Hot hatches are enjoying a resurgence as our cities become congested and more buyers are treating themselves to a new car in lieu of an overseas holiday.
With most international borders closed for the foreseeable future, dealers are reporting unexpected high demand – in particular for top end cars.
“People who previously bought a Mazda are now looking at a Mercedes, people who previously weren’t in the market for a new car now suddenly want to treat themselves because they can’t go on a holiday,” said a long-standing multi-franchise car dealer.
While mainstream hatchbacks have been making a slow retreat from showrooms, hot hatches have carved out a new niche.
Here are five hot hatches in showrooms now or coming soon.
Suzuki Swift Sport: here now
The Suzuki Swift Sport is one of the cheapest tickets into a fun hot hatch and recently had a mid-life update called the Series II which is now rolling into showrooms.
It retains its perky turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder “booster jet” petrol engine (103kW/230Nm) and choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Weighing less than 1000kg, it’s nimble around town and holds its own on the open road.
Although there is no extra power with this update, there is more standard equipment.
In addition to standard features which already included remote central locking with a sensor key and push-button start, dual zone air-conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, embedded navigation and a rear-view camera, the new model gains a digital speed display, a one-touch auto-up power window for the driver, and rear parking sensors.
Safety gets a boost, too. In addition to six airbags, a five-star safety rating from 2017, radar cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, the 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport Series II gains blind zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert and heated side mirrors, which are handy for removing condensation on winter mornings.
The 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport Series II costs from $29,990 drive-away for the six-speed manual and $31,990 drive-away for the six-speed auto. Metallic paint adds $595 and a new two tone paint option (metallic orange with a black roof) adds $1095.
The drive-away prices for the Suzuki Swift Sport Series II represent increases of between $3500 and $4000 from the previous best discount offers.
You can read our recent launch review of the Suzuki Swift Sport Series II here.
Ford Fiesta ST: here now
The 2020 Ford Fiesta ST is beginning to appear in the traffic after a stalled start due to delays caused by the coronavirus crisis.
It may look familiar, but the latest Fiesta ST is all-new from the ground up and, as with its predecessor, is made in Germany and was developed on the Nurburgring, the birthplace of most epic performance cars.
The previous model was available here as a three-door only, the new generation is a five-door to broaden its appeal.
As before, Ford Australia has opted to import just one, well-equipped model versus the three grades available in Europe and the UK.
The new model (WG) has gone up by $4500, to $31,990 plus on-roads – or about $35,000 drive-away.
Under the bonnet is a turbo 1.5-litre three-cylinder (147kW/290Nm) matched to a six-speed manual. An auto is not available.
It sounds the business, especially in sports or track modes, even if some of it is artificially enhanced. The exhaust crackle between gear changes is the real deal, however.
The 2020 Ford Fiesta ST comes with advanced safety technology such autonomous emergency braking, speed sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance, blind zone warning and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as basics such as a rear camera and rear sensors (though not front parking sensors).
The new model also has the convenience of a digital speed display, a choice of three driving modes (normal, sport and track, the latter two sharpening the throttle response and activating a bi-modal exhaust that crackles between gear changes), launch control, tyre pressure monitors, and a shift light in the instrument cluster.
A mechanical limited-slip differential – a $1700 option in Europe – is standard on examples sold in Australia.
Apple Car Play and Android Auto – as well as built-in navigation – are accessed via a high resolution 8-inch touchscreen.
A 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen premium audio system – optional in Europe – is standard in Australia, as are new, wider, and lower manually-adjusted Recaro sports seats.
Other handy touches: clever pop-out protectors for the edges of the doors.
The only options in Australia are a panoramic sunroof for $2500 and metallic paint for $650.
It may be too subtle for some – it’s not as obvious as the exhaust blat from, say, the VW Golf GTI or Ford Focus RS – but I reckon it’s the right volume for daily driving. Anything more would likely draw too much attention.
You can read our recent review of the Ford Fiesta ST here.
VW Polo GTI: here now
The current generation VW Polo GTI has been in Australian showrooms since mid 2018, when it received the turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder from an earlier iteration of its big brother VW Golf GTI.
A powerful, large capacity engine in such a small package makes for a formidable combination.
That said, the current VW Polo is almost as big as a Golf was only a couple of generations ago.
