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By 17 January 2013 | Categories: feature articles

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The latest luxury petite hatchbacks might be fitted with smallish fuel-efficient motors, but that doesn't mean they won't put a big smile on your face when on the road. Here are our top 5 choices.

Fiat 500 MY12 1.4 Lounge

Fiat 500 MY12 1.4 Lounge

The nostalgic, highly stylised design of the Fiat 500 shows that the Italians still have it, and certainly looks chic in a matte black paint finish on the limited edition version (pictured above). The Lounge's 1.4 litre engine produces 74 kW of power and 131 Nm of torque, which is enough to rocket this fashionable ride to 100 km/h in just over ten seconds, on to a top end of 182 km/h. Fuel usage is kept down to an economical 6.1 litres per 100 km.

Besides a radio with CD, MP3 player, as well as four speakers and two tweeters, the Lounge also sports a Blue&Me handsfree system that works via Bluetooth technology. Once this system has paired with your smartphone, it will enable you to make and receive calls and wirelessly stream music. The cost of kissing this Italian model is a cool R185 000.

Citroen DS3 VTi 120 Style

Citroen DS3 VTi 120 Style

At R216 400, the DS3 costs a substantial amount more than the Fiat 500, but you do get a lot more car for your money. Besides stylish looks and a good bit of extra head- and legroom for the rear passengers, it also packs a spacey 285 litre boot that offers an additional 100 litres of storage.

Since the DS3 is powered by a larger (1598 cc) four cylinder engine compared to the 500's 1.4 litre powerplant, it churns out more (88 kW) power and torque (160 Nm). This allows this French mademoiselle to propel her 1075 kg derriere from standstill to 100 km/h in less than nine seconds on to a top end of 190 km/h.

The DS3 is kitted to the hilt with tech that includes LED day running lights and a stereo radio/MP3 compatible CD player with steering mounted controls, but no standard Bluetooth connectivity.

Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 TBi Distinctive

Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 TBi Distinctive

Another eye catcher from Italy is the MiTo, which features the performance bite to back up its stylish bark, courtesy of a 1.4 litre, four cylinder turbocharged motor. The powerplant delivers 100 kW of power and 190 Nm at 4250 RPM in normal driving mode, up to 206 Nm at a low 1750 RPM in dynamic mode. This makes the MiTo the most powerful vehicle in this comparison and also the fastest, allowing drivers to rocket to a top speed of 207 km/h. More sensible owners should keep fuel usage down to 5.6 l/100 km.

Alfa recently updated the MiTo, adding auto start/stop technology as standard, 16" alloy wheels, electric power steering, LED rear lights, air-conditioning and a six speaker MP3-compatible CD audio system. All this tech will cost you though, to the tune of R243 650.

Mini Cooper

Mini Cooper

The Mini created the small premium car category and remains the benchmark for the vehicles in this class. Its Bavarian powerplant produces 90 kW of power at a symphonic 6000 RPM and 160 Nm of torque at 4250 RPM. It propels the car from standstill to 100 km/h in around nine seconds, on to an illegal terminal top-end of 203 km/h.

This power output compliments its wide track, long wheelbase, and low centre of gravity, equating to the Mini's biggest selling factor (well, besides the appeal of the brand of course), namely best in class handling. Out of all these cars, the Mini is the one we would pick for a day out on Kyalami.

Although the Mini is big on sportiness, it loses out in terms of practicality, since it features the smallest boot (160 litres) and the second smallest fuel tank capacity here at 40 litres. RRP: R227 500.

Audi A1 1.4T Attraction

Audi A1 1.4T Attraction

Ingolstadt's smallest and most accessible Audi, the A1, is arguably the Mini's closest rival, as it features an equally appealing badge, best-in-class crafted interior and head-turning design. Its sporty 1.4 TFSI engine cranks out 90 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque at a low 1500 RPM, enabling the A1 to a terminal velocity of 203 km/h, whilst keeping fuel usage below six litres per 100 km (but not at the same time).

At a recommended retail price of R235 000, this baby isn't cheap, but even worse is that you have to fork out for a lot of the options that most of the other vehicles include as standard. For example, the Audi Sound System with Bose speakers goes for an additional R3 200 whilst the Bluetooth wireless audio kit adds another R4 200 to the RRP.

Despite this, the Mini Cooper might be our choice for track day, but for every other occasion the A1 is the one to have. [HD]

 

 This article was first published in TechSmart issue 112, January 2013.

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