Hatchbacks are Europe's most popular class of cars - and here's a full load of new models arriving at the dealers soon. Andreas Conradt has it all.

They all want to play Golf

Hatchbacks are Europe’s most popular class of cars – and here’s a full load of new models arriving at the dealers soon. Andreas Conradt has it all.

Being the successor of the current 147, the new Alfa 149 will make it to the dealers in around two years’ time. The sharp-cut face of today’s car will be replaced by a somewhat rounder front. The car will also feature very prominent flanks and, of course, the typical Alfa grille. Available again in 3- and 5-door guise, the new 149 will be as sporty as the outgoing model and will be available with petrol engines between 110 and 160 bhp. Diesel units will be offered as well, and they will deliver 120 and 150 bhp respectively.

If you like Alfa’s departure from the design of today’s car, then you won’t probably be disappointed by the new Fiat Stilo, too, because the Turin manufacturer’s midsize hatch, as well, will be quite different from the model it replaces. With prominent wheel arches and a huge flat front grille, the new Stilo will definitely raise eye bows when it hits the road in summer 2008. Technology under the bonnet won’t differ much from today’s model, with petrol engines covering the range between 95 and 170 bhp and diesel units delivering between 100 and 150 bhp. The car will come in 3- and 5-door guise, but an estate version hasn’t received the green light yet as it might be too close to the Croma.

This might look like a normal Korean car and it might be just another Golf competitor. But there’s still something special to this Kia ED: The five-door hatch is the first Kia that was penned in Europe and will be built there, too. Code-named “ED” (for European Design), this Cerato successor was designed in the Rüsselsheim development-centre in Germany and will be built in Zilina in the Slovak Republic where the Koreans are planing to open a new factory this year. The new car will be equipped with six airbags, ESP and diesel engines ranging from 88 to 136 bhp. An estate will follow in 2007. To make the new Zilina factory profitable, sister company Hyundai is building their new Accent, which is based on the same platform as the “ED”, on the same belts.

So far, the IS is the smallest car on offer from Japanese luxury brand Lexus – but that could soon change. Rumours suggest that a smaller hatchback is in the pipeline, and we have dared drawing it on the computer. With power between 130 and 250 bhp it would fit quite well into Lexus’ line-up and would be a serious competitor to the BMW 1-series as well as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. We expect it to come in 5-door guise only – but then again we’d love to see it with only three doors as we imagine it would be a true pocket rocket on wheels.

Right at the opposite end of the price range will be the new Skoda Fabia which is said to grow substantially in size – with only a little extra over the price of the current model. Taking design clues from the brand-new Roomster, the new Fabia will certainly become as popular as the current car. While today’s model has to do with engines between 54 and 116 bhp ((65 – 131 bhp for diesel engines), the new Fabia will definitely get more powerful engines as it will be heavier due to its bigger size. We expect it to be available as a sedan and estate, too, but the hatchback will be the first to be seen. Presentation is scheduled for the Geneva Motor Show in March 2007.

And here it is now. The original. The car that gave a whole class its name. The Volkswagen Golf. Always primus inter pares. But, wait: the gloss is gone from the paint! The current Golf doesn’t sell as well as its predecessors – and much less than expected. Customers say it’s too expensive and not by far as reliable as they had hoped. Wolfsburg really has to react in order to avoid loosing yet more customers to the competition. And they do. With this one: the new Golf VI.

To cut costs, the current car’s basic platform will be carried over, but it will be tweaked to allow VW to employ the latest manufacturing techniques. To increase the family hatch’s showroom appeal, the Golf VI will get a more pronounced waistline and an altogether overhauled exterior as well as a new dashboard which is expected to look more adventurous than the one in today’s car. AQ top priority will be to incorporate new technology with a dedicated dock for MP3 players in the armrest and provision for the latest wireless electronic gadgets. Under the bonnet, the current FSI petrol and TDI diesel powerplants will carry over, while the firm’s supercharged and turbocharged TSI system will be applied to more engines. The first TSI was a 1.4-litre unit, but larger capacity motors are set to employ the same set-up – a 2.0-litre version could even power the next GTI.

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