Top 5 Premium Hot Hatchbacks
Any of my regular readers would have by now read some of my other auto articles which included the review of top budget super cars, the best compact luxury sports saloons and the best premium luxury coupes.
However, one also knows that cars of the above classes can't be afforded by everyone - the BMW M3 for example, even as a 4-door sedan, costs upwards of $150,000.00 AUD (or NZD) in Australia and New Zealand respectively.
This article will the best available hot hatches available today i.e. your ordinary 3 door (or 5 door hatchback) which has been converted into a hot-rod and made to look and perform like its on steroids!
Hot hatches are ideal for, as Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear UK put it, the family man who's had to wave goodbye to the sports car as children might have arrived or for someone who wants to combine the usage and efficiency of a family car of SUV with the excitement of a sports car.
While American and Canadian prices are much lower, hot hatches in this segment typically cost anywhere between $50,000.00 to $100,000.00 AUD and are a decent alternative to compact luxury SUVs in this segment if you don't do much off-road driving.
Renault Megane R.S. 265
In my opinion, this hatch is probably (apart from the new Mercedes A Class) one of the best looking hatches you can buy today.
Even as a stock-model without the performance enhancements, this car certainly turns heads wherever you go and can give a good run to even the likes of Opel (or Vauxhall in the UK or Holden in Australia and New Zealand) when you compare how their Astra looks as against this French hottie.
The Megane has come a long way since its days of being a staid 4 door sedan although I always rated the hard top convertible version highly until its looks got screwed up big time towards the end of the last decade.
The R.S. 265 is a rather funky looking car - available in brilliant colour trims and cloth-linings, with the Red Bull Special Edition coming stripped out and saving even more weight as against the standard RS 265 Cup and Trophy Editions.
The car comes fully equipped with modern tech toys like bluetooh,a 7 speaker surround stereo (depending on country) and a Renault specific GPS system (including the R-Link functionality available on select models) and can sprint from 0 to 100 KPH in 6 seconds - thanks to its turbo charged 195 KW 2 liter engine.
While the car does ride a bit harshly, it is certainly a bigger, more stylish and actually a cheaper option as against its other European rivals - as long as you're brave enough to admit you drive a Renault and then explain why is it special :)
Renault Megane RS 265 Review by CarBuyer UK
Volkswagen Scirocco R
Essentially a sleeker and cooler version of the 7th Generation Golf R (and the outgoing R-32), the VW Scirocco R can easily be considered as the German car maker's reply to the flashy and loud Megane RS 265.
When I first saw the Scirocco in Switzerland back in 2009, I almost immediately fell in love with this car and since then, have noticed that the world of automotive journalism has hailed it as a worthy contender among the world of hot hatches - whether its due to its ice-cold good looks (thanks to its trademark blue colour) or the on board technology.
The Scirocco has essentially the same specs as the Megane RS 265 albeit being 2 KW lower on power and comes equipped with plenty of driver assistance packages and VW's signature Multimedia interface system.
Thanks to VW's reliable after sales service and capped price service offers across major markets including Australia, maintenance of this beauty is quite cheap as against its rivals in this segment (including even the baseline Audi A3).
The Scirocco costs at least $10,000.00 AUD less than a comparable Golf R (which from what I can tell carries very similar on board specs except being bigger) and is a very cool car to be seen in!
Volkswagen Scirocco R review by CarBuyer UK
Audi has always been famed when it comes to making ultra grippy hot rods - a tradition which harks back to the early 1980s, when their four wheel drive fire spitting rally car called the 'Quattro' was winning rally circuits across the world.
The A3's 'hot version', called the S3 comes mated to a 2 liter turbocharged engine, but when you compare it with the likes of the Megane RS 265 and the Scirocco R, the power output is way higher as compared to the other two - with the 2 Liter TFSI engine spewing 206 KW of power.
The S3 is available with a range of options - as such this is really where Audi usually make their money however their signature offerings like the Audi Magnetic Ride and a state of the art Bang & Olufsen Surround sound system all being priced at a premium. Nevertheless, the car does offer permanent 4 wheel drive, backed by Audi's Quattro and
While the Audi S3 has off late suffered from a 'seriously uncool' - it nevertheless has been geneoursly proportioned even when compared to its counterparts made by Mercedes and BMW and the 5 door S3 Sportback can easily be mistaken for a station-wagon although it isn't.
