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The Challenge: Looking for a practical hot-hatchback

With over 300 new models in Canadian showrooms, it can sometimes be challenging to nail down the vehicle that meets your needs and wants. If you are in the market for a new car, truck or SUV with specific requirements, drop us an email at Dear Kelley Blue Book [KBBSupport@coxautoinc.com] about your new vehicle requirements to get unbiased car-buying advice.

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The Challenge: Looking for a practical hot-hatchback 
 

The original versions of the 1960s Mini Cooper and 1970s Volkswagen GTI set the hot-hatchback formula for automakers that carries on today. Take a run-of-the-mill small hatchback, add some suspension and engine upgrades, and a bit of sporty exterior and interior trim—et voila!—you now have a relatively inexpensive and practical vehicle that can take on much pricier sports cars when it comes to driving appeal. Decades later, the original hot-hatch formula lives on today with these five modern contenders. The question we're asking is: Which one of this group of current hot-hatchbacks is the one we'd recommend as a daily driver? 

 

The Contenders 
 

2021 Honda Civic Type R 

The 2021 Civic Type R is the wild-child version of Honda's esteemed compact car. Based on the front-wheel-drive 4-door, 5-passenger $24,190 CDN (starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) 2020 Civic LX hatchback with 174-horsepower, the Type R takes Honda performance to the next level, even beyond that of the 205-horsepower $29,400 CDN 2020 Civic Si sedan and $29,290 CDN 2020 Si coupe. The $46,200 CDN Civic Type R packs a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder that makes 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and track-worthy suspension. If you need further proof that this is an enthusiast's car, know that an automatic transmission isn't even available with a 6-speed manual standard.  
 

On a track, the Honda Civic Type R is a star. It can be high-strung and stiff in everyday commuting, though the adaptive suspension can be set for more comfort. With its 5-door hatchback design, the Civic Type R is also practical and is enhanced with Honda's standard suite of active safety features. The Type R's price tag puts it at a premium in this group, and its boy-racer looks aren't for everyone, but if you're seeking the ultimate in Civic performance straight from the factory, the Type R deserves a look. 
 

2021 Hyundai Veloster N 

For 2021, the only Veloster available is the N hot-hatchback, which is no bad thing if you like mega performance bargains. With a starting price of $37,799 CDN, the Veloster N is a heck of a value. It comes packed with standard safety features like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, plus Hyundai’s stellar 5-year/100,000-kilometre warranty. A turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine makes 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the front-wheel-drive Hyundai hot-hatch can be had with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic transmission.  
 

The performance-oriented Veloster N feels totally at home on a racetrack. And it does not beat you up with overly stiff suspension in everyday driving. Perhaps most important, the electronically controlled differential allows the driver to power out of tight corners without inducing any wild inside wheelspin so familiar with powerful front-wheel-drive cars. Unlike more traditional hatchbacks, the Veloster N has three doors, not four. It has one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side, including a small one that grants easier access to the rear seats. More of a 2+2 than a full 4-seater, the Veloster N’s rear hatch boasts a deep and sizable rear cargo area. 

 

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG A35 4MATIC Hatch 

As Mercedes-Benz’s first hot-hatchback in Canada, the AMG A35 4MATIC Hatch is a gentle introduction to what the AMG division is all about. As with all things from Mercedes’ AMG performance division, the 4-door, 5-passenger A35 is injected with more horsepower, sport-tuned suspension and steering, lower ride height, and various other go-fast hardware and sporty aesthetics. The $49,800 CDN Mercedes-Benz hot-hatch’s turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine produces 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque—a generous step up over the 188-horsepower $38,300 CDN Mercedes-Benz A250 4MATIC Hatch the AMG version is based on.  


All-wheel drive is standard, and AMG has tweaked the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (no manual is available) for sharper responses. Beyond its ability to beat most other vehicles up freeway onramps, the A35 feels surprisingly composed given its smaller footprint. And with the standard AMG Dynamic Select, you can customize the A35 to your driving mood and needs. Modes include Comfort, Slippery, Sport, and Sport+ and tailor the engine and dual-clutch transmission for the purpose at hand. The AMG A35 is also an enjoyable and competent luxury hatchback for its enhanced dynamics and handling. 

 

2021 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4 

Over the base, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door 189-horsepower $29,990 CDN Mini Clubman Cooper, the $41,090 John Cooper Works (JCW) trim adds more power, a sportier suspension, bigger brakes and a host of performance hardware and style. The JCW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine makes a healthy 301 horsepower, a massive 332 pound-feet of torque and is mated exclusively to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. All Mini suspensions enjoy tuning for driving thrills rather than sedate suppleness, willing to change direction with quick flicks of the steering wheel. The JCW treatment means an extra-firm suspension, though. However, freeway stretches are more of a chore because of the taut suspensions and noticeable road noise.  
 

As a daily driver, don’t be misled by the Mini name. The Clubman is reasonably roomy. An average adult male will be happy sitting in the back, although two passengers will be happier than three. And thanks to the shape of the Clubman’s more extended roof, the headroom is generous. While many upscale vehicles justify their prices with luxury features like classier materials and a quiet ride, the Mini brings excitement into the equation (thanks in part to parent company BMW’s input), along with distinctive design and the ability to personalize. 

 

Our Choice 

Although there are less and less hot-hatchbacks available to new car buyers than in the past, our four contenders offer plenty of value if you are looking for performance and practicality in your daily transportation.  
 

As the least-expensive Mercedes-AMG model, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG A35 4MATIC Hatch delivers a great combination of luxury and performance. The 2021 Hyundai Veloster N is the least expensive hot-hatch here, and offers the longest extended warranty. Mini's 2021 John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4 delivers lots of power and torque and more room than the shorter 3 Door variation.  
 

This leaves us with the 2021 Honda Civic Type R. The hottest Civic offers the most horsepower, room for five passengers and their gear, and crisp and sophisticated handling. If you are looking for a new hot-hatchback as a daily driver, the Type R is the one we'd recommend. 
 

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle and have a unique buying request, please contact KBB.ca at KBBSupport@coxautoinc.com
 

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