Best of 2022: Hot hatches
Monday 26th December, 2022 - 6:20am
Christmas is in the rear-view mirror and New Years is around the corner, so time to look back and reflect on the year-that-was in motoring.
We’ve driven more than 100 cars in 2022 but which ones stand out? Well, we’re going to spend the week reviewing the best from each major segment we cover and finish the year with our top picks.
Today we’re looking at ‘Hot Hatches’, or perhaps ‘compact performance cars’ would be a more accurate term as we have a pair of sedans. Whatever you call them, there are some real gems here.
Volkswagen Golf R
The German brand’s flagship hot hatch continues to raise the bar in every meaningful way – performance, comfort and price. Now costing nearly $70k, this is a hot hatch for those who need something sensible during the week but want to go fast on the weekends.
But it’s not just a price rise for the sake of it, the Golf R introduces an all-new, all-wheel drive system featuring what VW Group calls the ‘torque splitter’, which improves handling and allows for drifting.
Audi RS3 Sportback and Sedan
If you think the Golf R is expensive at $70k, you’ll shudder when you hear the price of Audi’s latest hot hatch and sports sedan duo. The pair both start beyond $90k, which is a lot of money whichever way you look at it, but you do get a rather special car in return.
Of course it’s still powered by the brand’s iconic 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine, which has its roots in the Group C rally days, and makes a potent 294kW of power. Like the Golf R, the RS3 also gets the new torque splitter system for a dynamic step-up.
The RS3 Sedan is arguably the pick of the two, offering what feels like a modern take on compact sports sedans of the past, such as the E30 BMW M3.
Ford Fiesta ST
In 2022 we bid farewell to one of the great hot hatches. The blue oval continues to back out of the small car market and the Fiesta ST was sadly dropped from the local line-up this year, despite being a standout performer on the road.
This is a genuine pocket rocket, punching above its weight with its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, six-speed manual and finely-tuned chassis. It’s a shame it’s gone, but it was a blast while it lasted.
Last, but by no means least, on our list is the latest version of Subaru’s hero model. Its days in rallying may be long over (at least in the WRC) but the WRX continues the formula that it began back in the glory days of Group A.
This new-for-2022 model gets a new, bigger engine (but sadly not much more power) and sits on a new platform that vastly improves the handling. The new WRX also feels more ‘grown up’, with a better presented and quieter cabin that makes it easier to live with.
As we discovered this year, the WRX equipped with the CVT was underwhelming but if you opt for the six-speed manual you get the same driving excitement that has made this car a performance hero for decades.