In the early 2000s, motorists looking for a wallet-friendly hot hatch had many choices.
For example: the Ford Fiesta ST, Mazda 3 MPS, Opel Corsa OPC, Renault Clio RS, and VW Polo GTI.
Yes, a handful of these names still exist, but if you’re not willing to spend upwards of R600,000 on a high-performance hatchback in 2021, you’re unlikely to walk away with anything other than the newest VW Polo GTI.
While there is no definitive answer for why so many of these cars are unavailable today, we set out to find the manufacturer’s reasons for taking their particular hot hatch off the local market.
Ford Fiesta ST
In 2019, local Ford fans were met with a sad announcement when the company said the fastest version of its seventh-generation Fiesta will not be coming to South Africa.
At the time, CARmag reported that Ford South Africa said: “The Fiesta ST will unfortunately not be coming to SA, due to our fuel quality.”
A while later, the company announced that the ST brand will be discontinued in South Africa, citing a shrinking small-car segment and weaker demand for its ST variants.
While we do have the standard Fiesta on offer, South Africans are missing out on a good-looking, compact hatch that can sprint to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds – something which other right-hand-drive markets like the UK and Australia still enjoy.
Mazda 3 MPS
The first Mazda 3 MPS saw the light of day in 2007 at the Geneva International Motor Show.
Although it was more of a competitor to the Golf GTI rather than the Polo GTI, it was added to this list to convey the decline of the hot hatch from multiple brands.
It featured a sleek design, semi-bucket seats, and a powerful 2.3-litre, turbocharged engine.
It immediately became the enthusiasts’ Mazda.
The success of the first generation inspired a second, which would become the last Mazda 3 MPS on the market.
In a 2020 interview published by Roadshow, a spokesperson for Mazda said the brand was moving away from its “Zoom-Zoom” days in pursuit of a more mature market and tried-and-true models.
This led to intense development of the company’s Skyactiv engines that can be found in most of its vehicles of today.
Opel Corsa OPC
The Opel Corsa OPC made its way onto the high-performance hatch scene in 2007, with another generation following in 2014.
The Corsa OPC was noticeably quicker than the 1.8-litre Polo GTI of the time, while also offering a unique look and sporty interior that made it stand out from the crowd.
According to a 2018 report by Autocar, the Opel Performance Centre (OPC) brand was shelved as part of the company’s plans to push the GSi specification as its main performance derivative.
The Grand Sport Injection (GSi), while generally tamer than an OPC, is a name that harks back to high-performance vehicles from the 1980s and 90s.
Renault Clio RS
The Renault Clio RS was available in South Africa up to 2018, but was discontinued globally the following year.
This sporty Renault was arguably one of the better-looking hatchbacks on the road, and it offered a thrilling driving experience thanks to a 1.6-litre, turbo-petrol engine.
In a report by Drive in 2019, a Renault executive said a Clio RS would simply be too expensive to build in today’s market.
“Today, a Clio RS would need very elaborate technology to reach lower CO2 levels,” said Ali Kasai, executive vice president of product planning at Renault at the time.
“And by keeping the high performance necessary for such a vehicle, you would have to charge such a big premium that those customers would be mostly unable to afford it.”
“At the moment, even if we love sporty cars, as is our history, we can’t find the solution to that equation – it’s impossible.”
In 2021, Renault dealt another blow – confirming that the Megane hatchback, including the fire-breathing Megane RS 300 Trophy, was being discontinued in South Africa.
“Some brands are moving away from C-Hatch to B-SUV globally, as the C-Hatch segment is declining in the local market and the B-SUV segment is growing,” Renault told TopAuto.