Ferrari stole the Geneva motor show with its sexy new flagship, but the fierce action around the halls centred around the new breed of premium-Euro hatchbacks.
Audi A3 was the first to have its covers pulled off. It is also the first VW Group product to utilise its fresh MQB platform destined to spread its engineering parts over everything from Polo to Passat. It may look like a facsimile of any recently-launched Audi, but the new platform and a breed of new engines, including a 132kW 1.8-litre turbo-petrol, should ensure the A3 is a dramatically improved drive.
Across the corridor was a rival desperate to secure a greater slice of the Euro-premo-hatch action. The all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is easily the lowest, sportiest generation ever. Gone is tall-boy functionality, replaced by squat styling backed by a new 155kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four. Mercedes’ engineering might will hopefully ensure this A-Class is an A-grade drive to match its larger C-Class and E-Class siblings.
Meanwhile, France and Sweden participated in a power war. Citroen’s DS4 Racing concept offers a staggering 191kW from its tuned 1.6-litre turbo four. Only slightly less grunty, but production-ready, is the Volvo V40. The flagship T5 sends 187kW to the front hoops via a six-speed manual transmission.
Buyers will need to step up to the rear-drive BMW M135i Concept to beat that sort of grunt in a small hatchback body. A 225kW 3.0-litre turbo six is shoehorned under the bonnet of this confirmed-for-production (and for Australia) ultra-hot hatch. Buyers not quite so well-heeled can, from next month, opt for a 125i hatch with a 160kW 2.0-litre turbo four for a Golf GTI-rivalling $45,700.
Finally, Peugeot promises to rekindle the spirit of its legendary 205 GTi with the new 208 GTi. Refreshingly, it’s smaller and lighter than the outgoing 207, yet scores a 150kW 1.6 turbo four. Hopefully its chic styling is more than a match for its dynamics.
The fight between these six Euro hatches is ready to roll. For more details on each model, see the Wheels, April 2012 issue, on sale March 16.