Hot, Hotter, Hottest: Redefining hot hatches

Whilst humans are in possession of undeniable ingenuity and capable of limitless powers of intellect, we are also capable of truly monumental acts of stupidity that mark us out as enormously flawed. Take the Darwin Awards for example. Established in the early ’90s, the awards, given posthumously for reasons that will become readily apparent, were given to those who departed these shores in ways so daft that it appeared that nature was simply adding a dose of chlorine to the gene pool. The tragic, yet undeniably amusing thing is that humans never cease to find more elaborate ways of shuffling off of our mortal coils and, in the last few years at least, it seems as if car manufacturers are trying to get in on some of this action with successive iterations of hot hatches that seem intent on destruction.

The hot hatch has always been a perennial favourite of the traditional Darwin Award recipient as they provided significant grunt for relatively little outlay. Now, however, the perpetual jostling between manufacturers for hot hatch bragging rights requires that a new definition of what is hot be applied. Whereas previously hot hatches hovered around the 200 HP mark, with a few errant individuals rising to the lofty heights of 250 HP, we have now reached a watershed moment where the notion of ‘hot’, a term that is becoming increasingly obsolete, encompasses more than 350 HP.

Take Audi’s new RS3 for example, a car that occupies the enviable footprint of a gymnast yet is to be found packing 362 HP into its tiny frame. Quite frankly though this might as well be a pepper grinder in light of the gargantuan 376 HP that Mercedes, having hit a rather rich vein of form of late, has dropped into its unhinged A45 AMG. For those day-ones of the first era of the hot hatch, this sort of evolution must be truly staggering and akin to waking up one morning to Metallica after having lived the entirety of one’s life to the strains of Edith Piaf; a seismic event that must seem impossible at first glance. And for those who take a dim view of German lunacy, the poster child for working class muscle, Ford, has brought forth its Focus RS packing 350 HP and a special ‘drift mode’ that should keep heavy smokers happy. Whereas previous generations had to be content with nippy hatches that could cock a back wheel, those of this new age should err on the side of caution as these new breeds seem intent on destroying not only their rear tyres but all their occupants as well. Darwin would approve.

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