You may have heard the term ‘hot hatch‘ before, and even if you know what some examples of hot hatches are you may not fully understand what the term means. Hot hatches are pretty uncommon, especially in the United States, but they have a lot to offer and are all-around great cars if you’re looking for a mix of performance and practicality.

What defines a hot hatch

The phrase ‘hot hatch’ itself was started more as a nickname to describe a group of cars. Similar to how the Mustang and Corvette became American ‘muscle cars’ the United Kingdom created the classification ‘hot hatch’.

Hot hatches are traditionally front-wheel drive with an engine mounted in the front, though these aren’t requirements to fall under the classification. In the past decade or so, many hot hatches have become all-wheel drive to improve their performance-oriented experience.

1995 Renault Clio Williams S2
1995 Renault Clio Williams S2 | Bring a Trailer

Hot hatches are primarily regarded as the high-end performance version of their more popular production hatchback. They might not differ much in appearance, but they often have a substantial amount more power and handling to produce a performance-oriented experience than their more base-model counterpart.

Examples of hot hatches you can buy today

Although they are uncommon, there is a pretty decent market for hot hatches if you decide they are a great option for you. Because hot hatches are the high-performance versions of a popular production hatchback, they sometimes come in surprisingly common packages.

In the past decade, all-wheel-drive options have stormed the market and quickly established themselves as well-rounded options for buyers you may have been originally disinterested. This includes some impressive performing hatchbacks, some of which also offer luxury.

Popular options for hot hatches available in the United States are the Ford Focus RS and the Audi RS3, which have a sporty but timid look that skillfully hides their power and handling. Hatchbacks, in general, aren’t particularly popular cars in the US, and with the increasing market for performance SUVs, it isn’t likely they will become more popular any time soon.

That also gives you an unsuspected benefit, however, even though they are niche cars, they are definitely uncommon. That means you aren’t likely to find too many in your local town.

Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS | Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

The Renault Clio Williams Is the Best-Kept Secret VW GTI Rival

You may not have given much thought to what a hot hatch is, or even recognize a hatchback as a hot hatch if you’ve never heard the term, but they are still relatively popular options for hatchback lovers. Whether you just love that sporty hatchback experience or are looking to get a performance car with more practicality than a coupe, hot hatches are everywhere, and they have a lot to offer.