There’s a wildly diverse crop of new hatches at the 2014 Geneva motor show: a rear-drive city car, a firecracker of a crossover, new concept cars and even a lap time world record holder. Here are CAR’s Top 5 hatches of the 2014 Geneva show – and the customary dishonourable mention…
1. Mazda Hazumi
The Mazda Hazumi concept is essentially what the new Mazda2 will look like when it hits showrooms – and it’s set to give the mainstream makes a proper fight. Mazda isn’t just on a styling roll of late – even the Mazda3 and Mazda6 are arguably the most handsome cars in their respective classes – but are building cars that are sensibly priced, affordable-to-run and damn good fun to drive. The current Mazda2 was a breath of fresh air when it arrived in 2007, using the same underpinnings as the Ford Fiesta to good effect yet was let down by a less than impressive cabin. If Mazda can get the cabin right, build on the current car’s dynamic sparkle and wrap it up in the Hazumi’s hot body, then we may just forgive the ‘zoom-zoom’ nonsense.
2. Renault Twingo
Even if the new Twingo hadn’t plumped for an enthusiast-pleasing (and driver-exciting) rear-engined, rear-drive layout, we’d have still been impressed by Renault’s new baby. It looks just like the Twin’Run/Twin’Z concepts we were teased with last year, and inside it’s far funkier than a VW Up, with a faired-in touchscreen dashboard, attractive steering wheel and bright colour schemes. Most of the switchgear seems to have come from the Clio too – which now looks rather frumpy in comparison. Given the new Twingo is a five-door only, will be cheaper than the Clio and boast that headline RWD set-up, it might be about to make the Clio look very old hat. Hooray from French innovation, also back with a vengeance in Citroen’s C4 Cactus crossover.
3. Seat Leon Cupra
Golf R power and pace for Golf GTI money with even sharper looks? We had high hopes for the Leon Cupra when we first read the spec, and our first drive found it to be a brutally competent, genuinely fast, well-finished product. And now Seat’s gone and made it toast of the 2014 Geneva show by nuking the Nurburgring lap record. Not only is the 7min 58.44sec time a square poke in the eye for ex-record-holders Renaultsport, it’s also a shot across the bows of the Honda Civic Type R concept, which was unveiled not far from Seat’s celebrations at the Geneva show. Honda has been making a big noise about its new 300bhp superhatch ruling the ’Ring – and for the time being, Seat’s stolen Honda’s thunder. Now that’s what we call a proper launch strategy.
4. Toyota Aygo
The Toyota Aygo is the funkiest of the new Peugeot-Citroen-Toyota city car trio – no mean feat against the French. Okay, its Batman villain mask is a little contrived, and from the back it errs towards the styling of the new MG3, yet somehow it all gels into a more modern yet just as cheeky design as the existing Aygo. Meanwhile, Toyota is making big noises about how its buying and ownership experience will top the Citroen C1’s and Peugeot 108’s. Most of all, it’s a relief that Toyota, which flogs desperately undesirable bilge like the Auris and Avensis, can still roll up its sleeves and create something with a dash of imagination – some controversy. Here’s hoping the bold persona hasn’t weighed the new Aygo down enough to stop it entertaining on the right road.
5. Nissan Juke Nismo RS
Create a Marmite car and you’ll make a stir – the Nissan Juke is proof. More than 420,000 Jukes have rolled off Sunderland’s production line since 2010, so we’ll forgive Nissan’s light-handed touch with the facelift. If it ain’t broke, and all that. Anyway, it means the Nismo skunkworks has been able to spend funds other brands would’ve wasted on new seat upholstery on hardware instead, making the quirky hot hatch better to drive. More power (up from 197bhp to 215bhp), bigger brakes, a stiffer body and best of all, a limited-slip front differential. You might prefer your hot hatches low-slung and old-school, but crossovers sell like hot cakes so we applaud Nissan for investing in a steroidal one.
Vauxhall Adam Rocks
Rocks in the head? The Adam needs new engines, to pension off the perilously outdated four-pots it currently wheezes along with. Not a high-riding, crossover version with a soft-top roof. Talk about a niche too far…
Fortunately, Vauxhall has confirmed a new 1.0-litre turbo three-pot is on its way to Adam duty later this year, joining a new turbocharged Adam S warm hatch in the range. Needless to say, those are sure to be the Adams to go for.