Hot hatches

Who doesn’t want to rip around empty streets in a high power sports car? Maybe the streets are slightly wet, but everything else is mysteriously dry…just like the movies. Maybe you have a beautiful woman in distress sitting shotgun. Perhaps you are being chased by Johnny Law or a group of thugs…the sounds, the power, the burnouts, the chase music…WAKE UP!

That was a great daydream. Unfortunately, it is Saturday afternoon and you are stuck in the city running errands. The beautiful woman in distress is your better half and she is late for a hair appointment. The people chasing you are your kids needing to be picked up from soccer. No empty roads in sight, just curb-to-curb traffic. Suddenly, a high power sports car doesn’t make sense. You need compact size to swing in and out of parking spots and good fuel economy so that you’re not burning a hole through your pocket while sitting in inevitable traffic.

You need a fun compact car. The high horsepower, high cost, high paint polish are not needed. The beautiful women in distress….. That is your call. What you really need is a solid everyday car. Something compact, economical, cheap on insurance and driveable year ‘round. Just because you need all of those things does not mean you can’t have something FUN TO DRIVE as well! You are in luck: allow me to introduce you to some great candidates.

The Mini is a classic nameplate that BMW bought and did a fantastic job of reproducing; Compact, spritely, well-appointed and maneuverable. This is the British gentleman’s answer to your required pocket rocket. Available in 2-door, wagon, 4-door and convertible formats, the Mini has you covered. Your best bet is the 2-door coupe with manual transmission in “S” guise with either a turbo or supercharger (depending what model year you purchase). The John Cooper Works (pictured) is the factory race car, it is ready for track days or commutes out of the box.

The Fiat 500 follows the same principle as the Mini: fun, small and cute. It tugs at your heart strings, bringing back thoughts of the original Fiat 500. Available as a 2-door, 4-door or convertible, it comes in many unique trims, the best is the ABARTH. This is the performance division of Fiat and the car is especially fun. Great steering and decent performance, but the exhaust note is what will attract your attention! If you haven’t one of these cars sing, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and treat your ears. Best part of the Fiat? The manual shifter comes out of the dash, just like classic British/Italian sports cars!

Here’s another: the Ford Fiesta ST. Ford has really stepped their game up as of late. The new Fiesta ST is a perfect example. This 5-door hatchback comes with a manual transmission, 197-hp turbo 4-banger, and Recaro sports seats. If 197 horsepower doesn’t sound like much to you, consider that this car tips the scales at 2,700 pounds…now you get the picture.

Again, in the great automotive debate between “want” and “need”, It is easy to have a little bit of both. Yes you can have your economy, ability to zip in and out of traffic and daily driveability. But you can also have your power, your turbo/supercharger, aggressive handling and great exhaust sound.

All of these cars are small enough to be used in congested cities with ease, offer great fuel economy, yet they will rip around corners and put a smile on your face when instructed to do so. Maybe the damsel in distress will understand that you need something fun AND practical, maybe not. But does it really matter when you’re behind the wheel of your hot hatch?

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