 LB-FT @ 1,700-5,850 RPM
0 to 62 mph (100km/h) 4.1 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph (174 mph with dynamic package)
Weight 3,459 Lbs

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi RS3 Sportback.

The BMW M140i

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List
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With RWD, the fun factor of the M140i can be over-the-top

No, there isn’t an M1, but this is the closest you can get to owning something that wears that plaque somewhere in a different universe. The M140i is the ultimate in the line of BMW 1 series cars. Using a 3.0-liter inline-six with 335 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque, the BMW M140i is the only car in this group to sport an RWD setup. A unique proposition for a hot hatch. With RWD, the fun factor of the M140i can be over-the-top. You would only need a set of steel balls and courage of a navy seal or Tarquini to use all of it.

Nevertheless, the RWD M140i isn’t the quickest. It needs 4.8 seconds or so to hit 62 mph. However, spec out the car with an xDrive setup and the 0-62 mph time will drop to 4.4 seconds. This is a fully tricked out M Performance machine. The suspension features aluminum parts at the front end, with the back actually sporting a five-link suspension setup. All of this is complemented with a unique set of body additions differing the M140i from its civil brotherhood.

BMW M140i Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 3.0-liter inline-six
Horsepower 335 HP
Torque 368 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.8 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph

Read our full review on the 2017 BMW M140i

The Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List High Resolution Exterior
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It's a brute with no boundaries and manners

Back in 2015, Mercedes-AMG revealed a redesigned AMG A45 4Matic. It featured an updated 2.0-liter turbocharged engine developing 381 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Not only was it the most powerful four-cylinder engine in a production car, but with a specific output of 187.5 horsepower per liter, it was really close to the specific output of the Bugatti Chiron. Quite staggering.

The AMG A45, and its pseudo crossover version the AMG GLA45, feature an advanced version of the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and a multitude of technologies including AMG Sport axles honed specifically for use on the high-powered hot hatch.

Extreme power motivates the AMG A45 to 62 mph in 4.2 seconds. It does not sound as eager as the RS3 but bear in mind that Mercedes-AMG’s estimates are on the conservative side. With a bit of luck, I think the A45 would match all of its competitors. Nevertheless, the AMG A45 can be equipped with a locking front diff, adaptive suspension for even better traction, and it comes with launch control. It’s a brute with no boundaries and manners. With a bit of personalization, it can look like one, too.

Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic Drivetrain Specifications

Number of cylinders/arrangement 4 in-line
Displacement (cc) 1,991
Rated output 381 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Rated torque 350 LB-FT @ 2,250-5,000 RPM
Combined fuel consumption from (l/100 km) 6.9
Combined CO2 emissions from (g/km) 162
Acceleration 0-62 mph 4.2
Top speed 155 mph

Read our full review on the 2015 Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic.

The Seat Leon Cupra R

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List High Resolution Exterior
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For me, the Seat Leon Cupra 300, or the more hardcore Leon Cupra R, are possibly the epitomes of what a hot hatch truly is.

America never got this one, and it never will. The Volkswagen group seems to be on the forefront of the hot hatch war. After all, Volkswagen, more or less, started the war all the way back in the Seventies with the first Golf GTI. Many decades later, the 110 horsepower of the Golf GTI is multiplied by three (at least) and widened to a number of different cars within the group. For me, the Seat Leon Cupra 300, or the more hardcore Leon Cupra R, are possibly the epitomes of what a hot hatch truly is. They are not as expensive as many of the other hot hatches on the list, yet, the Leon Cupra offers staggering performance with its 2.0-liter TSI 306 horsepower engine (now, with stricter emissions, the power dropped a bit under 300 horsepower, but nothing to be worried about, really.)

Along with the Honda Civic Type R, and the Renault Megane RS Trophy, it is a FWD car. That means it does not have the complexities of Haldex setup the Golf R and the Audi S3 share. Controlling efficient torque scatter between front wheels, Seat installed an electronic locking differential. Add to this the Michelin Cup Sport 2 tires and a few optional features, and you have yourself a magnificent ride capable of hitting 62 mph in 5.8 seconds and zooming to 155 mph at the top end.

Seat Leon Cupra R - drivetrain specifications

Engine 2.0-liter TSI
Horsepower 306 Hp
0 to 60 mph 5.8 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph

Read our full review on the 2018 Seat Leon Cupra R.

The Audi S3

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List
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The Audi S3 still seems like the most dignified of all hot hatches here.

With a long history (granted, not too long considering that the A3 appeared in the Nineties,) the latest Audi S3 managed to build a successful sporty image. Especially in its latest generation where a car many call the posh Golf practically became the posh Golf R. The Audi S3 features much the same engine as the Golf R, or the Cupra 300. Yet, with Audi styling, sophistication, and flair, one cannot help but to admire how different its character is compared to any of the others from the Volkswagen Group hatchback kingdom. The Audi S3 still seems like the most dignified of all hot hatches here. It is like, if you saw it, you wouldn’t immediately assume it’s an animal. It is more of a gentleman.