Paired exclusively to a six-speed twin-clutch “DSG” auto and sending power to the front wheels, the VW Polo GTI is one of the fastest hot hatches in the segment. A manual transmission is not available.
It is currently listed from $35,490 drive-away, putting pressure on the Ford Fiesta ST and upcoming Hyundai i20N to undercut it on price.
With a larger cabin and cargo hold than its hot hatch peers, the VW Polo GTI blends daily driver practicality in a fun-size package.
Read our recent head-to-head twin test between the VW Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST here.
Toyota GR Yaris: coming soon
The first shipment of Toyota GR Yaris hot hatches sold out within a week.
After initially flagging a recommended retail price of $50,000 plus on-road costs (about $54,000 drive-away), Toyota revealed it would let the first 1000 examples go for $39,950 drive-away.
Rather than wondering how such a small car could command such a high price (hot hatches in this size class cost between $30,000 and $35,000 drive-away), enthusiasts overlooked this small detail and calculated a $14,000 saving – even though the promotional price of the Toyota GR Yaris was not far off the cost of a Subaru WRX or VW Golf GTI, both of which are the next size up.
Toyota sold the first allocation in the first seven days, switched off the online ordering portal, and jacked up the price $5000 (to $44,950 drive-away) for the next 100 cars. What happens to the price after this is still a mystery.
The Toyota Yaris GR is powered by an epic turbocharged 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine – with 200kW and 370Nm it’s the most powerful three-cylinder in the world – matched to a six-speed manual and all-wheel-drive. An automatic is not available.
It’s Toyota’s first turbo all-wheel-drive performance car in 20 years, since the iconic Celica GT Four.
It might wear the Yaris badge but it has nothing in common with Toyota’s new generation city hatchback. The only common parts are the dashboard, headlights, tail-lights, and badges.
Its two-door body has a unique, more raked windscreen, an aluminium bonnet, doors and rear hatch, and a carbon-fibre roof – much of which is key to the car’s feather weight, about 1280kg based on Toyota’s claimed output of 156kW per tonne.
The carbon-fibre roof alone trims 38kg from the car’s overall weight.
There are two models; both come with the same engine and gearbox, performance brakes, and race-car appearance.
A Rallye edition which gains limited-slip front and rear differentials, lightweight alloy wheels and Michelin rather than Dunlop tyres is due to join the range next year, initially as a limited batch of 250 vehicles. Price was not announced as this article was written.
The aforementioned power-to-weight ratio of 156kW per tonne compares to 141kW to 145kW per tonne for such models as the Hyundai i30N, Renault Megane RS, Subaru WRX STI and VW Golf R.
Similarly-sized hot hatch rivals such as the 2020 Ford Fiesta ST and VW Polo GTI are in the 114kW to 116kW per-tonne bracket. The Renault Clio RS pumps out 121kW per-tonne.
In the sub-$60,000 hot hatch segment, the only vehicles to top the Toyota Yaris GR are the Honda Civic Type R (163kW per tonne) and Ford Focus RS (169kW per tonne).
You can read about our preview drive of a prototype version of the Toyota GR Yaris here.
Hyundai i20N: coming soon
The 2021 Hyundai i20N is a new rival to the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI and is due in Australian showrooms in the first half of next year.
Price is yet to be announced, but it is expected to be similar to – or slightly less than – the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI, both of which are about $32,000 plus on-road costs.
Design elements of the Hyundai i20N have been teased for months (and yet again out of Europe overnight last week), however it is not due to be revealed in all its glory for another week or so.
In the same way Ford now only offers the ST out of the entire new Fiesta line-up, Hyundai has elected to offer only the N version of the new i20.
Hyundai developed a revised version of its 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder found in other models (i30 N-Line and Veloster) with an output of 150kW/275Nm.
By comparison, a Ford Fiesta ST has an output of 147kW/290Nm from its 1.5-litre three-cylinder, while the VW Polo GTI has an output of 147kW/320Nm.
The Hyundai i20N is only available with a six-speed manual, even though a seven-speed twin-clutch auto is paired to the 1.6-litre turbo in other Hyundai cars – and an eight-speed auto is about to become available on the updated Hyundai i30N. Hyundai says there are no plans for an automatic i20N.
The Hyundai i20N has larger front discs than the Fiesta ST – and a widescreen digital dash display and rev-matching technology with the fiesty Ford also lacks.
You can read our preview drive of a prototype version of the Hyundai i20N here.