Currently reading: Seven key rivals the Ford Focus RS must beat
Ford's upcoming high-performance Focus set to battle Volkswagen's new 395bhp flagship Golf, as well as rivals from Mercedes, Audi and Honda

The spectacular new Ford Focus RS is set to encounter a raft of even more powerful and potentially faster rivals in a burgeoning global market of performance hatchbacks when it reaches showrooms in 2016.

Key among them is a production version of the Volkswagen Golf R400, which, company officials have revealed, has entered an initial stage of development after an enthusiastic response to its public debut at the Beijing motor show last April.

Created by VW’s increasingly prominent R division, the extreme four-wheel-drive hatchback is scheduled to be produced in limited numbers and priced above the recently introduced third-generation Golf R, upon which it is heavily based. It will be a competitor to some highly fancied machinery, including the upcoming second-generation Audi RS3, BMW M235i and more powerful version of the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.

The production version of the R400 is earmarked to get the same version of VW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as that showcased by the concept.

Developed under the watch of the German car maker’s petrol engine boss, Fritz Eichler – the man behind the A45’s similarly configured powerplant – it kicks out 395bhp at 7200rpm and 332lb ft of torque between 2000rpm and 6000rpm.

The prodigious reserves are sufficient, according to VW’s own performance figures, to provide the 1420kg Golf R400 with a 0-62mph time of just 3.9sec – 1.0sec faster than the Golf R and 0.7sec faster than Mercedes claims for the A45 AMG. An official 174mph top speed is also 19mph up on the governed 155mph of the Golf R and A45 AMG.

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.

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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. 

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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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antwan 20 July 2014

Not fussed about a 400bhp

Not fussed about a 400bhp Golf. I would rather have a 250-300bhp Up! Hell even a 200 brake Jazz would be more fun!!
fadyady 20 July 2014

Ahem! Strangely

no mention of the BMW 1M-Series? Also no mention that Mercedes expressed their intent to build AMG 400 before we ever heard any mention anywhere of R Division?
Will86 20 July 2014

Will it be any fun?

I have high hopes for the Focus RS and Civic Type R but the others leave me cold. Anyone can make a car fast and anyone and push the loud pedal to the floor, but how will it feel and sound? Send me in the direction of an M135i any day.