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How Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are muscling in on the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Hyundai i30 N and Ford Focus ST

Can new offerings from BMW, Mercedes and Audi tempt you out of a mainstream hot hatch?

The humble hot hatch is under threat. What were once modestly powerful and affordable performance cars for the masses are now in danger from more powerful and premium rivals.

The eighth-generation of arguably the original hot hatch, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, is due to arrive in Australia in 2021. It will be packing a 2.0-litre turbo making 180kW and 370Nm, which is more than enough for hot hatch performance.

It faces threats not just from the usual suspects – Ford Focus ST, Hyundai i30 N and Honda Civic Type R – but from an expanding list of premium brands looking to take a slice of the booming hot hatch market.

This week BMW confirmed details of its new hot hatch entrant, the 128ti. It’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged, front-wheel drive hot hatch making 195kW/400Nm – though Australian versions will be detuned to 180kW/380Nm.

While BMW hasn’t announced a price yet, it’s expected to start in the mid-$50,000 range, which will put it on a collision course with the likes of the Golf GTI and also-upcoming Golf R, as well as the Focus, i30 and Civic Type R.

Even the new Toyota Yaris GR, with its now-$44,950 drive-away asking price, is making the $40-60k hot hatch market crowded and complex.

The mainstream brands are currently covering ground between the $41,400 before on-road costs Hyundai i30 N and $55,990 Golf R, so the premium brands are looking to lure those with a bit more financial flexibility to take the step up into the $60k range.

BMW already offers the $63,900 M135i xDrive, which makes 225kW/450Nm, putting it into the same performance space as the out-going Golf R and Civic Type R.

Next year will see the arrival of Audi’s new entrant into this space, the next-generation S3 Sedan and Sportback. This will boast a 228kW/400Nm powertrain that will almost certainly be shared with the new Golf R, continuing this blurring of the lines between mainstream and premium performance.

Mercedes-Benz is also getting in on the act with its three-pronged approach to taking on the hot hatch space.

It starts with the 165kW/350Nm A250 4Matic, priced from $57,800. Then it makes a big price leap to the $72,470 AMG A35, which makes 225kW/400Nm putting in right in line with the M135i, S3 and Golf R.

Finally, there’s the range-topping AMG A45S 4matic making a whopping 310kW/500Nm and now costing $94,920, which competes in another league alongside the Audi RS3 and the BMW M2.

And if all that’s not enough, this week also saw the first official details of the new Hyundai i20 N. It will be packing a 150kW/275Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged engine when it arrives in early 2021 to take on the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI. But it should have a sub-$40k asking price for those not willing to join the expanding premium hot hatch crowd.