Johannesburg - South Africa’s compact hatch game has seen a great deal of action in the past year, with big players such as the all-new Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta having hit local streets during 2018.

The good news is that new models will continue to stream in, despite the tough economic times, and many car companies moving away from smaller passenger cars due to the global market’s insatiable appetite for SUVs.

The most keenly anticipated hatch is Volkswagen’s eighth-generation Golf, which is expected to hit international markets in early 2020. As it hasn’t been officially revealed yet, it’s not included it in this list, but the next Golf is expected to raise the technological bar for hatchbacks in more ways than one and it could be well worth the wait if you’re prepared to hold off that purchase until 2020.

But what else is on the hatch horizon in the next year? Let’s take a closer look.

Audi A1

Now available exclusively as a five-door, the second-generation Audi A1 is set to hit our shores later this year. Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, the newcomer also has a more mature and muscular design that’s sure to raise its status in the premium hatch game.

Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but it is likely to be offered with a choice of 1.0 (85kW), 1.5-litre (110kW) and 2-litre (147kW) turbopetrol engines mated to either manual or dual-clutch gearboxes.

Inside, a full-colour touch-screen system (similar to the units fitted to the new A8 and A6) will be available for all models and buyers will be able to upgrade to the full Audi Virtual Cockpit experience, complete with digital instrument cluster. Fit and finish is also excellent, judging by our observations on the international launch, and the cabin, with various two-tone accents, has a more youthful charisma.

Mazda3

The all-new Mazda3, due to reach our shores during the second half of 2019, boasts an even more dramatic design than the current model, particularly in hatchback form with its swoopy C-Pillar that takes inspiration from the Kai concept car.

Inside, designers have taken a minimalist approach, with fewer buttons and knobs, while the central command system is a 22.3cm wide screen, operated as before through a console-mounted rotary dial.

Furthermore, Mazda is promising “dramatic improvements” in noise, vibration and harshness suppression and in the overall feeling of quality.

The South African engine line-up has not been confirmed as yet but an interesting option for buyers abroad is Mazda’s revolutionary new Skyactiv-X petrol engine, which features diesel-like compression ignition. These customers also get to choose from a range of carry-over Skyactiv-G normally aspirated petrol engines (in 1.5-, 2.0- and 2.5-litre guises) and the 1.8-litre Skyactiv-D turbodiesel.

There is no shortage of driver assistance gadgets on the menu, including Mazda’s Cruising & Traffic Support traffic jam assistance system, Front Cross Traffic Alert and Smart Brake Support.

Mercedes-AMG A35

Meet the new baby AMG. And no, the A35, does not replace the A45 but rather serves as something of a little sibling.

But there’s nothing little about its performance potential, the A35 aiming for the Golf R jugular with a 225kW, 400Nm version of the M 260 2-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine. Expect to get from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds.

Putting this fury to tar is a seven-speed DCT 7G dual-clutch automated gearbox and a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system that can send up to half of the torque to the rear wheels. Also part of the deal is an AMG exhaust system featuring an automatically controlled exhaust flap, modified electro-mechanical sports power steering and a high-performance braking system.

The A35 also gets a beefy styling package that includes 18-inch alloys, AMG Line front apron and twin-louvre grille, larger rear diffuser and tailgate lip spoiler.

You can expect the A35 and A45 to reach South African shores later in 2019.

Nissan Micra enhancements

Although the new, French-built Nissan Micra has already landed on South African shores, it is set for some early enhancements some time in 2019, Nissan SA tells us.

The Clio-based hatch was launched before the Renault-Nissan alliance’s new-generation engines and infotainment systems were ready, so now it’s simply getting with the programme.

Nissan SA has confirmed that local Micras will get new engines during the course of this year, and although it hasn’t confirmed exactly which engines are planned, the new 1-litre IG-T is looking set to take over as the mainstay of the range.

The 1.0 IG-T three-cylinder petrol, with electric turbo actuators for better response, takes over from the previous 0.9-litre motor, and it’s a bit brawnier too, with outputs rising to 74kW and 160Nm (from 66kW/140Nm). This engine can be mated to either a revised five-speed manual gearbox or Xtronic continuously variable (CVT) gearbox, in which case the torque output is restricted to 144Nm.

