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5 Best European Hatchbacks Ever Made (5 Japanese Models We’d Rather Buy)

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Even though hatchbacks are some of the cheapest cars on the market, they are not bland. Driving a hatchback a few decades ago would have made you a social pariah. However, sedans have improved over the years.


Europe is home to some of the best sedans, like the legendary Volkswagen Golf, Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, and more. All of these sedans have been around for decades, and they’ve only gotten better over time. Here are some of the best European sedans and five Japanese models that are better.

10/10 Large European Sedan: Peugeot 306 Rallye

Peugeot created the Rallye by combining everything they had learned with the 106 and 205 Rallye. They used the brilliant 306 GTI-6 as a base and ditched all unnecessary items. The Rallye focused more on optimizing the engine and chassis.

The 306 Rallye has a powerful 2.0-liter inline-four engine capable of 165 hp and 142 lb-ft of torque. These numbers helped the Rallye become a high-revving, high-torque rally car. Additionally, the 6-speed manual gearbox helped add more fun to the Rallye.

9/10 Best Japanese sedan: Nissan Pulsar VZ-R N1

The Pulsar VZ-R N1 is a front-wheel-drive compact 3-door hot hatch with five seats. It is equipped with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 194 hp without turbocharging. Nissan made this amazing hot hatch back in 1997 basically as a motor car.

In its time, the VZ-R N1 was a JDM variant of the 306 Rallye. It has awkward graphics and excellent power. Thanks to its fantastic engine and 5-speed manual gearbox, the VZ-R N1 could manage 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 180 km/h.

Related: Here’s How Nissan Created an Advantage Over Other EV Makers

8/10 Large European Sedan: Mini Cooper

The reincarnated Mini Cooper was introduced two decades ago. It still retains the style and driving pleasure of the original Mini. Today, the Mini features a retro-modern design and a sporty chassis that provides endless thrills to drivers.

The Mini Cooper is available as a two- or four-door hatchback or convertible. Even if it’s not the most practical sedan, the Mini Cooper still has appeal. Base models get a 134-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, while the S model gets a powerful 189-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

7/10 Best Japanese Hatchback: Subaru Impreza

The modern Impreza is a decent compact car with a good price tag. It is also the smallest car in Subaru’s lineup and is available as a sedan or hatchback. As standard, the Impreza gets a no-frills interior design, all-wheel drive and plenty of safety features.

That said, the modern variant is a tortoise of the hare class. It has a 152hp 4-cylinder engine that packs a bit of low-end punch. The 2000s WRX STI variants offer more fun thanks to a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine producing 295 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

Related: Why The Subaru WRX STI S209 Is A JDM Special

6/10 Large European sedan: Fiat 500 Abarth

The Abarth 500 is a fierce little sedan with a 160 horsepower turbocharged engine. It helps turn the little 500 into a great driving car. The 500 is available with either a hardtop or a sliding canvas top that provides a great outdoor experience.

As standard, the Abarth 500 receives a 5-speed manual gearbox and an optional 6-speed automatic. The manual adds more fun and thrills to driving the 500. Abarth also tunes the exhaust note, making it more addictive. Along with the sweet exhaust note, the 500 benefits from a lowered suspension that aids handling.

5/10 Best Japanese sedan: Toyota GR Yaris

The GR Yaris is one of Toyota’s best hot hatches. It’s a three-door sedan that’s more exciting than most of its competitors. The GR Yaris was born out of the WRC as a homologation special. It offers a set of rally cars in a road formula, making it one of the best hatchbacks of the 21st century.

The GR Yaris gets a purpose-built 1.6-litre G16E-GTS turbocharged 3-cylinder engine producing 253 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. It uses a 6-speed manual transmission to transfer power to all four wheels using Toyota’s GR-Four technology.

Related: 10 Reasons The Toyota GR Corolla May Be The Best Hot Hatch Available

4/10 Large European sedan: Volkswagen Golf

Since its introduction in 1974, the Golf has remained one of the best compact sedans. The standard variant gets a lower starting price and excellent fuel efficiency. It has a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a fantastic 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission.

Even though the base variant is not as powerful, the sporty GTI variant leads in the hot hatchback segment. It’s a fun-to-drive sedan with a surprisingly powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The powertrain produces 241 hp which powers the front wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed automatic transmission.

3/10 Best Japanese sedan: Mazda3

Although Mazda’s Mazda3 has a low price, like most compact sedans, it aims to compete with more upscale cars. Mazda offers the Mazda3 in two body styles, a hatchback and a sedan. Both are equally agile and beautiful.

Compared to other Japanese sedans, the Mazda3 is one of the finest examples. It also offers a rewarding driving experience thanks to its premium interior and powerful 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. The powertrain produces 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, making the Mazda3 a more worthy option than the Golf.

Related: The 2023 Mazda CX-30 Becomes Desirable With More Power And More MPG

2/10 Large European sedan: Mercedes-AMG A45 S

The A45 S is a five-door sedan designed for driving enthusiasts. As well as being one of the fastest hatches, the A45 builds on the solid advancements of the A35 series. Unlike most cars on this list, the A45 transcends class boundaries.

The A45 S uses the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the A35. However, the A45 gets an ECU tickle to help boost its power to 409 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The powertrain is powerful throughout the rev range, making it one of the most powerful units in a hot hatch.

1/10 Best Japanese hatchback: Toyota GR Corolla

Recently, the GR division has been busy showcasing some of Toyota’s legendary performance cars. The GR Corolla is the latest version in the range, using a 1.6-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, producing a very nervous 300 ponies.

The GR Corolla is available with a 6-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. These upgrades help add excitement to the Corolla. Performance aside, the Corolla gets a design inspired by rally racers, making it a class-leading hot hatch.

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