Tag: Hot Hatch

By on April 15, 2019

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo front quarter

Hyundai turned itself into a successful brand by building sensible, reliable cars and crossovers that match up nicely with the competition. Where rival carmakers have a product, Hyundai has a very similar alternative. Making a sale by imitating the class leaders is generally a winning strategy.

And then you have the 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo – a car that really has no similar rival. No other automaker offers an asymmetrical three-door, sloped-rear-light hatchback. No matter how functional it is or how well it drives, all conversations about the Veloster start with its funky layout.

(Read More…)

By on February 18, 2019

Europe invented the hot hatch, so perhaps it’s fitting that the Ford Focus ST lives on in that market. But we’d be lying if we said we were happy about it — especially after hearing just how good the next-generation model is shaping up to be. While Ford nixed the model in North America, part of its decision to prioritize high-margin crossovers and pickups, it continues perfecting the model for customers in other parts of the world. By our estimation, there’s real headway being made.

Available as a five-door hatchback and a real-deal wagon (available later), the 2019 Focus ST receives a version of Ford’s 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo boasting 276 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Alternatively, there’s a 2.0-liter diesel option tuned to 187 horsepower. While we can’t speak to the diesel model, the gasoline variant should be a hell of a lot of fun. The old ST certainly was, and the new Euro-spec Ford tacks on an additional 25 horsepower and 40 foot-pounds.  (Read More…)

By on December 26, 2018

2018 Fiat 500 Abarth cover

Anyone else fondly recall Sport Compact Car magazine? For over two decades, that dead-tree, updated-monthly blog brought the latest in import performance trends to newsstands and mailboxes. I know that I waited for my copy impatiently, just knowing that this month would be the one where I found the perfect stuff with which I could poorly modify my ancient Accord.

Each issue brought forth little cars with tons of character, but after a while a theme was established — big wheels, big exhaust tips, and a lowered suspension with little compliance became the standard. With the dying of that great magazine, and the de-evolution of the Fast and Furious franchise away from accessible cars, the tuner culture seems to have drifted away from mainstream consciousness.

There aren’t many new truly compact cars that invite this sort of tuning, let alone those that come so equipped from the factory. The 2018 Fiat 500 Abarth is a throwback to those days — days where a loud exhaust and a booming stereo meant fun on Saturday night.

(Read More…)

By on September 18, 2018

While the 2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatchback was supposed to be unveiled at the Paris Auto Show next month, Australia’s Redline released details and images a little prematurely. Normally, a leak this premature would leave us feeling overwhelming suspicious. But the accompanying imagery, all of which is appears to be sourced from Daimler’s marketing department, seems valid.

Unfortunately, this AMG variant is assured to remain in Europe to duke it out with the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R. But when/if Mercedes decides to bring a sedan version stateside, it’ll probably boast similar figures.  (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2018

Hyundai Veloster N

Hyundai’s Veloster has gone from an oddball offering drivers a reasonably good time on a budget to something that can compete with the Volkswagen GTI and Civic Si. It’s no longer the hot hatch you settled on to save money; it’s a legitimate alternative.

Outfitted properly, the updated Hyundai can hold its own in the hot hatch segment. However, it does not appear to shame any of the veteran entrants. The GTI remains the total package while other models offer their own unique advantages. But the Veloster, specifically the R-Spec with the 1.6-liter turbo, remains in the mix with a leaner price tag.

This changes when the Hyundai’s N sub-brand arrives in the U.S. market.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2018

2018 Volkswagen GTI front quarter

Depending on how pedantic you feel like being, one can argue that the original Volkswagen GTI was not the first hot hatch. Alec Issigonis, with the revolutionary Mini, clearly inspired Volkswagen to move to the space-saving front-engine, front-drive, two-box form factor, even though the Austin/Morris original never had a true hatchback. No matter. Whatever the lineage, there’s no arguing that keeping mechanical bits in a separate box from the fleshy bits can yield impressive room from a small car.

My personal fleet reflects my typical suburban middle-class life — a minivan, a body-on-frame midsize SUV, and a midlife crisis disguising itself as a roadster-shaped shelf in the garage, not to mention the press car gravy train making frequent stops. And while my wife and I drive separately to our respective offices, pretty much all other times we are together in a single car.

I sometimes forget that many families throughout the world really don’t have a use for multiple vehicles — they need one that does everything. Hauling people, hauling stuff — one car does it all. That’s where the two-box solution shines. And if the driver likes driving, the minimal weight and compact dimension are a natural plus. So, the 2018 Volkswagen GTI is quite clearly shaping up to be a perfect one-car solution.

(Read More…)

By on June 18, 2018

1996 BMW 318ti in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe most affordable BMW in the United States, during the middle years of the E36 platform, was the 318ti. A four-cylinder hatchback, it sold for about two-thirds the price of a six-cylinder 328 sedan or coupe.

