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Sub-Compact Hatches: Alive and Thrashing

Seems the new-ish upstaged the genuinely exciting at this year’s Chicago Auto Show. Everyone is talking about Saturn’s Astra hatch, which is nothing more than a re-badged European Opel. Sure it looks good and will likely give the company’s lineup youthful verve. But, diehard hatch aficionados were drooling over another announcement, Volkswagen’s R32, a steroidal hot hatch suffering from equal parts voodoo and ADHD.

As if the truly good GTI didn’t pack enough of a punch, the 2008 VW R32 will arrive on American shores equipped with a rip-roaring 3.2 liter V6 that pumps out 250 horses and 236 lbs.-ft. of torque. True, the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and 2008 Subaru Impreza will have 300 horses or more when they hit streets. But, neither will have VW’s Direct Shift Gearbox or 4Motion all-wheel drive, which are both considered by many two of the best technology packages in the auto industry.

At $32,990 the market is sliver-thin. Indeed, only 5,000 models will be sold. But the R32 could act as a lust-inducing halo model that could help Rabbits and GTIs move off VW lots even faster.

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