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Hot hatches have been, for the most part, conspicuously absent from the North American market. Sure, VW has been kind enough to share the GTI with us, but compared to the European market we’ve had pretty slim pickings when it comes to front-drive hatchbacks with bold styling and the performance to match.
Mazda did their best to put an end to that in 2007 though, blessing us with the first generation Mazdaspeed3 and then, in 2010, turning up the aggression with the even shoutier version in production today. One of the most powerful wrong-wheel drive cars ever offered to an American audience, we certainly found its 263-hp 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-banger to be plenty potent in a head-to-head matchup against the 2012 Honda Civic Si last year.
You wouldn’t know it based on their North American hatchback history, which has at best been lukewarm, but Ford has a long history of building some of the hottest hatches in Europe. Take the utterly bonkers 2011 Focus RS500, for example, a matte black and fender flared 350-hp beast that was only available in select European markets. But now, thanks to Ford’s world-market approach, we’ve finally been treated to a truly hot hatch for the domestic market, the 2013 Focus ST.
It may not be as over-the-top as the RS500, but with a 252-hp 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine, sophisticated European design inside and out, and some surprisingly advanced electronics controlling power delivery, it would certainly appear that the Focus ST is a very serious contender for the title of America’s hottest hatch. But
Comparing the two most stylish, efficient and fun family sedans by Mike Schlee
A lot can change in eight years. Just a short time ago, 2006 to be exact, Ford still held a one-third ownership stake in Mazda. The two companies were producing vehicles based on the same platform, and it was this year that the Mazda6-based Ford Fusion came to be. But like a Hollywood marriage, we all knew it had to end and Ford told Mazda “it’s me, not you” and left the zoom-zoom company behind.
As the life-cycles of these shared platform vehicles came to an end, it was time for the two companies to develop all-new models on their own. No longer would Ford and Mazda go on like a high school project, getting equal marks for a project in which one side did all the work.
Sibling rivalry has never been so much fun by David Pratte
If you’re a motorsports fan or weekend warrior who takes your car to the track, you’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow”. It’s tempting to write this off as a tired old cliché, but if you’ve ever driven a low-power but lightweight and nimble little sub-compact like the Mazda2, you’ll be familiar with the smile you tend to have on your face when you arrive at your destination.
That’s because there’s something inherently rewarding about fully wringing a car out, and if you’re driving a Porsche 911 or a Nissan GT-R, you simply can’t push it to its limit anywhere but at a race track. Hop behind the wheel of a plucky little hatchback like the Mazda2, though, and you can drive it like an utter hoon on public roads without exceeding the speed limit.
And if you want to take your shenanigans to the next level, for surprisingly little money you can prep it for road racing duty in the growingly popular B-Spec class and go rub shoulders (and maybe even trade a little paint) with pro drivers in the Pirelli World Challenge or Canadian Touring Car Championship.
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