In 1996, buyers could get a version with a huge canvas-covered sunroof, known as the California Edition, and that’s what I have found in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2018

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport front quarter

I’m not joking. The Supertramp song in the title did indeed start playing on SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind station as I pressed the start button after another long day at the office. I’m sure “Take The Long Way Home” and Foghat’s “Slow Ride” are the most often-played afternoon drive time songs for classic rock stations nationwide, but it seemed serendipitous.

I didn’t have to be home right after work. It was a dry, sunny, albeit brisk afternoon. And I had a willing partner – the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – fitted with a proper six-speed manual gearbox. Instead of turning south at the roundabout toward home, I turned north, dropped a gear, and followed the meander of the river. Magically, I’d forgotten about the day I’d spent glued to spreadsheets.

(Read More…)

By on February 28, 2018

VW Golf GTI

Ages ago, the GTI was a trim level of the Golf, bringing the heat to a funky little hatchback and virtually creating a segment. Now, there are actually three different flavors of GTI: S, SE, and Autobahn.

Given the vast gulf in price of the three, and my love for affordable yet fun wheels, your humble author naturally thinks the base model leads the way.

(Read More…)

By on January 19, 2018

2017 Ford Focus RS - Image: Ford

Did you watch HBO’s new David Simon show, The Deuce? It takes a while to get started, kind of like Season 2 of The Wire, also a Simon creation, but it eventually acquires some real momentum. Anyway, if you ever get around to seeing it, you will hear that the opening theme is a carefully edited version of Curtis Mayfield’s “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go.”

One of the best sections of that song goes something like this:

Everybody praying
And everybody saying
But when come time to do
Everybody’s laying
Just talking ’bout, “Don’t worry”

As you’ll see below, however, when it comes to using performance automobiles for improbable-bordering-on-impossible family tasks, sometimes people do more than just lay around…

(Read More…)

By on December 22, 2017

26.1 pounds of boost. A seriously stiff suspension. Matte paint finish. Brash red-painted brake calipers. A showy wing. A silly loud exhaust.

Do any of those describe your mental image of a Mercedes-Benz product? Or, when presented with that combination of features, do you conjure a car rejected from one of the early The Fast and the Furious films?

When the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 was revealed a couple of years ago, I recall writing it off as a pretender – after all, it’s a crossover! After spending some time in this absurd vehicle, however, I began to appreciate the magic of AMG.

(Read More…)

By on September 13, 2017

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Not long ago, I wrote glowingly about the new Honda Civic Type R. Part of my praise was based on the fact that the Type R is bargain-priced compared to its competition.

Yeah, I liked the Type R. A lot. Even took a little crap in the comments for it (fair enough). But again, a big reason for my praise was the price. If the Type R was stickered the same as its three main competitors – the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Volkswagen Golf R – would it still be “all that?”

On its own merits, sure. It’s very, very good. Great, even. But a strong argument can be made that all things being equal, the Golf R is even better. And I’m about to make it.

(Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

hyundai i30 n

After four years of development, Hyundai is ushering a new entry into the hot hatchback category with its i30 N. Based on the newest incarnation of the family friendly i30, known throughout North America as the Elantra GT, the N badge separates it as a serious performance model. Hyundai appears to be taking direct aim at the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI, both through the N’s performance and styling — which seems to be a handsome amalgamation of the pair.

Available in two trims, the base model i30 N provides 246 horsepower while the performance package quipped version bumps that number up to 271 hp. Both use a turbocharged 2.0-liter and six-speed manual transmission and, according to Hyundai, can manage 0-60 times in the low six-second range. Power is sent to the front tires and only to the front tires, with an electronic limited slip differential to keep things manageable in the corners.

It’s a legitimate hot hatch and Hyundai’s first if you discount the Veloster — which you definitely may.   (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Type R - Image: HondaWe had not yet seen the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.

We did not yet know at what lofty level the 2017 Honda Civic Type R would be priced.

We didn’t know precisely when we’d have an opportunity to purchase a 2017 Honda Civic Type R. We didn’t know how powerful it would be, whether there’d be a CVT option, if the Civic Si would be powerful enough to decrease Type R demand, or how many aero-aiding elements the Civic Type R would be wearing when it came off the boat from the UK.

But we were told Honda thought it could sell 2,000 Civic Type Rs per month. Which is impossible. (Read More…)

By on July 7, 2017

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“It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you.”

-Rakim, I Know You Got Soul

Anybody who was thinking Aaliyah when they read that quote, feel free to click “X” in the top corner of your browser. To everybody else, it’s good to be home at TTAC. Since my last post here, people across social media have been asking me three questions:

  1. Whatever happened to your Focus RS? Do you still have it?
  2. So, how about that Focus, huh? Are you ever going to update us on it?
  3. ????

Okay, so it’s really only been one question. Fear not, friends. I’m back like a rebel making trouble to tell you all about my first nine months of FoRS ownership. Also, my thoughts on Maxine Waters. No, just kidding. We’ll stick to the Focus thing.

(Read More…)

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