General

The best hot hatchbacks |

The best hot hatchbacks |

It’s been a rough few years for the European hot hatchback as strict emissions regulations force some of its most iconic nameplates, such as Renault To play sports Peugeot GTi, to cease trading.

But for every existing hot hatchback that gets killed, another one takes its place, with Hyundai and Toyota leveraging their immense global footprint to create the wildly successful N and GR brands, joining the game with distinctive and downright brilliant additions to the class.

German manufacturers have also not turned their backs, pushing their high-gain compact models with more power, more technology and more features than ever before. AudiThe new RS3 is a prime example and now finally offers a chassis that lives up to its brilliant powertrain, while AMG‘s A45 S remains as powerful as ever.

Will we ever see an electric hot hatchback? Here we could see the Gallic comeback, with alpine promises a powerful derivative of Renault’s upcoming all-electric 5 reboot in 2024, and Peugeot’s PSE brand is furiously working on high-performance hybrid technology.

Until then, there’s plenty to get excited about, starting with Hyundai’s gorgeous i30 N.

Best new hot hatchbacks on sale now

1st: Hyundai i30 N

As it stands, our favorite hot hatchback currently on sale is the Hyundai i30 N. First introduced in 2017, the i30 hasn’t aged a bit and received an update that doesn’t ruin its successful formula, but instead its rough edges and increases its appeal with a custom dual-clutch transmission.

> Click here for our Hyundai i30 N review

While there isn’t a single standout element to the i30 N’s package, it’s the way Hyundai’s engineers calibrated them all together that makes it such a winner in our book. The engine is strong, responsive and has just enough top-end sparkle not to feel underpowered, the steering is transparent and the chassis playful without being overzealous.

The feather in the cap of the i30 N is its ability to adapt each of its dynamics to the driver through the different driver modes and settings. With the help of such tools, the i30 N can turn into the ideal hot hatchback for any occasion.

2nd: Toyota GR Yaris

The GR Yaris has had quite a bit of pressure on its pumped-up squats leading up to its 2020 arrival. It is the first ‘true’ WRC homologation car in decades – a bespoke, highly tuned, refined performance machine that many expected to be an icon. even before the wheels hit the asphalt. Good news for Toyota was that the GR Yaris did not disappoint.

If the waiting list for new orders isn’t telling you already, the GR Yaris was such a thrill that it nearly took off with our 2020 eCoty crown, fourth behind serious metal but only 2.5 points behind the victor, so close was the field of that year.

Back in the UK, further exposure to our long term has restored the extremely seductive combination of elements that feel completely unique to the GR Yaris. And even better, it all feels like the fruit of his competition bones. It’s a package that we asked someone to build for what feels like a generation. Now we have it, we almost don’t know what to do with it…

> Click here for our full review of the Toyota GR Yaris

3rd: Hyundai i20 N

Hyundai’s i20 N perfectly complements its bigger i30 N sibling, sharing its underlying values ​​but wrapping it in a simpler, yet more rambunctious whole. Given the small chassis and very reasonable entry-level price, it obviously lacks some of the toys from the 1930s, riding on a passive suspension and without electronic differential lock control, but the basics are there.

The nose of the i20 N is insatiable, chasing grip with what feels like almost no understeer. The rear then follows without hesitation, often kicking a wheel and neutralizing the car’s stance as soon as you release the accelerator. Get greedy with the front end, or hit the brake at an angle and the rear will spin merrily, just like the best classic hot hatchbacks.

If there’s a weak point, it’s that the engine isn’t as excited as the chassis, and if you’re not quite on it, the ride can feel a little stiff. But it’s worth it because of the i20 N’s seductive talents.

> Hyundai i20 N review

4th: Ford Fiesta ST

A firm favorite in the evo office, the Fiesta is proof that four cylinders, independent rear suspension and other expensive ‘big car’ technology isn’t required when making a fun hot hatchback. After the update, all STs will come with the performance package, which includes a Quaife limited slip differential.

Unfortunately, the update doesn’t share elements from the previous Performance Edition, which made changes to the dampers that added an extra layer of refinement to the stiff damping. The blue paintwork and lighter 18-inch forged wheels only added to the overall package, all for a price that is equal to the price of the new model.

