New Hot Hatches Lead a Compact Performance Revival

Compact performance cars have existed at various times. A generation ago this movement was comprised of almost any Honda, Toyota Supras, and AE86s (rear-wheel-drive Corollas), Mazda RX-7s, Nissan S-13s (240SX) and Z-cars, Mitsubishi Evos, and Subaru WRXs. The automotive aftermarket hailed it as the next "big" thing, and companies jumped in without understanding how to reach what was largely a youth market.

Today, rising gas prices aren't the only reason for what's being hailed a compact performance revival. Nameplates that didn't exist previously like Scion, Kia, Mini, and Hyundai are in the game, and competition has created some interesting new models that I believe deserve your consideration.

After all, when you're getting 30+ miles per gallon, giving up a few MPGs to have a little extra power isn't a huge trade off. Nor is better handling, braking, and the upgrades in appearance and comfort.

Fiat 500 Abarth: 160 HP, 1.4-liter turbo, 5-speed transmission, with a base price of $22,700. The suspension is upgraded over the base car, and you get 59 more HP.

Ford Fiesta ST: While not yet available, it has a wide body kit, large rear spoiler, Focus RS inspired nose, 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, and a 0-60 time of around 6 seconds.

Mini Roadster: Set to debut soon, this two-seater takes the roof off the Mini Coupe. Besides the base, there will be a mid-level S, and top-of-the line John Cooper Works version. The Mini hatchback's 208 HP 1.6-liter turbo will power the JCW variant.

Scion iQ: 36 city/37 highway MPG, $15,995 MSRP, 1.3-liter DOHC 4-cylinder that puts out 94 HP at 6,000 RPM. Why the iQ? Well, take a look at this turbocharged one with a body kit from Japan. This could be a lot of fun modifying it to beat the rest of the field.

This is only the beginning; there are more on the way and I'll attempt to get behind the wheel to give you a better assessment of their pros and cons. Given their relatively diminutive size, it might just be possible to fit four or more within the confines of my garage. I'm leaving that possibility open to any manufacturer who might want to have a much more lengthy product review. m

Got a cool car, a collection or an upcoming car show? E-mail me at spdnmotion@yahoo.com. Please allow at least two weeks in advance for your event to be posted.