Small and fun-to-drive small hot hatchbacks were once plentiful and affordable. But SUVs reign supreme in today's new car market, from the subcompact to full-size segments. Thankfully, some automakers have responded by offering high-performance versions with an SUV's usefulness as daily drivers and the ability to put a smile on a keen driver's face. So if you're looking for a mix of sports car fun and SUV practicality, here are five new 2023 models you should consider.
As it wasn't officially sold in Canada, don't feel bad if you missed out on Alfa Romeo's legendary V6-powered 147 GTA hot hatch from the early-2000s. Instead, be grateful that the Italian brand's Stelvio Quadrifoglio is one of the sportiest compact SUVs you can buy.
First seen on vintage Alfa racing cars, the Quadrifoglio (or "Four Leaf Clover" in Italian) badge promises exotic styling with hot hatch performance, starting with a Ferrari-derived 2.9-litre turbocharged V6 with 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive, the Alfa boasts a zero to 96 km/h time of 3.6 seconds.
Other Quadrifoglio trim hardware includes a torque vectoring rear differential, an Alfa DNA Pro Drive Mode selector, the most direct steering available in the Stelvio lineup, and all-aluminum column-mounted paddle shifters. The interior of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is also hot hatch-worthy, with available Sparco leather with Alcantara sports seats.
Hot hatch fans are still mourning the demise of Hyundia's Veloster N, which disappeared after the 2022 model year. But much of the Veloster's character can be found in its Kona N subcompact SUV sibling. The Kona N is a complete performance package, much more than just its 276 hp and 289 lb-ft turbo 2.0L four-cylinder that will accelerate the Hyundai SUV from zero to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds with launch control.
Like hot hatches from the past, the Kona N is front-wheel drive only. But an electric limited slip differential distributes power to each wheel to mitigate torque steer. There's no manual gearbox, like the Veloster N. Instead, the hottest Kona gets an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There are also N-specific 14.2-inch front rotors, high-friction brake pads with a pre-fill brake function, electronically-controlled suspension, and Pirelli P-Zero summer tires. You'll also appreciate the Kona N's supportive leather/suede front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel when carving corners in your Hyundai SUV.
Not only are Canadians blessed with the North American-elusive Mecedes-Benz A-Class hatchback, but we also get the sporty Mercdes-AMG A 35 4MATIC Hatch. But for buyers looking for more performance, you should consider the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ subcompact SUV.
With what its maker calls "the most powerful series-produced four-cylinder turbo engine in the world," the AMG GLA 45's 2.0L unit makes 382 hp and 354 lb-ft. With an AMG Speedshift DCT eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Benz SUV can scoot from zero to 100 km/h in only 4.3 seconds. A fully-variable AMG Performance AWD system distributes power via a rear axle differential for balanced responses during unpredictable Canadian driving conditions.
Way more luxurious than any 2000s-era hot hatch, the GLA 45 4MATIC+ delivers a typical Mercedes high-quality interior. The front contoured sports seats get plenty of lateral support, with AMG Performance seats available.
Volkswagen GTI fans aside, one could argue that the original 1960s Mini Cooper built by the British Motor Corporation was the OG of hot hatches. That hot hatch heritage can be found in today's BMW-engineered John Cooper Works Minis. The most practical is the Countryman John Cooper Works ALL4 compact SUV.
As the most powerful Mini, the JCW Countyrman's turbo four-cylinder makes a healthy 301 hp with 331 lb-ft. It's combined with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic, including a mechanical front differential lock and standard AWD. The result is a very hot hatch-like zero-to-100-km/h time of 5.1 seconds.
Like every Mini JCW model, the Countryman also gets additional reinforcement modifications for its body structure, engine mounts, chassis fastenings, and a bigger JCW sport brake system. Outside, the Countryman JCW wears an aerodynamic front bumper and rear spoiler, while the cockpit offers quality material choices and JCW-specific details.
While even a base Macan compact SUV feels like a VW Golf R for grownups, equipped with 434-hp and 406-lb-ft twin-turbo 2.9L V6, the top-of-the-line GTS zips from rest to 96 km/h with the optional Sport Chrono Package in 4.1 seconds. You'll also find Porsche Surface Coated Brakes, an adaptive air suspension, and a 10-millimetre lower ride height.
Like every Porsche, the Macan GTS can be optioned as much as your banker will allow. If you want the ultimate Porsche hot hatch experience, we suggest the Sport Package. It includes Sport Chrono Package, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats, and 21-inch GT Design wheels with special high-performance tires. But wait, there's more! The interior of the GTS Sport Package is distinguished by carbon fibre elements, deviated stitching, and a greater number of Race-Tex/Alcantara interior features.