In 2017, do vehicle segment labels even have any meaning anymore? Back in the dark ages of the 1970s we knew what a sport utility vehicle was. It was essentially a shortened body-on-frame pickup truck with an enclosed, but often removable rear body. But then in 1984, Jeep introduced the XJ Cherokee and it all began to change. Now a utility vehicle can be whatever an automaker’s marketing department deems it to be including a high-performance compact, hot hatch like the Mercedes-AMG GLA45.
Forty years ago, with the addition of three little letters to the compact Golf, Volkswagen established a market segment that persists to this day. The quick and sustained success of the GTI has since inspired virtually every automaker to create their own interpretation on the “hot hatch” idea. Over the years hot hatches have waxed and waned in popularity but they have never completely gone away and in recent years they have had something of a resurgence with cars like Ford’s Focus ST, Fiesta ST and my most recent ride, the Kia Forte5 SX.