8 FWD Cars That Are More Fun Than a Golf GTI
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the benchmark for hot hatchbacks and should be on everyone’s shortlist. The Golf GTI was presented for the first time in 1976 and took off with it hot hatch trend and made it a segment that is still going strong today.
The modern iteration of the Golf GTI Mk8 features a 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharger – in use since the Mk6 GTI – that produces 240 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels only via a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The GTI accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.3 seconds and reaches a top speed of 250 km/h. Since the Mk5 GTI regained the crown, the GTI has been the hottest choice thanks to its handling, performance and practicality. The Golf GTI Mk7 was even considered by many to be the perfect all round car and Jeremy Clarkson even bought one to prove it.
But while the GTI is a great car, it can get a bit clinical. The new Mk8 GTI builds on the Mk7.5 but has been heavily criticized thanks to the goofy interior climate control system. Because of this, many have looked to exciting rides from other manufacturers – ones that are a little more playful. This means that there are currently 8 front-wheel drive cars for sale that are more fun than a Golf GTI.
8th Hyundai i30 N
The Hyundai i30 N has made a lot of waves since its launch in 2020 and is specifically designed to battle the likes of the VW Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R. The i30 N was recently updated along with the regular i30 in the mid update cycle.
The updated hot hatch makes 280 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque, with power going to the front wheels only through a 6-speed manual or 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Hyundai i30 N is a fun car thanks to the bang and pop of the exhaust, but it beats the GTI thanks to the extra power.
7 Mini Cooper JCWGP
The Mini Cooper has had great success since BMW bought the marque in the early 2000s. Since then, the company has released a souped-up version of the top-of-the-line John Cooper Works for each generation of Mini Cooper – the JCW GP.
The current JCW GP has a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that produces 302 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels only via an 8-speed automatic transmission, allowing the GP to accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds. The Mini Cooper JCW GP is just a funnier car with an aggressive body kit and a huge wing on the roof.
6 Renault Mégane RS
The Renault Mégane RS is one of the best of the larger hot hatchbacks currently for sale. Powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four borrowed from Nissan, the engine produces 280 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque in RS 280 trim.
Power is sent to the front wheels only via a 6-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic transmission. The front axle also features a sophisticated electronic differential that helps reduce power. The Mégane RS is a really good looking car with great performance. The only negative aspect is that there is no manual gearbox as an option.
5 Ford Fiesta ST
The Ford Fiesta ST has been heralded by many as the best compact hot hatch on the market. While most hot hatchbacks have adopted overly complicated systems and tremendously powerful engines, the Fiesta ST has stayed true to the original hot-hatch formula.
The current generation Fiesta ST is powered by a small 1.5-liter inline-3 turbocharger that sends almost 200 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels only through a 6-speed manual transmission. (No car is available.) The Fiesta ST is a great and nimble little car that can crank around corners on a racetrack with ease – much like the hot hatches of the 1980s and 1990s.
4 Skoda Octavia RS
The Skoda Octavia doesn’t seem like a fun car, but it’s based on the Golf. The Octavia vRS is a Golf GTI among them, with the same technology and features but in a more practical body and a bit cheaper.
The Octavia vRS is even available as a diesel and as a hybrid – like the Golf GTD and GTE. Unlike the Golf, the vRS can be fitted with all-wheel drive as an option, making it even more practical and fun to throw around while retaining the attitude of the regular GTI. What’s not to like?
3 BMW 128ti
The BMW 128ti is the pure front-wheel drive version of the top-of-the-range M135i – and also revives the ‘ti’ or Turismo Internazionale badge last used on the 325ti E46 3 Series Compact. Before that it was used on the 1800 TI and 2002 TI from the 1960s and 1970s respectively.
The 128ti has more grunt than the Golf GTI, and on a race track it’s difficult to get the Bimmer to misbehave – which is a good thing. While some reviewers have noted that the 128ti felt a bit numb, they also noted that it’s a lot of fun to drive — even just around town.
2 Chevrolet Cobalt SS
The Chevrolet Cobalt SS was GM’s version of a fast and sporty hatchback/coupe. The Cobalt SS featured a supercharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that could be upgraded with a dealer package that increased power to 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Later, Cobalt SSs were converted to turbocharged engines to meet the new emissions regulations, and the dealer upgrade then bumped the power output to 290 hp, giving the turbocharged Cobalt SS the highest specific horsepower of any GM-powered car at the time. How cool is that?
1 Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R is the most popular Japanese hot hatchback and has been around since 1997. The first, second and third Civic Type R were powered by high-revving 4-cylinder engines, before the fourth, fifth and upcoming sixth generation Type R took over 2.0-liter turbocharged engines.
The Type R is a brilliant hot hatch and certainly one of the best all-front-wheel drive cars in the world – although the styling of the latter two has been somewhat controversial. The Type R beats the Golf GTI with its increased performance on every route, but it’s also a lot of fun in everyday life. So while the Golf GTI is the best all-round hatchback on offer, other alternatives might be a little more fun.