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Enjoy the Volkswagen Golf R, Hyundai i30 N, Honda Civic Type R and Mercedes-AMG A45 while you can, because this could be the end of the road for hot hatch greatness | Opinion

The era of the hot hatch might soon be over as the market shifts towards SUVs and electrification.

Enjoy the golden age of hot hatches while you can, because all signs point to a very different future for the pocket rockets we’ve come to know and love.

Looking around at the 2022 line-up of available hot hatches is nothing short of remarkable, with everything from the pint-sized Hyundai i20 N through to the iconic Volkswagen Golf GTI, and up to the likes of the more premium Mercedes-AMG A45. In between there are some highly-rated models, including but not limited to, the Toyota GR Yaris, Hyundai i30 N and Audi RS3 Sportback.

The new-generation Honda Civic Type R and all-new Toyota GR Corolla are on the way soon too, but beyond that, there’s uncertainty. What we have now may go down in history as the last of their kind, and arguably the best.

There are a number of reasons for the cloudy future for hot hatches - the rise and rise of SUVs and the increasing need for electric models of all shapes and sizes.

We’ve already seen this claim some big name models, most notably the Ford Focus RS. The Blue Oval admitted that it simply couldn’t make a fast, fun hot hatch that met current emission regulations without the added complexity of a hybrid system.

We’ve also seen the future, with Volkswagen teasing the ID X, a 245kW, drift-mode-equipped, hot hatch version of its ID.3 electric car. French brand Alpine has also confirmed it will build an all-electric hot hatch too.

So, sadly, it seems the era of the petrol-powered, quick and affordable hot hatches is drawing to a close. And while this new era of electrified hot hatches will no doubt be fast, there’s a very big question mark over just how fun and affordable they’ll be.

Which is really the key to hot hatches, they’ve never been the fastest cars on the road, but they have provided thrills for motoring enthusiasts on a budget. Electric hot hatches will miss out on the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ that a modern petrol-powered hot hatch can deliver from its exhaust and they’re likely to be even more expensive thanks to the technology involved.

The other challenge facing hot hatches is the decline of the hatchback itself. We’ve already seen city-sized hatches like the Hyundai i20 and Ford Fiesta dropped locally, with only the hot hatch variants surviving. And this is possible because other markets take the mainstream version of those models, but what happens when the current model needs replacing and Hyundai and Ford decide to replace it with another compact SUV?

This year will be remembered as the beginning of the trend towards mainstream ‘hot SUVs’ with the likes of the Hyundai Kona N, Volkswagen Tiguan R and Cupra Formentor all arriving to provide a new alternative to the hot hatchback.

This isn’t to say these new performance SUVs are bad or inferior to the conventional hot hatch, indeed more choice for consumers is a great thing. But this feels like the start of another seismic shift in the car market, in the same way family sedans have become an endangered species as more and more SUVs arrive.

Even nameplates as famous as the Golf may not have a long-term future in the face of the combined SUV evolution and electric revolution. Volkswagen has confirmed a ninth-generation Golf will come, but after that, who knows what the future will bring because by that stage the ID.3 and ID.4 models will likely be well-established members of the VW range.

The same is likely true of models like the Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Honda Civic and even the Toyota Corolla. If the demise of Holden has taught us anything, it’s that there are no guarantees in the car industry based on heritage.

Fortunately, though, we are living in a great time for hot hatch fans. The current offerings, as well as the incoming models, are all exciting in their own way. The list of options is extensive and includes the Ford Fiesta ST, Hyundai i20 N, Volkswagen Polo GTI, Toyota GR Yaris, Hyundai i30 N, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf R, Audi RS3 Sportback and Mercedes-AMG A45, with the Cupra Leon, Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR Corolla on the near-horizon.

Which really underlines the fact that we are truly in a golden age of hot hatches, so enjoy it while it lasts.