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8 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Hot Hatch

So Many Hatches, So Little Time

So Many Hatches, So Little Time

So you want to buy a hot hatch? Although performance is likely a big part of your decision, there are plenty of other factors to consider. Keep reading for eight other considerations when shopping for a hot hatch.

Is there enough room?

Many consumers choose hatchbacks instead of sedans for the spacious interiors and flexible cargo areas. But not all hatches are created equal in this department. While the Volkswagen Golf GTI offers plenty of room throughout the cabin, the Fiat 500 Abarth is noticeably less spacious with just 9.5 cubic feet of space in the boot (5.4 cubic feet with the drop-top version). Meanwhile, we’ve noted the Hyundai Veloster Turbo hatch suffers from a lack of rear headroom and legroom. If you’re going to buy a hatch, why not make sure you benefit from one of its biggest advantages? That is, unless your heart is set on a particular model and you don’t plan on hauling large loads regularly.

Can you see out the back?

For some, hatches might be deemed “hot” when they look good. But those extra design flairs, including a raked windshield and low-slung stance, can make it difficult to see out the rear or between the pillars. If a car’s design makes it difficult to see out the back, you might want to budget for a rearview camera and parking sensors if they’re not already included.

How is the ride?

If you step out of the Volkswagen Golf and into its performance-oriented GTI sibling, you’ll notice the ride feels a little different. Ditto with the standard Mini Hardtop and the John Cooper Works model. As you can imagine, some hot hatches have stiffer suspensions than their more mainstream counterparts. Consider what type of roads you usually drive on and if you prefer a soft or stiff ride. And are the seats supportive when taking those turns?

How much does it cost?

Fortunately, price doesn’t have to be an issue when shopping for a hot hatch. Many can be found for well under $30,000 USD, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST, Fiat 500 Abarth, Volkswagen Beetle R-Line 2.0T, and Hyundai Veloster Turbo. But others like the $36,775 USD Ford Focus RS and the $36,470 USD Golf R aren’t as affordable. Also don’t expect the hotted-up version of a hatchback to have a cost of ownership as low as the standard version. Be sure to check Motor Trend data powered by Intellichoice for information on how much a car will cost you over the long haul. Just research the model you’re interested in on MotorTrend.com, and click “See All Specs” for this critical info.

OK, so it has power. But what about torque?

Torque can make a world of difference in how a hatchback feels. The Volkswagen Golf GTI, for instance, boasts 210 hp and an even more impressive 258 lb-ft of torque for great handling. (If you couldn’t tell, we like that car a lot). In addition to torque, also make sure the hatch has a gearbox that suits your personality, whether it’s an automatic or manual transmission.

Is it efficient?

Hatches are small, so you’d be tempted to think they all get terrific fuel economy. But that’s not always the case, and it’s important to note that more powerful hatches can take a slight ding in efficiency. The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth tops out at 28/34 mpg (8.4/6.9 L/100km) city/highway while the semi-hot 2016 Chevrolet Sonic RS also does alright at 27/34 mpg (8.7/6.9 L/100km). But the Volkswagen Beetle R-Line 2.0T only gets 24/31 mpg (9.8/7.6 L/100km).

Is it safe?

We’d be remiss not to mention safety as a consideration for purchasing a hot hatch, or any car really, but keep in mind the NHTSA and IIHS don’t generally separate ratings of niche hot hatches from the standard model they are based on. Many cars offer advanced driver assistance systems that include emergency braking, lane departure warning, and other safety technologies.

Will you love it?

After you’ve marked off all the practical considerations that go into buying a hot hatch, it’s time to decide with your heart. And part of that, no doubt, is how the car makes you feel. Whether it’s the sound of that engine or the look and feel of the interior, you’ll know the right one when you see it.