Who doesn’t appreciate a good top five list? This week we’ve selected the humble hot hatch as our focus: the Hot Hatch Top 5: South African Class of 2021 to be more accurate.

Hot hatches are the quintessential Q-car, a true hot hatchback can do it all. From the school run, or shopping to a Sunday morning blast through the mountains. A well-driven hot hatch might also be capable of surprising a few sportscars on backroads should the need arise.

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We’ve always been enthusiastic about fast hatchbacks, particularly since the dawn of the hyper hatch (we’re looking at you, Mercedes-AMG A45). While the top dogs get all the attention, the down-to-earth hot hatch will get the job done.  There’s a few that we’re especially keen to get behind the wheel of in 2021, and here they are in no particular order.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The model responsible for the hot hatch revolution nearly half a century ago, the GTI has been the benchmark in this segment throughout eight generations of Golf models. It does just about everything well, and seats five occupants, too. Expect new levels of quality trim inside the Mk8 GTI, while a new locking differential should grant the latest GTI enhanced handling characteristics. The GTI Clubsport should also set tongues wagging but VW SA has not confirmed its local introduction as yet; read more about it here. Capetonian petrolheads may recognise the backdrop to the advert (below).

ETA: second quarter

Engine: 2,0-litre turbopetrol

Power/torque: 180 kW/370 N.m

Transmission: 7-spd auto/6-spd man

0-100 km/h: 6,2 sec

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Audi S3

Ingolstadt’s all-wheel-drive hot hatch has always been a contender against its rivals, offering high levels of technology to compliment the brand’s focus on innovation. The quattro drivetrain allows the Audi S3 to handle like it’s on rails, and the quick Audi also has an adaptable suspension system available that gives the driver options between more comfortable or sharper settings (more info here). There’s also a sedan available with almost 50 litres of extra boot space.

ETA: third quarter

Engine: 2,0-litre turbopetrol

Power/torque: 228 kW/400 N.m

Transmission: 7-spd auto

0-100 km/h: 4,8 sec

BMW 128ti

The Munich-based marque is keen to establish some sort of footing in this segment, and what better way than to dust off the legendary ti moniker that was first used on the 2002 coupe in the 1960s. There was a rear-wheel drive ti based on the 3 Series twenty years ago, but that didn’t pose a threat to the hot hatches of the day. Now, this 128ti has the looks, hardware and the outputs to make the others in the segment take notice. BMW will have to get the handling spot-on if it plans to challenge the class leaders. More info on the the newest ‘”ti” here.

ETA: imminent

Engine: 2,0-litre turbopetrol

Power/torque: 195 kW/400 N.m

Transmission: 8-spd auto

0-100 km/h: 6,1 sec

Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota’s Gazoo Racing performance arm has really spiced things up at the Japanese manufacturer. Using its WRC programme as a reference, Toyota’s upped the ante in the sporting department and granted the world a real road-going homologation special (more info at this link). While the other hot hatches here are all powered by four-cylinder engines, the GR Yaris uses a highly-strung three-cylinder that sends power to all four wheels via Toyota latest all-wheel drive system. Read our driving review of the previous-gen Yaris GRMN here.

ETA: mid-year

Engine: 1,6-litre turbopetrol

Power/torque: 200 kW/370 N.m

Transmission: 6-speed man

0-100 km/h: 5,5 sec

Volkswagen Golf R

The big brother to the GTI, R versions of the Golf have been available for four generations. The fifth promises to be no less spectacular. The turbopetrol motor in the Golf R bumps out a few more ponies than its Audi S3 cousin, and there are a couple of goodies to make the R even more of a riot, including a package that increases the top speed to 270 km/h and a drift mode made possible by a trick new torque vectoring system and rear diff’. More info on the apex Golf here.

ETA: fourth quarter

Engine: 2,0-litre turbopetrol

Power/torque: 235 kW/430 N.m

Transmission: 7-spd auto

0-100 km/h: 4,7 sec