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2017 Hot Hatch Buyer's Guide

There has never been a better time to be a hot hatch in the US.  For years, we’ve gazed longingly over at our European friends, watching them race through narrow cobblestone streets in their affordable, yet high performing, hatches filled with things that sports cars could only dream of, like groceries and babies. The ultimate car for the driver’s driver whose life requires real practicality, yet whose wallet likes to stay filled - the hot hatch offers something for everyone.

Wonderfully, they’re finally catching on in the U.S. Analysts predict that the 5-door segment will see the biggest growth among body styles in America, with a 37 percent increase by 2020. With this growth, we'll see more and more automakers rolling out hatchbacks to lure hungry buyers. For 2017, we see the introduction of a Honda Civic hatch and remodeled versions the VW Golf and Mazda 3. Toyota and Chevy offer eco-options like the Prius and the Volt/Bolt, but continue to focus on efficiency vs performance. Subaru’s new Impreza comes with a 5-door option (and a manual, gasp!), but sadly have not included a WRX hatch in their 2017.

Here are the biggest changes for the hottest hatches in 2017:

2017 Ford Focus

2017 Focus RS - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

The Ford Focus is one of the world’s most popular name plates. But it was the release of the Focus RS that redefined how a Stateside hatchback could perform. Its 2.3L EcoBoost engine produces a thrilling 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, all handled with a 6-speed manual. This mated with an AWD system featuring Dynamic Torque Vectoring, transforms this practical 5-door into a legitimate driver’s car. New for 2017 is the Focus SEL package, which includes 17-inch aluminum wheels, some accent lights and a power moonroof.

TRIM LEVELS SE, SEL Hatch, Titanium Hatch, ST, Electric, RS
ENGINE OPTIONS 2.0l Ti-VCT direct injection I-4 w/ Flex Fuel Capable, 2.0L Ecoboost I-4, 107 kW motor, 2.3L EcoBoost w/ Auto Start-Stop Technology
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS Advance Trac with ESC, 6-speed manual
MPG 26/38 (2.0L Ti I-4), 22/30 (2.0L EcoBoost I-4), 118/96 (107 kW), 19/25 (2.3L Ecoboost)
PERFORMANCE 160 hp/146 lbs torque (2.0 Ti I-4),  252 hp/ 270 lbs torque (2.0L EcoBoost I-4), n/a (107 kW), 350 hp/350 lbs torque (2.3L Ecoboost)
PRICING $19,765 SE Hatch - $45,355 Fully Optioned RS

2017 Ford Fiesta

2017 Ford Fiesta - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

Like its older brother, the Fiesta is an incredibly well-selling nameplate for the Ford brand. Although very similar, the Fiesta differs from the Focus in its overall size, drivetrain and cost. Available only with a 1.6L or 1.0L Ecoboost inline-4, even the Fiesta ST lacks the power of the monster Focus RS. However, what it lacks in power, it makes up for in turning radius and ease of parking. Both hatches seat the same number of people, with the larger Focus being slightly roomier. All of this translates to the Fiesta that is less expensive to buy, drive and insure. Not to mention that the fully optioned Fiesta ST sits about $20,000 beneath the loaded Focus RS.

ENGINE OPTIONS 1.6L 16 valve Ti VCT I-4, 1.0L EcoBoost I-3, 1.6L 16 valve Ti-VCT Turbocharged EcoBoost I-4
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS 5-speed Manual, PowerShift 6-speed Automatic w/ SelectShift Capability
MPG 27/31 mpg
PERFORMANCE 120 hp/112 lbs of torque (1.6L) , 197 hp/202 lbs of torque (1.6L Ecoboost I-4)
PRICING $14,085-$25,150 (Fully Optioned ST)

2017 Nissan Juke

2017 Nissan Juke - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

The Nissan Juke may have made its first impression for its controversial, head turning looks and funky color combinations, but its wide range of performance places is deftly in the hot hatch posse. Officially a “sport crossover,” the Juke is offered both in AWD and FWD options all with a standard 1.6L 4-cylinder engine. However, when tuned to the NISMO standards, the vehicle gains 30 hp and roughly the same amount of torque with a transmission that makes it truly fun to drive. New for 2017 are 17-inch aluminum wheels that are standard on the SV and SL grades and the Cold Weather package is also standard on the SV. 

ENGINE OPTIONS 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission with Sport mode, 6-speed manual
MPG 32/28 (1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder), 33/27 (NISMO), 31/26 (NISMO RS)
PERFORMANCE 188 hp/177 lb-ft torque, 215 hp/210 lb-ft torque (NISMO RS), 211 hp/184 lb-ft (NISMO RS AWD)
PRICING $20,250 - $32,580 (Fully Optioned NISMO RS)

2017 VW Golf

2017 VW Golf - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

Volkswagen’s beloved hatchback has now been in the United States for 41 years. In 2015, it received a full re-design, but 2017 brings a few changes to both the GTI and R editions. The GTI Sport comes with a standard Performance Package, borrowing brakes from the R model and receiving a 10 hp increase, boosting it to 220 hp. The Golf itself has too many trims to list here, but the new Autobahn trim has standard Adaptive Cruise Control and Autonomous Emergency Braking. The new R adds 36 more hp, making it the most powerful Golf ever sold in the U.S. The eGolf is the real game changer, however, adding a 50 percent increase in driving range and increased horsepower and torque. All Golf models are available with Apple CarPlay, and absolutely none are available with diesel fuel.

