Hatchbacks

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Hatchback buying guide

Ah, the hatchback: the love child between a sedan and a wagon. Or perhaps you could think of them as short SUVs. However you see them, hatchbacks are slowly making a comeback in the United States as car shoppers come to realize that their added utility doesn't have to equal dowdiness or cheapness. Indeed, some of the most appealing cars on the market now have a hatch for a back. Some are body-style variants of sedans, others are stand-alone models, and some are even available in two- and four-door variations. We also call out performance and hybrid and EV versions, so there should be a recommended hatchback for everyone.

Category: Subcompact | Compact | Performance | Hybrid | EV

Ah, the hatchback: the love child between a sedan and a wagon. Or perhaps you could think of them as short SUVs. However you see them, hatchbacks are slowly making a comeback in the United States as car shoppers come to realize that their added utility doesn't have to equal dowdiness or cheapness. Indeed, some of the most appealing cars on the market now have a hatch for a back. Some are body-style variants of sedans, others are stand-alone models, and some are even available in two- and four-door variations. We also call out performance and hybrid and EV versions, so there should be a recommended hatchback for everyone.

Category: Subcompact | Compact | Performance | Hybrid | EV

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Hatchback videos

What's the Difference Between a Golf GTI and Golf R?

To the untrained eye there's little difference between the Golf GTI and Golf R. Under its subtly styled skin, the Golf R packs all-wheel drive, considerably more power and a more upscale interior. The GTI, however, stays true to its roots with its torquey engine and front-wheel-drive layout. So which of the two cars offers a better driving experience? Road Test Editor Kurt Niebuhr drives them back to back to find out.

Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] KURT NIEBUHR: On my left is the 2018 Volkswagen GTI. On my right is the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R. They both look pretty similar. So what makes this one the GTI, and what makes this one the R? Let's find out. [MUSIC PLAYING] The entry level 2018 Volkswagen GTI starts off at about $26,500 and goes up to what this car costs, about 36 grand. All GTIs come with front-wheel drive, four-cylinder, turbocharged engines. This particular GTI has the Autobahn trim, which comes with bigger brakes, the same size brakes that you can get on the Golf R. The 2018 Golf R starts at about 39 to 40 grand with a 6-speed manual. It's also a two liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but it has all-wheel drive. This particular one has the DSG automatic. That bumps the price up closer to 41 grand. But there aren't really any other trims or options for the car. Is it really worth the extra money? [MUSIC PLAYING] The GTI has chunked up a bit over the last 20 something years. And it tips the scales at 3,216 pounds. The Golf R weighs about 200 pounds more. But you wouldn't know it based on the way it accelerates. We ripped off a zero to 60 time at 4.7 seconds. Shifts from the DSG were quick and aggressive, even chirping second gear. And the engine pulled hard right through the quarter mile. Try as we might, we just couldn't get the GTI to hook up. And our zero to 60 time suffered as a result. We suspected the Pirelli all seasons as the culprit and confirmed that suspicion as the day went on. Braking in the R was impeccable with consistent stopping distances and a low 106 foot range. The Golf R is faster for obvious reasons. It has more horsepower, But what's it like to drive? That's the important part. [ENGINE ROARING] One of the benefits to all-wheel drive is that you can use all of the power and the torque that the engine is making. The Golf R has all-wheel drive. So I can come out of a really tight hairpin, like this one, and I don't have to worry about feathering the throttle, managing wheel spin. I can just mash it. Even though you can get a 6-speed manual in this car, which is great, I love the fact that you can get a manual, the DSG is a fantastic gearbox. It's really fast. It's right with you. It knows what I want. It knows when I lift off not to upshift. It knows when I hit the brakes really hard like this. It goes down through the gears for me. It's a great gearbox. A great gearbox. [ENGINE ROARING] If I had one complaint about the Golf R is its weight. It just can't get away from how much it weighs. The front tires can get overworked and overheated pretty quickly if you start to push too hard. That's not saying that they're weak. You can cover ground at a pretty quick pace and they'll hold up just fine. But if you overdrive it, you'll lose the front tire. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think the Golf R is the pinnacle of practical performance. It's compact. It's fast. It has a hatchback. So if you really have your heart set on that nonexistent Audi S3 hatchback in the US, this is the car that you have to buy. Oh, it's good. [MUSIC PLAYING] So because the GTI isn't as fast, it doesn't have the raw speed of the R, you've got to work a little harder to make it go fast. But that's fun. And that's kind of always been the point of the GTI. You work hard and you're rewarded. I like that. [ENGINE ROARING] So this has front-wheel drive, not the all-wheel drive, which means you've got to pay attention on slow corner exits like this one. You come into it, and you can't just mash it. You've got to wait. And you still get wheel spin on the inside. This car does have an electronic limited slip, which helps a little bit, but you're still wasting power with wheel spin. It's really hard to find fault with a manual transmission in the GTI. It's just so intuitive. It's so easy to just rev match. Up shifts are positive every time. The gates are well defined. The action is right. There's really no reason not to buy the 6-speed manual. There really isn't. There is one knock against the GTI. I've got to say, it's the tire choice. These Pirelli all seasons just don't do the car justice. The chassis feels really good, and even without a limited slip in the front, or a proper limited slip in the front. It's still really playful. But the tires just give up really quickly. And they are loud and squealy. Listen to that. I wish this thing came with summer tires. The 2018 Golf GTI, it's got different ingredients, but it's the same recipe. What's not to like? Maybe besides the tires. Clearly, we love the GTI for the driving experience. It's fun, it's rewarding. But as the price climbs with options, it makes less and less sense. A $36 thousand GTI is a little hard to swallow, especially when the Golf R is looming just a few thousand dollars more. While the price tag might seem a bit expensive, the more time we spent in and around and driving the R, the more we were smitten with its mix of performance and comfort. At $40 thousand, we think it's right on the money. [MUSIC PLAYING] For more videos like this, hit subscribe. For full reviews on these VWs, be sure to go to Edmunds.

What's the Difference Between a Golf GTI and Golf R?
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hatchback buying info

  • Market Segment
  • Price
  • Performance & MPG
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Interior
  • Cargo Space
  • All-Wheel Drive
  • Transmission Types
  • Cost to Own

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