Everybody that loves cars loves a hot hatch. They offer speed, looks and practicality, but most importantly of all, they offer engagement in a market flooded with benign machines that couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.
Below, we will look at what we believe are the best hot hatches available in 2017.
Editor’s note: All the hot hatches listed below are on sale now. We haven’t included any upcoming hot hatches, since we’ll be covering them as they get released.
The Audi RS3 is the king of Audi hot hatches. Whereas the S3 offers 306bhp and 280 lb-ft of torque, courtesy of a 4-cylinder 2.0 TFSI engine, the RS3 offers 362bhp and 343 lb-ft of torque courtesy of a 5-cyclinder 2.5 TFSI engine. It feels much faster, and thanks to Quattro AWD, it puts its power down all the time. That 5-cyclinder engine defines the RS3. It’s one of the loudest stock engines we’ve ever heard in a hot hatch, and it makes a sound far more memorable than the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG or any other four-pot.
Ford Focus RS
The Ford Focus RS is widely acclaimed to be the best hot hatch on the market today. It has the most advanced all-wheel-drive system in its class - complete with a ‘Drift’ mode - and a 2.3-litre, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine with 345bhp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Up to 70 per cent of the RS’s torque can be sent to the rear axle, and Ford ditched the ST’s variable ratio steering in favour of a fixed rate ratio. The result is a hot hatch that’s a proper driver’s car, and one that has retained the exclusivity and specialness of the RS badge.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
In a straight line, there’s very little to choose between the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, the Audi RS3 and the Ford Focus RS. With 4MATIC AWD and a thumping 376bhp and 350 lb-ft of torque, the A45 can put its power down anywhere just like its key rivals and the A45 also handles very well on the track or road. The A45 AMG then is a seriously quick and capable hot hatch. We also have to give special mention to the A45’s bucket seats, which in our opinion are some of the best on the market in a new car.
SEAT Leon Cupra
The SEAT Leon Cupra 280 was one of our favourite hot hatches of 2014, and it remains that way in 2017. With an outstanding chassis, adaptive dampers and a limited-slip diff, the Cupra has one of the best FWD handling setups we have ever experienced - and the 2.0 TSI engine pulls and pulls right to the redline. SEAT updated the 280 to the 290 in 2015, and they have updated it again for 2017 to the 300 (although the car remains basically the same). The Leon Cupra retains FWD, but for the first time it is available with 4WD in the ST.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S
The Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S holds the Nürburgring lap record for a FWD car, lapping the ring’ some 3.4 seconds faster than the Civic Type R. The Clubsport S then is the fastest FWD car on the market on the track. This model has bespoke damper and suspension tuning to ensure greater stability at high speed, and it gets bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The EA888 2.0 TSI engine pumps out 306bhp all the time, bettering the 286bhp offered on overboost by the standard GTI Clubsport.
Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R is the most bulbous hot hatch on the market, but it’s also one of the most engaging. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 306bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque, with power sent to the front wheels through a traditional 6-speed manual gearbox. Light on its feet and with a romping soundtrack, the Civic Type R offers a hot hatch experience of old, just like its predecessors - where driver engagement rules. We’re big fans of this car and we recommend it to anybody wanting a hot hatch that’ll turn heads and force smiles.