Hot hatchbacks combine economy, sporty performance and appealing sticker price

(KABC) -- In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new concept car came out of Europe: the hot hatch.

It's a combination of an economy and a sporty performance car, and that formula is still appealing to buyers today.

If you're not quite ready for an SUV but want some utility and driving fun, it might be time to look into a hot hatch.

A great example is the one that got it all started: the Volkswagen GTI.

Yes, the little GTI ushered in the concept, back when the Golf was called the Rabbit in the U.S.

And to pay tribute to that first hot hatch, the new Rabbit Edition GTI is modern, but with throwback touches.

The plaid seats, the red logos, and even the shift knob molded like a golf ball are all signature things of the earlier example.

The GTI is still very fun to drive, carrying on that tradition from its predecessor.

Hyundai is offering up the same formula with its Elantra GT, now available in the performance themed N-line.

This is basically Hyundai's take on the hot hatch, with a stylish shape, huge cargo area, a powerful turbo engine and a sticker price of around $25,000.

The beauty of these hot hatches is that they really do fulfill both halves of the formula. The hatchback rear means lots of cargo space, but the rest of the car is fun to drive. Not only when you're carrying things, but especially when you're not.

And Honda has thrown down the hot hatch gantlet in a big way with the Civic Type R.

Over 300 turbocharged horsepower, massive wheels, tires and brakes, and a six-speed manual transmission.

Deeply sculpted sport seats hold you in place, and they're an eyeball-searing shade of red. And you'd better like red, as it's everywhere inside. But that's the price of admission to drive the hottest Civic Honda has ever sold.

These little gems may be a good fit for the times.

Back when that original GTI was in showrooms, people were trying to find something fun to drive that didn't cost too much. And drivers were worried about the high price of gasoline. Sound familiar? An old idea, with new takes on it.
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