The last ten years have seen a flood of excellent hot hatches. But one is the greatest of them all.
Hot hatches have become the defining performance car product category of the last decade.
Although the offering of performance SUVs and crossovers have increased dramatically, this has not displaced the hot hatch. What has transpired, is that traditional two-door sportscar product planning and demand has suffered.
Since 2010 there has been immense advancement in the hot hatch space. AMG finally got involved and due to typically competitive German engineering rivalry, power outputs have boosted beyond all rationality.
What is your most favourite hot hatch of the decade? Email us and tell us why.
As the end of 2019 nears we now have AMG’s latest A45, which is good for 310kW. That is a peak power number which would have been unimaginable in a hot hatchback, ten years ago.
VW’s proven Golf hot hatches have also seen a great mediation with their R derivatives. But one hot hatch was the true hero of the last decade. A car many never valued when it was available.
One of a kind hot hatch
The car in question is BMW’s F20 1 Series. Although the ‘Werke had tried to venture into the hatchback segment with its E36 and E46 3 Series compact models, which were failures, it definitely made amends later.
The 1 Series did everything right, especially in 2015, when BMW launched the M140i.
BMW’s hot hatch looked unlike any rival because its engine and drive configuration were fundamentally so different.
With a long bonnet and short rear, it looked like a mini shooting-brake and combined unique proportions without sacrificing hatchback practicality.
Beyond its looks, there was undiluted driveability too. If you ask any true car enthusiast to imagine their dream hot hatch specification, they would mention something about ‘rear-wheel drive and a six-cylinder engine.’ BMW was the only brand that listened to this ardent desire of hot hatch fans.
In the hot hatch realm, all vehicles have similar specifications: front- or rear-wheel drive and transverse four-cylinder engines. With the F20 1 Series platform being rear-wheel drive, and access to some of the world’s finest six-cylinder engines, BMW had the resources to produce a hot hatch unlike any other.
The result was a compact five-door family car, which looked and drove contrarily to its rivals. With the M140i, BMW could separate the power transfer and steering input roles to different axles, allowing for a purer function of each. This was a massive unique selling point with the M140i.
Two more cylinders than most
Over the last decade, there have been many great hot hatches. But they have all looked marginally similar and offered a like-minded driving experience. BMW’s M140i was different, in all the best ways.
It had a six-cylinder engine, where most rivals only had four – offering a smoother power delivery and unique soundtrack. Power was sent to the rear wheels, with all the mid-corner traction advantages and steering balance that implied.
With 250kW and 500Nm, it was properly quick too and the 3-litre capacity meant superior low-down torque delivery. Part traditional rear-wheel-drive sportscar. Part five-door family vehicle.
The BMW M140i was a car only BMW could have built.The decade which gave us cars such as the A45 AMG, Golf R, and Focus RS has been a blessing for hot hatch fans. But the best hot hatch was the rear-wheel-drive one that everyone tends to forget: BMW’s M140i.
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