Top 5 German Pocket Rockets

Hot Hatch

Teutonic muscle comes in all shapes and sizes - including small ones.

Think of German cars and you’re likely to conjure up images of luxury sedans, big crossovers and even a handful of supercars. But make no mistake about it: Germany makes some of the best hot hatches in the business. In fact in between all the four-door coupes and enormously powerful sedans, Germany’s automakers have found time to develop veritable pocket rockets that can dice it with the best that Japan and France (yes, France) have to offer. Here are five of our favorites.

The most iconic of hot hatches - German or otherwise - is surely the GTI, and Volkswagen has just released the latest version. Based on the seventh-generation Golf, the new GTI upgrades on the previous model’s 200 horsepower with a 220hp 2.0-liter turbo four that can be boosted to 230 with an optional performance package. Buyers can go for either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch gearbox to send the quintessential German hot hatch to 62 in around six and a half seconds. 17-inch alloys fitted to and upgraded sport suspension and brakes, more aggressive aero, red detailing and plaid seats round out the package to distinguish it from ordinary Golfs.

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VW's upscale sibling Audi has been known to make some devastatingly quick hot hatches as well. But while the RS3 may be the first to come to mind, this is another beast entirely. The A1 Quattro isn't simply the all-wheel-drive hatchback its name implies. The limited-edition hot hatch (previewed by the 500-horsepower Clubsport concept) packs the S3's 2.0-liter turbo four with 252 horsepower to reach 60 in about five and a half seconds. Only 333 examples were made, but the technology is expected to lead to a new S1 or even RS1 that promises to be just as potent.

BMW isn’t about to let its rivals have all the fun, though. While the M1 nameplate belonged to a mid-engined supercar in the 80s, BMW took its 1 Series coupe and gave it the M treatment. That limited-production coupe has since finished its production run, but while a replacement is in the pipeline, in the meantime its place is held by the M135i hatchback. Available in either rear- or four-wheel xDrive configurations and with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, the M135i packs a 3.0-liter turbo six with 316 horsepower (a little less than the 1M Coupe’s 340) to send it to 62 in less than five seconds.

The latest of the German automakers to enter the hot-hatch game is Mercedes-Benz, which recently introduced the A45 AMG. Although much smaller than the vehicles AMG is used to tuning, the A45 packs a new 2.0-liter turbo four with 360 horsepower to make it the most potent engine for its size on the market. With a new performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system, 60 comes in less than 4.5 seconds. But while the A45 will remain a European-only product, AMG is expected to apply the same treatment to a number of new compact Mercedes coming around the bend, starting with the CLA45 AMG four-door performance coupe and potentially to include a GLA crossover and SLA roadster.

Rounding out our list is a car that wouldn’t be consigned to "also ran" status on any other list of hot hatches: the Opel Corsa OPC Nurburgring Edition. GM let the Opel Performance Centre transform the work-a-day Corsa into a veritable pocket rocket, with a 1.6-liter turbo four sending 210 horsepower to punish the front wheels through a mechanical limited-slip differential. The suspension has been upgraded by Bilstein and the brakes by Brembo to make this hot Corsa worthy of the legendary racetrack whose name it has taken. 6.8 seconds to 60 and a 143mph top speed may not be much compared to the more powerful machinery listed here, but the Corsa Nurburgring is no slouch.

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