ENGINE OPTIONS 1.8L Turbo, 2.0T 4-cylinder TSI engine, 100kw engine,  2.0T I-4 cylinder intercooled TSI
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic w/ Tiptronic & Sport mode, 6-speed manual, 6-speed DSG automatic w/ Tiptronic & Sport mode
MPG 25/36 (1.8L Turbo), 24/34 (2.0L), 126/105 (EV), 22/31 (2.0T I-4)
PERFORMANCE 170 hp/184 lb-ft of torque, 220 hp/258 lb-ft, 115 hp/199 lb-ft, 292 hp/280 lb-ft
PRICING $19,895 - $41,623 (Fully Optioned R)

2017 Mazda 3

Mazda 3 - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

The Mazda 3’s changes for 2017, are what industry folks like to call a “refresh”—meaning rather than a full redesign, its the automakers sincere attempt to keep competitors at bay by adding new features. For the 3, this includes new exterior styling, new colors and Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system for better handling. Also new is the iACTIVSENSE Safety System, which includes smart braking, lane keep assist and lane departure warning. But with more aggressive styling, more safety features and more interior options, this well-selling hatch still aims to please.

TRIM LEVELS Sport, Touring, Touring 2.5, Grand Touring
ENGINE OPTIONS 2.0L DOHC 4-cylinder, 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS SKYACTIV DRIVE 6-speed automatic with sport mode, SKYACTIV DRIVE 6-speed manual
MPG 28/37 (2.0L DOHC), 26/35 (2.5L DOHC)
PERFORMANCE 155 hp/150 lb-ft of torque, 184 hp/185 lb-ft
PRICING $19,095 - $33,255 (Fully Optioned Grand Touring)

2017 Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-door

2017 Mini Cooper Hardtop - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

In 2002, the BMW Group did us a solid and brought back the iconic, street legal British go-kart known as the Mini Cooper. Since then, its incredible sales have led to many variants of this little car, pushing the boundaries from Mini to Maxi. However, the original Mini 2-door hardtop has worked hard to maintain its cult status and thus, for 2017, changes are slight. All models include a standard Media Package, which includes a 6.5” screen, voice command and enhanced Bluetooth audio streaming. The FWD Mini maxes out its 2.0L inline 4 in the John Cooper Works edition with 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, a 60 percent increase over the standard model. 

TRIM LEVELS Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works Hardtop
ENGINE OPTIONS 1.5L 3-cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Engine, 2.0L 4-cyclinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Engine, 2.0L 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo Engine-Tuned
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS 6-speed Getrag Manual, 6-speed Automatic, 6-speed Sport Automatic w/ Shifter Paddles
MPG 27/36 (1.5L), 23/32 (2.0L)
PERFORMANCE 134 hp/162 ft-lbs of torque, 189 hp/ 207 ft-lbs, 228 hp/236 ft-lbs
PRICING $20,950 - $44,450 (Fully Optioned JCW)

Fiat 500 Abarth/e500

2017 Fiat Abarth - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

Like the Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500 reflects the popularity of an iconic vehicle redesigned for today’s consumer. Since its release in 2007, Fiat has sold over 1 million Fiat 500 models in 110 countries around the world. The quickest of the bunch are the Fiat Abarth and electric models. For 2017, Fiat actually decreased the price of its Abarth model by $2,000, enabling it to start just below the magical $20,000 mark at $19,995. Also for 2017, the Abarth has rear park assist and new 16-inch Hyperblack wheels. The e500 is unchanged for 2017.

TRIM LEVELS Abarth, e500
ENGINE OPTIONS 1.4L I-4 MultiAir Turbo Engine, Electric Drive Motor 83kW
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS 5-speed manual, single-speed transmission
MPG 28/33, 121/103 MPGe
PERFORMANCE 160 hp/183 lb-ft torque, 111 hp/147 lb-ft
PRICING $19,995 - $31,800 (Fully Optioned e)

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

All new for 2017

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback - Hot Hatch Buyers Guide

After witnessing the enormous success of the European-styled Ford Focus, Honda quickly followed suit and brought their own 5-door from across the pond. Although they don’t offer anything superior in the hatch category, the new Civic does offer a 6-speed manual for just $19,700. Just don’t be deceived by its aggressive styling; the upcoming Si and R variants are where Honda will put the “hot” back in this hatch. For now, this model is more lukewarm than piping hot.

ENGINE OPTIONS Inline 4-cylinder
TRANSMISSION OPTIONS 6-speed Manual, CVT—Continuously Variable Transmission
MPG 30/39 (6-speed manual), 31/34 (CVT)
PERFORMANCE 180 hp/177 lb-ft of torque (6-speed manual), 174 hp/162 lb-ft
PRICING $19,700 - $27,947 (Fully Optioned EX-L Navi)

Interested in the 2017 Ford Focus RS? We gave it a whirl on the road and the track: read our Ford Focus review.

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