The other new engine announced in Europe is the 1-litre DIG-T unit with direct injection and gutsy outputs of 86kW and 180Nm. This sportier model also gets a six-speed 'box and 10mm-lower suspension.

The revised Micras also get a new NissanConnect 17.8cm touchscreen infotainment system, said to offer “significantly enhanced functionality” and featuring a customisable home screen, single line search and new features like ‘Find My Car’.

Opel Corsa GSI

Opel is bringing the GSI badge back with this new warm version of the Corsa that’s set to compete with the Suzuki Swift Sport.

Serving as a more affordable alternative to traditional hot hatches, the Corsa GSI is powered by a 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine that produces 110kW and 220Nm, with Opel quoting a 0-100km/h time of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 207km/h. Cogs are swapped the good old fashioned way, with a short-ratio six-speed manual gearbox doing service in the GSI.

The sporty model gets an OPC chassis and a distinctive GSI styling package that includes a redesigned front bumper with a honeycomb grille, carbon-look wing mirrors, side skirts and a large rear spoiler. Buyers can spice things up further with the chunky 18-inch alloys as seen in the pictures, which are an optional extra. 

Clients will also have to pay more for Recaro performance seats, although a bespoke sports steering wheel is standard, along with aluminium sport pedals. 

You won’t have to wait long to put one of these in the garage, with the Corsa GSI set to hit local showrooms in April.

Renault Clio

Given that the previous Renault Clio was praised for its curvaceous exterior but criticised for its cheap-looking cabin, it comes as little surprise that the new one looks similar on the outside but radically different on the inside.

Due to hit South African shores in late 2019 or early 2020, the new Clio has a much smarter looking cabin, brimming with soft-touch surfaces and decorative touches and featuring a brand new portrait-orientated, 23.6cm touchscreen. This is twice the size of the previous screen and incorporates the latest version of Renault’s EasyLink connected operating system.

The Clio also features a TFT digital instrument cluster for the first time, available in 17.8cm, 23.6cm and 25.4cm sizes. Numerous interior design schemes are available, along with an eight-colour mood lighting system.

The European engine range includes the same new 74kW 1-litre turbopetrol as the aforementioned Nissan Micra as well as a 96kW 1.3-litre turbopetrol, a pair of diesels, and an ‘E-Tech’ hybrid that mates a new 1.6-litre engine to an electric motor.

Local specs and prices will be released closer to launch.

Peugeot 208

But the Clio is not the only chic new French hatch heading our way.

Revealed alongside the aforementioned Renault at the recent Geneva Motor Show, Peugeot’s all-new 208 hatchback inherits some design flavour from its larger 508 brother, while also harking back to the legendary 205 in places.

Due to launch in South Africa some time in 2020, the new 208 is built on the company’s latest CMP platform. It’s 30kg lighter than its predecessor and packs many advanced technologies that you’d usually expect on larger cars, including Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, a new-generation Emergency Brake Assist system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Smartbeam headlights with automatic dipping and Driver Attention Monitoring, to name just a few.

Inside, the new 208 takes much inspiration from the 3008's gorgeous cabin, its ‘3D i-Cockpit’  design featuring ‘piano’ toggle switches and a 3D digital instrument panel. Various high definition touchscreen infotainment options are available, as is a configurable head-up display and an eight-colour LED mood lighting system.

Suzuki Swift GLX and Sport

Suzuki’s latest Swift range, with its super-keen pricing, has proven a hit on the local market since its introduction in 2018, but given that it is only available in low and mid-spec GA and GL model grades, you could say that the range is lacking a little fizz at present.

That is all set to change, however, with the introduction of GLX and Sport versions during the course of 2019.

The GLX, like its range siblings, will be sourced from India, which means it’ll retain the familiar 1.2-litre normally aspirated engine, but it will boast more cabin luxuries as well as external enhancements like alloy wheels.

But by far the most enticing prospect is the all-new Sport model, powered by Suzuki’s 1.4-litre ‘Boosterjet’ turbopetrol engine, good for 103kW and 230Nm, which will go a long way given that the car weighs a mere 970kg. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Other Sport perks include a racy body kit, with unique bumpers and grille, large dual tailpipes, sports seats, red cabin inlays and additional gauges for boost and oil temperature.

As the Sport will be imported from Japan, don’t expect it to be cheap however, with the price possibly hovering somewhere around the R300 000 mark.

IOL Motoring