The Hot Hatch Lot: Meet the Icons of the Electric Age

If your stance on hot vehicles is decidedly old school – unless you’re jerking a wheel, shifting from second to third shift and feeling dizzy from the fumes, then what’s the point? – Mini got you. However, if you’re an EV convert with a hot itch to scratch, then Mini might also be the way to go. You look at the all-new one – featuring a dinner plate-sized OLED touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard – and the big news is that all three- and five-door hatches, regardless of power output, now carry the cheeky Cooper badge, while the range is neatly split in half between EV and petrol.

Be honest, would you consider it a brand new car? Let’s file it under the evolutionary category, although Mini probably paid millions to a marketing consultancy to develop a name for this new design language: “Charismatic Simplicity.” Essentially, Mini took as many bits out of the old car as possible, so there’s no more chrome, no more black plastic around the wheel arches, super short overhangs and flush door handles and the results are… slippery.

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Photography: John Wycherley, Olgun Kordal. Renderings: Andrei Avarvarii

This one is the £34.5k Cooper SE (S for more hp, E for electric) with the larger 54.2 kWh battery for 250 miles of range, plus a 215 hp motor for a sprint 0 to 62 mph time of 6.7 seconds. It’s also available in the top-spec Sport trim which adds purely cosmetic JCW goodies – roof spoiler, side skirts, front splitter – but no adjustments to the suspension. Do you feel less spicy? You can order the Cooper E for £30,000 with a 40.7 kWh battery, 190 miles of range, 181 hp and 0-62 mph in 7.3.

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In the gasoline corner, we have the Cooper C and Cooper S. The entry-level C comes with a 156-hp three-cylinder engine, while the S gets a more spirited 204-hp four-cylinder – good for 0 to 100 km/h in 6.6. Both are much cheaper, starting at £22,300 and £26,700 respectively, which is rather rain on the EV parade. Still, it’s no secret that electric variants cost more, but it’s rarely as striking with identical-looking, equipped and powered siblings.

Of course, the Mini range will not stop there. A new JCW model, featuring a wider arch and stiffer springs, will follow and keep things fair and equal, with a petrol version arriving first, in late 2024, and an electric version in 2025. Expect that that both hover around the 250 hp mark and remain at the front. -wheel drive, leaving room for a cracker, JCW GP of over 300 hp to bring up the rear.

Want your 5 with a little more va va voom? You won’t have to wait long until Renault runs it through the Alpine filter, massages all the right places and produces this icy hot mini upgrade, as previewed in the A290 concept_β typographically awkward last spring. The production model’s debut is confirmed in June 2024. Rumors suggest its reveal will coincide with the full WEC debut of the A424 hypercar at Le Mans.

Full disclosure: Yes, the blue car in the rear angle above is a photorealistic rendering, not an official photo of the finished car… but hear us out. We know that the A290 will be based on the same AmpR Small platform as the Renault 5 and will use largely the same bodywork and components, we have the A290_β concept to use, and we have studied the photos (in the image gallery ) of a prototype tested in cold weather, which means we can build a solid image of the finished form.

Air vents in front of the rear arches, a deeper diffuser, a sharper front splitter and bulkier side skirts are all present and correct, along with a reinterpretation of the battery indicator on the hood. You’ll benefit from 19-inch wheels as standard and a choice of three specially developed Michelins, all marked A29: Pilot Alpin 5 winters, Pilot Sport EV for maximum range and Pilot Sport S5 for maximum performance. Exaggeration? Absolutely.

Like the R5, it will only use a single motor on the front axle – which is expected to be an adapted version of the Megane E-Tech’s 215bhp, although there is some speculation (mainly from us) according to which a 268 hp version could follow. Hello couple management. The battery will remain at 52 kWh, so expect the R5’s 248-mile range to be reduced.

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What is confirmed, by the fact that they burst through the camouflage above, is that the concept’s projector-style LEDs will adorn the front and announce the arrival of the A290 in your rearview mirror. They are a tribute to Alpine’s rally roots with a signature “X” graphic for the headlights. Inside, think R5 with firmer, bluer seats and an all-new steering wheel featuring a manettino-style mode switch, including an “OV” overtake throttle button that will help recover the last parking space in the supermarket parking lot.

There’s something about the VW ID.GTI concept that looks like RIGHT. Which is fortunate because it is a few inches away from the production car we will see in 2026, says VW, a year after the Cooking ID.2 went into production. Relief! The GTI badge lives on in the electric age, but wait a minute, don’t fast electric VWs wear the GTX badge these days? I’m confused.

You didn’t think VW was just going to throw away all that juicy GTI heritage over something trivial like the combustion engine becoming obsolete, did you? The truth is that he believes that GTI and GTX can live happily side by side, with the GTI applied to front-wheel drive electric sedans and the GTX reserved for larger, more powerful AWD SUVs and sedans. All of this fuels TG’s recent scoop that the ID.3 could get the boot when the next-gen electric Golf (and Golf GTI) arrives in a few years.

Let’s return to the ID.GTI which, almost 49 years after the revelation of the MkI Golf GTI, strives to channel the spirit of its very great-grandfather. Note the protruding front chin spoiler, tartan seats, 20-inch wheels designed to mimic the steelies of the original and dimpled golf ball finish on the wheel centers and rotary dial on the interior console . Select “Vintage” mode for the 10.9-inch digital cockpit in front of the driver and it will present you with the original GTI’s dashboard.

He strives to channel the spirit of his very great-grandfather

It looks shabby, doesn’t it? And yet, at 4.1m long, 1.8m wide and 1.5m high, it’s actually bigger than the Alpine, Mini and MkI Golf. It’s a proper five-seater with a 500-litre boot – not sexy, but significant.

Performance data remains a mystery, but VW has confirmed it will be front-wheel drive and the electronic front-locking differential that debuted on the GTI and GTI Clubsport, no less. When VW revealed the ID.2all concept in March 2023, it cited a single engine rated at 223 hp and a range of 280 miles. That seems a bit rich for the runabout model, our money’s on this being a taste of the GTI’s power.

And what about the actual driver connection to accompany the torque zap? More hints from VW: the driver will be able to configure the transmission, running gear, sound experience (fake engine noise?) and simulated gear shift (fake gear shift?) points. Apparently the “I” in GTI now stands for “intelligence” as well as “injection”. Consider us “interested.”