One with a wild side for sure.

The S3, although rather subtle in appearance, which if you ask me should be the main character trait of all hot hatchbacks, can accelerate to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds. With an S-Tronic seven-speed transmission that is. Not shabby at all.

Audi S3 - drivetrain specifications

Engine 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower 310 HP
Torque 295 LB-FT
Transmission seven-speed S Tronic automatic or a six-speed manual
0 to 60 mph 4.7 seconds with the S Tronic/ 4.9 with the automatic
Top Speed 155 mph

Read our full review on the 2017 Audi S3.

The Volkswagen Golf R

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List Exterior Wallpaper quality
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With a Haldex, 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine and power hitting around the 300-pony mark, the Golf R is seriously fast.

The Golf R is the ultimate representation of, possibly, the most popular hatchback in the world. Sure, the Golf GTI is still the undisputed legend, but ever since the second generation, Volkswagen has been prepping something meaner and madder compared to the GTI. Nevertheless, the Golf R follows in the same footsteps as the Audi S3. But, it did receive a thing or two to differentiate it from the likes of other more civilized Golf cars. Some blue details up front, different wheels and all the imaginable equipment offered by Volkswagen landed in the Golf R.

Yet, despite all of the additions, the slightly wider air intakes, and bigger wheels, the Golf R seems almost tame compared with the, say, the Civic Type R or the Megane RS Trophy. Obviously, Volkswagen did try to offer something a bit more sophisticated than the car I described in the introduction. With a Haldex, 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine and power hitting around the 300-pony mark, the Golf R is seriously fast. 62 mph can be cracked in 4.6 seconds with the DSG double-clutch gearbox. It is half a second slower with the manual.

Volkswagen Golf R - drivetrain specifications

Engine 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower 310 HP
Torque 295 LB-FT
Transmission DSG double-clutch gearboxl
0 to 60 mph 4.6 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R

The Renault Megane RS Trophy

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List Exterior
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With all the changes, the RS Trophy feels like a hardcore version of an already nice 270+ horsepower Megane RS.

Renault has always made awesome hot hatches, with the latest generation actually getting the most advanced tech of them all. Yet, none of them really came close to the 300 horsepower mark before. Except for the latest one - the Renault Megane RS Trophy. Using technology sourced from the Formula 1 cars, Renault managed to squeeze out 296 horsepower from the 1.8-liter engine. Furthermore, they’ve additionally improved the car with a Cup chassis, new brakes, and a reprogrammed transmission. With all the changes, the RS Trophy feels like a hardcore version of an already nice 270+ horsepower Megane RS. Thanks to fine-tuning, the car can be a bit lighter than before, too.

The numbers reveal it will surge to 62 mph in 5.7 seconds and cover a standing kilometer in 24.8 seconds. Not as radical as the Golf R mind you, but impressive nonetheless.

Renault Megane RS Trophy - drivetrain specifications

Engine turbocharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 296 HP
Torque 310 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed manual or six-speed EDC automatic
0 to 60 mph 5.7 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph

Read our full review on the 2018 Renault Megane RS Trophy.

The Subaru WRX STI Hatch (2008)

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
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2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Now, before concluding this article, I simply had to include the legendary Subaru WRX STI from 2008. It is among the first uber hot hatches to appear featuring all-wheel drive, a 305 horsepower turbocharged engine, Brembo brakes, a six-speed manual, a front helical and a rear Torsen limited-slip diff, and performance tires. All the features listed here made the WRX STi quite incredible and strikingly fast. Even by today’s standards. It will slash 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and zoom through a quarter of a mile in 13.5 seconds. Numbers to inspire. And they did inspire many. Nowadays we live in the golden age of hot hatchbacks, but as they have to match the fury and sheer mad power of super SUVs, and they’ve never been more expensive.

Read our full review on the 2008 Subaru WRX STI Hatch.

Conclusion

Hot Hatchbacks with 300+ Horsepower: A Complete List Exterior
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Hot hatches changed a lot in the past fifteen years. The top of the line machines are as quick as sports cars and supercars of yesterday, but they’ve become a bit too expensive, and not exactly as easy to live with as originally intended. The differentials, high-performance tires, expensive oil changes and higher fuel consumption steer them from the likes of enthusiastic casual drivers into the hands of car collectors and rich gearheads. Nevertheless, 300 horsepower hot hatches are flagship vessels for brands, and they give us a unique glimpse into the automotive world without boundaries. I like that world, and I have been thinking about it ever since Volkswagen revealed the Golf W12 Concept.

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