Not to be outdone by VW, Mercedes is plotting to extend the performance of the A45 through a lift in the output of its highly strung turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, which already has the highest specific output of any series-production four-pot, at 177bhp per litre.
An AMG insider told Autocar: “We’re not going to simply rest on our laurels. We already have certain developments in store for the M133 [the internal codename for the A45’s engine] that will see us retain a competitive edge if and when our rivals do catch up.”
Although Mercedes’ performance car division denies plans for an A45 AMG Black Series model, work is progressing under the watchful eye of the company’s new engine boss, Christian Enderle, on raising its specific power output close to 200bhp per litre to meet the 395bhp target set by the Golf R400.
Another high-powered rival to the new Focus RS will be the second-generation Audi RS3. Set to make its debut at the Paris motor show in October, it will continue with a turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol, albeit one that has been heavily updated to meet stringent Euro 6 emissions standards.
Although it is shrouded in secrecy, Audi sources suggest that the output of the new RS3’s engine will increase to a level similar to that of the earlier RS3 Plus, which offered a 20bhp increase on the standard first-generation RS3, at 355bhp.
Even though they are unlikely to offer quite the same level of power as the German trio, work is also progressing on other exciting hot hatchbacks, including the Peugeot 308 R, Honda Civic Type R, Vauxhall Astra VXR and a go-faster version of the Hyundai i30 developed by the firm’s newly formed N performance car division.
Hot hatch rivals - what's coming when
Audi RS3 - 2015
The new RS3 is now only three months away from its debut at the Paris motor show. The turbocharged 2.5 five-cylinder engine will deliver about 355bhp. Quattro all-wheel drive will feature.
Honda Civic Type R - 2015
Honda has already claimed that the new Civic Type R will be the fastest front-wheel-drive hot hatchback ever to lap the Nürburgring. A 2.0-litre turbocharged engine will produce about 300bhp.
Peugeot 308 R - 2016
Peugeot Sport is working on a production version of the 308 R concept. Expect a 270bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine driving the front wheels and some use of carbonfibre.
Mercedes A45 AMG - 2016
Mercedes-Benz will look to respond to the threat from the Volkswagen Golf R400 by making an even more potent version of the A45 AMG. Any power output up to 400bhp is possible.
VW Golf R400 - 2016
VW is now working on a production version of its well-received R400 concept car. Likely to make it into production largely unchanged, the R400 will use a 395bhp 2.0 turbo.
Hyundai i30 N - 2017
Hyundai has launched a new performance division called N, which aims to link the company’s rally programme to its road cars. A hot version of the i20 is likely to come first, followed by an i30 N.
Vauxhall Astra VXR - 2017
A new five-door Astra is due in 2015, with a sportier three-door version set to appear a year later. This will spawn another VXR model, which is sure to be the fastest, most powerful Astra yet seen.
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