Car Tips

Hot hatchback vehicles that combine fuel efficiency and affordability

Saturday, February 02, 2013

As gas prices rise, more people are turning to European style cars. Car specialist Dave Kunz explores hot hatchbacks that are made for fuel efficiency, but with a little extra pizzazz.

The 2013 Ford Focus ST ($23,700 base price) is a new fun and pretty practical car with trim size and a roomy interior. The large hatch located in the rear of the vehicle is also equipped to carry things.

The performance version of the Ford Focus hatchback, the new 2013 Ford Focus ST, is part of a growing category called hot hatches.

Jonathan Start of Ford Performance Academy says the Focus ST is the company's first global performance vehicle.

"This is a fabulous car with 252 horsepower, 270 pound-feet of torque," Start said. "It's a blast to drive."

The lift-back sports model is described as a global car, as in lifted almost directly out of Europe. American buyers can now finally get in on some of the fun that drivers across the Atlantic have enjoyed.

"It brought the European accent over to the states," Start said. "We finally have a really fun car."

The hot hatch is a serious performance car, pumped up with a four-cylinder engine, an aggressive suspension and even more options like Recaro seats.

The Ford Focus ST gets 23 to 32 MPG in EPA estimates at a base price of $23,700.

Nevertheless, the Ford Focus ST does have some competition. Mazda's Mazdaspeed3 hatchback version ($24,200 base price) fits the category with a rip-snorting 263 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine.

Volkswagen's take on the ultimate economy car, the new 2013 Volkswagen Golf R ($33,990 base price), gets a turbo four-cylinder engine and spins out 256 horsepower. The hatchback's all-wheel drive adds traction but also adds weight and cost.

What about other car brands getting in on the action? Hyundai's new 2013 Elantra GT has the sport hatchback body style. There's no high performance version available yet but Hyundai isn't ruling it out.

The vehicles are referred to as hot hatches because the hatch in the back has lots of room for cargo but also lots of interior space inside for transporting people.

That's the beauty of performance hatchbacks; if you need one car to do it all, day in and day out, it's a practical economy car like the hot hatches that also allow you to have some fun with it. And you can still tell your family and friends that you bought a sensible car with good gas mileage.

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