The wait for the GTI will be long, but you don't have to suffer.
It's finally happened. Volkswagen has revealed the eight-generation GTI and the anticipation for its arrival in the US has already begun. Set to be shown at the (now canceled) 2020 Geneva Motor Show, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI arrives sporting a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine now producing 245 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque (increases of 17 hp and 15 lb-ft). Coupled with more aggressive styling and a radically new interior, there are plenty of reasons to upgrade to this new car.
Having been just revealed in Europe, it will likely be several months before the GTI makes its way stateside. Pricing should be revealed closer to the car's launch but we expect it to be more than the current model, which is priced at $28,595. So if you can't afford to spend nearly $30,000 on a new hot hatchback or simply can't wait for the GTI to arrive in the US, here are seven cheaper options.
The Ford Focus ST directly competed against the Golf GTI before Ford stopped offering the Focus in the US. A used Focus ST can be had for less than $10,000 while the more powerful Focus RS starts at under $25,000. Once a competitor for the Golf R, this monstrous hot hatch produces 340 hp from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine going out to all-wheel-drive through a six-speed manual. The new GTI should be pretty quick but we don't think it will match the Focus RS's 4.5-second 0-60 mph time.
Laugh if you will about the styling of the Chevy HHR or its plastic interior but did you know GM actually offered a performance SS version with a six-speed manual option? Powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoTec four-cylinder found in the Cobalt SS, this funky looking hatchback produced a healthy 260 hp. Not only is that more than the decade newer GTI but the engine can also be boosted to 290 hp with a GM factory tune. Finding a manual example isn't easy and the four-speed automatic is quite terrible but prices start at under $10,000.
The Fiat 500 Abarth was never a true GTI rival because the 500 on which it is based is much smaller than the Golf. More a rival for European Polo or Up GTI, the Abarth offers a more exciting, visceral feel at the expense of practicality and livability. Abarth models are powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 160 hp going out to a five-speed manual or an automatic option that you probably shouldn't even consider if you are reading this. It may not be as quick as a GTI but the sound the Abarth produces from its exhaust rivals some supercars. Prices for used examples start at around $6,000.
Kia isn't the first company you turn to for a hot hatchback, but for a brief period in 2016 and 2017, the company sold a turbocharged variant of the Forte5 hatchback called the SX. It is powered by the same 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine you'll get in a new Forte GT, producing 201 hp. Power is routed to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT and prices start at around $11,000.
For two generations, the Mazda3 was offered with a performance variant called the MazdaSpeed3. Powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 263 hp, the Speed3 sent is power out to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and no automatic was offered. Prices for the first-generation model start at under $4,000 while the newer second-generation model can be found for just over $5,000.
Subaru may not offer the WRX as a hatchback anymore, but back when it was still called the Impreza WRX, there was a hatchback variant. Power comes from a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four producing 227 hp or 265 hp in the later versions both going out to a symmetrical AWD system. Prices begin around $10,000 and go up depending on condition and mileage.
The only non-turbocharged option on this list, the Acura RSX Type S is one of our favorite hot hatchbacks ever built. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine producing 201 hp, the RSX hit redline at 8,000 rpm, making it far different than the turbocharged cars on this list. Finding one that hasn't been modified is becoming difficult but prices for a Type S start at under $5,000.