Which is the hottest all-wheel drive hatchback currently available?

Hyper-hatches like the Audi RS3, BMW M2 Competition and Mercedes-AMG A45 are a trio of really special cars. These multi-talented cars offer genuine sports car-rivalling performance, with beefed up looks to complete the package. However, all of that comes at a significant price, and because of that, these cars are out of reach for many – even in the used car market.

This is why hot-hatches are so attractive. Sure they are a tier down, but in recent years these cars have been developed to offer almost hyper-hatch levels of performance, without the million Rand price tags that accompany hyper-hatches. They really are the next-best thing.

If you’re in the market for a hot-hatch, you would be pleased to know you aren’t limited, because there are loads of options. From front-wheel drive track focused terrors like the Renault Megane RS Trophy to rear-wheel drive machines like the BMW M140i, to all-wheel drive icons like the Ford Focus RS; there are plenty of choices available. And with that, the UK’s Carwow has assembled five of the hottest hatches available, and unleashed them on an empty runway. Which will come out on top? Let’s look at the five contenders.

One of the latest entrants into this segment is the new Mercedes-AMG A35. This car is a new release from AMG, and will actually be the most ‘affordable’ AMG when it debuts in South Africa later this year. It will fill the void between the A250 and the upcoming A45 flagship, and like the A45, features a 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. In terms of propulsion, there is a revised version of the A250’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder under the hood, which produces 225kw and 400nm – the least of these five cars!

While it might appear as if Mercedes has scored a bit of an own goal by only gifting it 225kw, Volkswagen is making sure its legendary Golf R doesn’t play second fiddle to the AMG A35 when it launches locally. They have done this by upgrading the output on the Golf R from 213kw to 228kw – the same output as the Audi S3. Done as a last hurrah for the Mk7, Volkswagen tells us the R will now do 0-100kph in just 4.6 seconds – in other words quicker than the AMG.

Speaking of the Audi S3, it features the very same EA888 as the Golf R. Meaning it too produces 228kw and 400nm. And thanks to its Haldex derived four-wheel drive Quattro system, like the Golf R it will also run from 0-100kph in an A35-beating time of 4.6 seconds. Despite riding on the same platform, and sharing its drivetrain; the more luxuriously appointed Audi retails for R671 000. So it might come as some surprise that the Volkswagen Golf R is actually pricier than its sibling, and carries a sticker price of R676 000!

Interestingly, there is only car in this line-up that is available with a manual transmission, and that is the Ford Focus RS. Actually, that is the only transmission it is offered with, and because of such, it has been lauded around the world, as one of the most engaging hot hatches ever made. It also has a trick all-wheel drive system that even has a dedicated ‘DRIFT’ mode, and thanks to its turbocharged 2.3-litre Ecoboost motor, it produced an impressive 257kw and 440nm – enough to hit a top speed of 266kph. Unfortunately, the Focus RS has been discontinued in South Africa, meaning you can only buy one on the used market. That said, it carried a price tag of R712 900 prior to being discontinued a few months ago.

And finally, the dark horse – the BMW M140i. The only rear-wheel driven car in this line-up, it also features the largest engine – an award-winning, silky, smooth and sonorous turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six that only BMW can manufacture. The motor, dubbed the B58, is actually the very same motor that powers the all-new Toyota Supra. And like the Supra, it produces 250kw and 500nm. While the M-Performance branded M140i will likely struggle off the line in a drag race, in true BMW fashion expect it to run riot against its rivals once it is up and running. It should also be noted that this is last 1 Series to be rear-wheel drive, as the next-generation – which will appear later this year – will be front-wheel drive! Which makes the R720 540 M140i a bit of a collector’s piece.

Performance aside, which would you want in your garage?

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