Hot hatchbacks are small, practical and, in 2019, faster than ever before. Here are our ten favourites for 2019.
The serious one: Volkswagen Golf R
For grown-ups who like to stick to the gold standard rather than gamble with a left-field approach to hot hatches. The John Lewis of cars, if you like. Never knowingly under-powered. Lovers of R32s take note: the R is a worthy successor, with the power topped up to 306bhp.
Loud, as in, not a purchase for retiring wallflowers. It screams “hot hatch” from its rear spoiler to its front splitter, and inside is equally bold in its styling. A 2.0-litre, turbocharged engine, like most of the competition, and a beautiful, short-throw, six-speed manual gearbox.
Just a sweet 1.6-litre turbocharged engine in this little rocket. Distinct character from the chassis, and a welcome alternative to German interior styling that rules all cars from the VW Group. A great small steering wheel marks the compact dynamics of the 308 GTi car.
Brave move, Hyundai: no nebulous “sporting character” marketing button here; the South Koreans actually went all-out to build a Golf GTI-rivalling hot hatch, and they largely succeeded. The i30 N is a big dose of fun, and a proper driver’s car.
A 2.3-litre engine isn’t the only sign that the Focus RS is a giant among men in this category. Ford’s legendary handling expertise finds its spiritual home in this car. Add 0-62mph in under five seconds, and you’re out of hot-hatch and into sports car territory.
If this is a pocket rocket, the pocket in question is very much the tiny breast one that your handkerchief goes in. An aggressive Italian styling kit more than makes up for what you lack in power from the 1.4-litre engine (you can go up to 177bhp if you choose the Competizione version, and go up a gear again with the stripped-out Biposto). We just wish the ride wasn’t quite so brick-hard.
It’s fast, very fast. The power output puts it into sports car territory - entry-level Porsche 911, anyone? Four-wheel-drive and a seven-speed, twin-clutch automatic. You don’t giggle in this one; you focus. It looks the beans, too.
We know, there are hot hatches out there with madder styling, but that’s what they said about estates and the RS6 Avant, too, and that had a Lamborghini V10 engine under the bonnet. The RS3 gets the five-cylinder job from the TT RS. It may not look bonkers, but we say thank you for the four driven wheels that will keep you on the island. You’ve been warned.
Goodbye four-wheel-drive, and hello again, traditional driven-wheels-at-the-back BMW. How we’ve missed you. No two-litre job here, either, but a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 and a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. What it lacks in power (not much) it makes up for with its purist driving character.
Loads of grip and a great suspension set-up - we wouldn’t expect anything less from Renault’s performance division. Four-wheel steering and hydraulic bump stops are two examples of the great engineering detail that Renault expends on making sure its hot hatches are consistently in the Top 10 lists.