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Electric

Here are eight electric hot hatches from the past, present and future

Long live the hot hatch! The electric fightback is on

Renault 5 Turbo 3E
  1. BMW i3S

    BMW i3S

    We begin with a car that looks as though it could have been launched yesterday. The BMW i3, launched in 2013, was significant for much more than just its quirky looks, with its carbon fibre shell and lightweight aluminium chassis the perfect backbone for an urban EV.

    Four years after it was launched, BMW gave it a mid-life facelift, and introduced this… the hotter i3S. It received a 14bhp and 15lb ft power hike over the standard car for 182bhp and 199lb ft and a 0-62mph time of 6.9secs (up four tenths on the regular i3), as well as 10mm lower sports suspension, a 40mm wider track, and 20mm wider 20in wheels.

    BMW wasn’t done there either, with the i3S getting a dedicated Sport mode to prove its hot hatch credentials. And it worked: the i3S was actually fun to drive. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to protect it from the chopping block, with the final model rolling out the doors in 2022. RIP.

    Click here to read our review

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  2. Renault Zoe e-Sport

    Renault Zoe e-Sport

    While the BMW i3S perhaps didn’t look like a bonafide hot hatch, there can be no such arguments with the Renault Zoe e-Sport. Born at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, it was a concept designed to prove there was hope for the hot hatch in our new electric world.

    Under its carbon body (which helped keep weight to 1,400kg, 80kg less than the standard Zoe despite a 450kg battery pack on board) lay two electric motors, good for a combined 456bhp and 472lb ft of torque, a 0-62mph time in 3.2secs and 0-130mph in under 10secs, a tubular steel chassis, double wishbone suspension, and adjustable Ohlins dampers.

    Unusually for a concept car it was fully functional, so much so that Renault lent us the keys to have a go. We long hoped that Renault might be persuaded into turning it into a production car, though the Zoe's recent demise means this is now... unlikely.

    Click here to read our review

  3. Renault 5 Turbo 3E

    Renault 5 Turbo 3E

    Proof, if it were needed, that Renault just gets it when it comes to concept cars. And hot hatches in general, to be honest – see the Renault 5 Turbo and Clio V6. And it’s the former that’s inspired this: the Renault 5 Turbo 3E.

    Under its carbon fibre flanks lies a tubular chassis, FIA-approved rollcage and a pair of rear electric motors, delivering 375bhp and 516lb ft of torque, plus a 42kWh battery. Total weight is 1.5 tonnes (520kg of which is the battery), while Renault claims 0-62mph in 3.5secs and a 124mph vmax. But speed isn’t the outright goal here, drifting is – and drift it very much will.

    Indeed, it features a ‘Donut’ mode, steering with 50° of lock, a hydraulic handbrake, and plenty of Easter eggs including an LED lightbar that dances and flickers in tune with your drift, plus plenty of TikTok friendly camera mounts. Sadly, it’ll likely only ever be a one-off.

    Click here to read our review

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  4. Abarth 500e

    Abarth 500e

    And so we arrive at the first of the cars on our list that you can buy here and now. The 500e is Abarth’s take on the all-electric Fiat 500 (what a surprise!), with the headline stats 152bhp and 173lb ft, 0-62mph in seven seconds flat and a top speed of 96mph.

    You’ll have noted the slightly more assertive looks of course – bodykit, bigger wheels, front lip, rear diffuser etc – and the somewhat garish paintjob, but what you can’t see is the waterproof, mudproof speaker under the rear bumper designed to mimic the exhaust note of a petrol Abarth 695. Fun at first, but quickly gets annoying.

    More numbers? It weighs in at 1,410kg – hardly featherlight, but not bad for an EV, and it happily holds its own down a B-road too – while under the skin it gets a 42.2kWh battery for up to 164 miles of range. Prices start from £34,195, and the Cabrio from £37,195.

    Click here to read our review

  5. Cupra Born VZ

    Cupra Born VZ

    Launched back in 2019, the Cupra Born was the Spanish firm’s first all-electric model and, based on our six-month ownership, a pretty likeable one at that too. Now, there’s a hotter version on the way: meet the Cupra Born VZ, short for ‘veloz’, or ‘fast’ in English. Apt.

    We’re told power has been boosted by 40 per cent to 322bhp and torque by 75 per cent to 401lb ft over the regular Born, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds (down a whole second) and a limited top speed of 124mph (up by 25mph) compared to the previous quickest version. Sounds pretty darn healthy enough to us.

    That extra performance is complemented by chassis tweaks including a revised damper and spring setup, recalibrated steering and brakes, and bigger 20in rims, while Cupra quotes 335 miles of range thanks to its upped 79kWh battery capacity. Full prices to come later this year.

    Click here to find out more

  6. Mini Cooper SE

    Mini Cooper SE

    You’ll be familiar with the Mini Electric by now of course, with its 181bhp electric motor, 145-mile range and 32.6kWh battery. You’ll also likely know that there’s a new one on the way, and every version will wear the more performance focused Cooper nameplate.

    There’ll be two to choose from – E or SE – with the E (£30k) getting a 181bhp electric motor for a 0-62mph time of 7.3secs, and 190 miles of range from its 40.7kWh battery. The one we really care about however, is the SE (£34.5k), which gets a 215bhp motor that drops the 0-62mph time to 6.7secs, and 250 miles of range from its larger 54.2kWh battery. Phwoar.

    But Mini’s not stopping there. Stefan Floeck, Mini’s product line boss, has confirmed that an even schportier John Cooper Works version will join the party by 2025, leaving the door open for a fully fledged JCW GP variant to follow. For now, it’s watch this space…

    Click here to find out more

  7. Alpine A290

    Alpine A290

    We first heard Alpine was to make a hot version of the Renault 5 EV back in 2022, before the A290_β (Beta) was revealed in concept form last spring. Alpine is, of course, Renault’s performance arm, and both the 5 and A290 are edging ever closer to production.

    Full details are still under wraps, but we’re told it’ll be underpinned by Renault’s CMF-EV (‘common module family’) architecture and share the Megane E-Tech’s powertrain. That’s a car we like very much, and translates as a 217bhp electric motor and up to 280 miles from its 60kWh battery. Whether a more powerful version will follow is anyone’s guess.

    Style wise we’ve just these heavily camouflaged shots to go on, but we can pick out the front spotlights, ‘X’ signature graphic headlights and 19in wheels, while inside we know it’ll get a steering wheel and seats but little else. Come June 2024, all will become clear.

    Click here to find out more

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  8. Volkswagen ID.GTI

    Volkswagen ID.GTI

    Many thought our brave new electric era would signal the end of the GTI badge, but Volkswagen has now confirmed that it’ll live on, beginning with this: the ID.GTI. Hardly the most imaginative of names, but at least it’ll be easy to remember.

    Smart looking thing too, isn’t it? Based on the ID.2all concept revealed in March 2023, it retains several much-loved GTI design cues, including the red grille surround, tartan seats, and golf ball finish to the rotary dial on the interior console. We’re told it’ll measure 4.1m long, 1.8m wide, and 1.5m tall, and get five seats and a 490-litre boot. No messing.

    If you’re wondering why we haven’t given you any powertrain specifics yet, it’s because, well, aside from being FWD and getting the electronic, front locking differential that debuted on the GTI and GTI Clubsport, there aren’t any. Should be... quick, though.

    Click here to find out more

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