Still, few performance cars are more tunable or involved in this price range, while still being backed by the ST’s energetic three-cylinder engine, agility and sheer grin-inducing tendencies.

> Click here for our Ford Fiesta ST review

5th: Mercedes-AMG A45 S

Mercedes-Benz didn’t start the hot hatchback game particularly well with the original A45 AMG. It was certainly powerful, trading blows with the Audi RS3 for the hottest hot hatchback title in the years, but it was also terribly inert and not at all what we consider a good hot hatchback. The same can’t be said for the all-new A45 S, though, as this model is as far removed from its predecessor as you can imagine.

Gone are the harsh, woody suspension, inert steering, and utter disinterest in anything other than its job of putting up to 387 horsepower on the ground. Now, with even more power under the hood (415 hp), the A45 S is shockingly smooth and deliberate, and even interactive when the right modes are selected.

It’s expensive, and rather more than a hot hatchback in the traditional sense, but as a performance car its talent and interaction made it one of the real shocks of 2019.

> Click here for our review of the Mercedes-AMG A45 S

6th: Audi RS3

The Audi RS3 has often been accused of having an under-baked chassis compared to its brilliant five-cylinder powertrain, but this time things are a little different. Gone are the blunt front end and tendency to understeer, and in its place an almost overly soft damping set-up, resolutely nailed front and torque-vectoring rear differential that makes this an Audi you can oversteer like a BMW M3.

It’s not perfect – the steering is pretty dead and that rear differential can feel a bit unnatural – but even if you blamed it for over-synthesized feel, no one could call it a dull experience. The chassis’ new capabilities only highlight the powertrain’s shortcomings—something derived from the dual-clutch transmission control software that prioritizes clutch life rather than snappy changes.

The Audi RS3 is now also astonishingly expensive, and coupled with an interior that has taken a clear step back in quality, makes its main flaws a total reversal of what we’re used to.

> Click here for our full Audi RS3 review

7th: Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

So far there have been no less than three hot Mk8 Golfs: the standard GTI, R and this new Clubsport that sits in the middle between them. Like the TCR it replaced, the GTI Clubsport takes a powerful version of the GTI’s EA888 engine, adds a limited slip differential and raises the chassis stance a few extra steps.

And the result is, well, mixed. Our early example had a few non-ideal spec flaws, including dynamic chassis control and a decent 19-inch wheel and tire package on which the Clubsport was primarily developed.

Since then, the Clubsport has proven that it lives up to its mission at least in part to be a more dynamic, aggressive and spirited version of the already impressive GTI, but we still believe there is room for improvement.

> Click here for our review of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport

8th: Ford Focus ST

The Focus ST has always struggled to outdo its smaller Fiesta sibling, and sadly so has the latest generation offering. Make no mistake, it’s much more capable and rounder than it’s ever been, but it has one or two major flaws that affect the overall dynamic package.

Power and poise are there – it’s fantastically involved on the track, as you can feel the Focus’ signature rotation – but on the road, the driving modes that now so clearly affect handling don’t seem to strike a good balance on the rougher asphalt, because too stiff in sportier settings and a little under-damped and loose in the more benign. Add to that vague steering and road performance is just too compromised in a class that doesn’t forgive dynamic flaws.

> Click here for our review of the Ford Focus S

9th: Skoda Octavia vRS

Skoda’s evergreen Octavia vRS may lack some of the intensity and capabilities of others on this list, but in manual petrol form it often punches above its weight. Powered by the same EA888 four-cylinder as virtually all VAG models on this list (excluding Audi), its talent lies in its relatively plush, yet very capable chassis.

Driven over even the most challenging roads, the Octavia’s balance and poise is very impressive, and while there’s not much steering feel, the limited slip differential does a good job of ensuring most of the power reaches the tarmac.

Combine this with a body that is not only more practical than most of its rivals, but that of the class above, has a beautiful interior and an attractive exterior design and the desirability factor only increases.

> Skoda Octavia vRS Review

Coming soon: Honda Civic Type R

If you’ve been wondering where the Honda Civic Type R is on this list, you may have forgotten that the groundbreaking hot hatchback actually went off sale in early 2022. Hope isn’t lost, though, as Honda’s next-generation CTR is about to be finally unveiled, a car we expect to build only on the good stuff of the previous model, while completely overhauling what the didn’t work last time (in other words the exterior styling).