The finest mid-$30k 'warm' hatchback on the market? The Kia Pro_cee'd staked its claim 12 months ago, dispatching Hyundai’s poster boy Veloster SR Turbo and Renault’s potent and racy Megane RS265 Sport as the best all-rounder in the sweet spot bridging humble $20k-something conveniences and properly hot $40k-plus hatchbacks.
How sweet? If you favour three-door sportiness – or a handy ‘extra’ fourth in Hyundai’s case – there’s plenty of choice around in the $30k-somethings. Manual gearboxes? There are ample offerings. Turbocharged 1.6-litre engines offering the sort of potency expected from yesteryear’s two-litre units. And you can thank benchmarkers such as the Kia for lifting expectations of comfort, quality, functionality and features.
New to the fray – sort of – is the Astra GTC, the former Opel-badged high-$30k prospect in high-spec GTC Sport form just two years ago. Now, however, the renamed Holden Astra GTC Sport wants for a sharp $29,990 plus on-roads in manual form as tested here. Worth a mention is that the non-Sport manual can be had $3000 cheaper.
Concurrently, Hyundai had introduced its Veloster Series II, promising upgraded dynamics and sharper value, starting from $29,990 in manual SR Turbo form. Fronting up for this four-way tussle, though, is the want-for-nothing Turbo + asking $33,990 plus on-roads.
But throwing the sparrow among the pigeons, we’ve added a compact hottie wildcard: the Citroen DS3 DSport. It’s newly updated, has three doors, is 1.6L turbo-powered and available as a manual only. It is, though, a whole segment smaller, so more lightweight and potentially friskier in performance and dynamic ability. But given that the baby French car wants for $33,990 plus on-roads, it’s right on the money.
Call them warm hatches if you will though, realistically, they’re as quick and fruity as the hottest hatches were just a generation ago.