The Audi S3's generous carbon and aluminium accents and striking colour combinations (including the pearlascent blue and bright orange) definitely make this car a worthy contender within the hot hatch segment but it sadly doesn't carry the charm of Mercedes and BMW despite Audi's brilliant marketing campaigns.
The S3 retails upwards from $65,000.00 AUD but spec it up with all available options including drive assists and sports seats etc and you can expect the final bill to be around $90,000.00!
Audi S3 Sportback review by Australia's Drive.Com.Au
Mercedes A45 AMG
No other car within the premium hatch segment was given the kind of a makeover the way Mercedes revamped their A-Class.
The old A-Class looked like a malnourished baby giraffe - with its tall body design which seemed out of proportion with its length and width, the A-Class needed a serious boost of cosmetic surgery if it had to be any match for the rugged looking Audi A3 or a very sleek and sexy VW Scirocco.
However, in 2012-2013 and after an absence of nearly a year from certain markets (including Australia), Mercedes decided to revamp and relaunch the A-Class to much fanfare and surprise. The car looked nothing like any of the older A-Class models, in fact it looked like it had been born out of the ashes of the old car, like a phoenix. With its tough ground-hugging stance, wide headlamps and pretty LED Tail lamps and brilliant combination of Mercedes' Diamond White colour with black carbon fiber tinsel, this car is one certain head-turner.
Despite Mercedes calling it an A45 AMG (The smallest Mercedes out of the AMG Factory), the engine is not a 4.5 liter, but a 2 liter 4 cylinder turbo charged fire breather, which still punches out 265 KW of power and sprints the car from 0 to 100 KPH in under 5 seconds - which is actually C63 AMG performance for half the price!! The fuel efficiency on the A Class doesn't disappoint either, with the car consuming only 7 liters per 100 km, which is actually more than what my first car, the Mitsubishi Lancer offered me!
The A45 AMG is set for a 2014 release in Australia and will most likely be selling for around $90,000.00 AUD (when equipped with optional AMG equipment including black AMG wheels etc) but is certainly meant for someone who cannot afford the bigger and more expensive AMG models and yet wants to look cool!
Mercedes A45 AMG versus BMW M135i on The Drive Network
While offering more power than the Audi S3, the M135i is still no match for the A45 AMG, whether its terms of looks, performance or even fuel consumption.
The M135i is essentially a normal 135i hatchback with a doze of M-powered steroids in it - this is the smallest BMW which has been given the 'M' name however, many BMW enthusiasts (including myself) and even BMW themselves don't really include the M135i as a proper compact BMW M car (the last one being the limited edition BMW 1M coupe, which was based on the E46 M3).
The M135i coupe is based on the 1 series hatchback (The coupe and cabrio will become the new 2 series range in 2014) but despite my love for BMWs, the car looks ugly and out of proportions. Despite this hot hatch offering all BMW offerings including the state of the art i-Drive system, a front camera which monitors traffic (as part of BMW's efficient dynamics package), feather touch transmission and steering and the classic rear wheel drive setup, nobody really gives the 1 series hatch a 2nd look on the road. While the M pack will boost the power of the 3 liter straight 6 engine (as against Merc's 2 liter 4 cylinder turbo on the A class) to 230 KW along with the lowering of the suspension by 10 mm and offer M-suspension and flared alloys along with a state of the art braking package, the car still doesn't personally cut it for me because I just don't like the way it looks.
This is probably my only objectively 'negative' review of a BMW M car, this is still quintessentially a BMW and certainly grunts and handles like one - however personally speaking for this level of money (roughly $85,000.00 on road with all options included), I'd go for the up and coming M235i coupe.
BMW M135i versus Mercedes A45 AMG by The Drive Network
Thank you for taking the time to read about what I believe are the best hot hatches out there today and please feel free to advise if I've missed any cars
My personal favorite of these would be either the Renault Megane RS 265 (for its shamelessly loud looks) or the very chic Mercedes A45 AMG.
This is a segment which offers enough choice - however should you prefer to spend the same amount of cash on a rugged and sleek 4x4 instead, you can review some of them here or if you like the performance of a compact luxury saloon and money's no object, you can examine the likes of the Mercedes C63-AMG or the BMW M3 here.