If anything else, this year, the automotive world will be blessed with a wide range of new hot hatches for you to choose from. Sadly, for U.S. buyers, most of these pocket rockets will be staying in Europe, but if there was ever a time to switch continents, now would be it (well, from an automotive perspective...).
VW Golf GTI - 217 - 227 Hp
However, now, with the use of the lighter MQB platform and more power squeezed out of the two-liter turbocharged engine, it should prove considerably better both in a straight line and around the bends than its predecessor.
VW Golf R - +280 Hp
It should be lighter and nimbler than the Mk6 model, as it too uses the new MQB platform. However, the current R has been criticized for not being particularly fun, despite the fact that the all-wheel drive system can send most of the power to the rear wheels – it still reportedly understeers.
Seat Leon Cupra - ~220hp
Also, since Seat is known for going crazy with the power output of their Cupra-badged models, we expect it to be the most extreme of all three MQB-based non-premium hot hatches.
Skoda Octavia vRS - ~220 Hp
Which is the third, we hear you say? Well, it's the RS version of the roomy new Skoda Octavia. It shares many mechanical bits with the Leon and the Golf, but if you were to put all three cars one next to the other, you'd immediately pick the Skoda as being the odd one out. Still, despite lingering between the C and D segments, the Octavia RS is a liftback model and to some extent, it will be cross-shopped with other offerings in the category.
It will most likely get the same engine as the Golf GTI, and with its more comfortable suspension setup and liftback-sedan profile, it definitely has an appeal of its own. Also, in true Skoda tradition, it will be available as an estate.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG - 355 Hp
If we are permitted to call the new Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG a hot hatch (more like hyper-hatch), then it definitely deserves a place on our list. It is one of the fastest hot hatches ever, as far as we're aware of. If you don't believe us, do check out a more detailed description of the A45, where you'll learn that it achieves the benchmark sprint in 4.6 seconds.
This is due partly to the fact that it has grippy all-wheel drive, but also because of the two-liter engine, which at 355hp (360PS) rating, has been declared the most powerful series production four-pot in the world.
RenaultSport Clio 200 EDC - 197 Hp
With 197hp (200PS) on tap and a weight of 1200 kg, it provides spritely performance and considerably more usable torque than its predecessor. However, with no manual option, those who want the thrill of RenaultSport cars of old will have to look elsewhere.
Peugeot 208 GTi - 197 Hp
The GTi's performance is quite well-matched to that of the Clio, so once both cars are available, rest assured somebody will step in and compare them.
Ford Fiesta ST – 178 Hp
The 2013 Ford Fiesta ST is already here, and it is already receiving praise. It's too early to tell whether it has a chance to reach cult status, as it faces really steep competition from the two French cars above. Still, it undercuts both on price, and aside from getting 19 less horsepower, you won't feel short-changed if you opt for it over the other two.
Kia Cee'd and Pro_Cee'd GT – 201 Hp
This year also marks an important milestone for Kia, as the Korean brand is poised and ready to launch its first ever hot hatches, the Cee'd and Pro_Cee'd GT. Despite being down on power over the establishment in the compact category, the Slovakian-built cars will also be cheaper than the competition and should prove a unique sight on Europe's roads.
Ford Focus RS – +300 Hp
The year 2013 will be capped with the possible launch of the new Ford Focus RS. We say possible, as there is a chance that the car will actually arrive in 2014, so we're not sure on that yet. Like the old RS, the new car will be front-wheel drive only, and will be powered by an engine that will later on be used on the 2015 Mustang. The 2.3-liter unit will make in excess of 300 hp. It is easily one of the highlights of the year, in this category.
With such a wide variety of sporty hatches to choose from, 2013 is shaping up to be quite an interesting year, full of magazine comparisons, drag racing videos and die-hard fans arguing amongst themselves, claiming that their favorite is the best.
By Andrei Nedelea