The compact hatchback is a terrific choice for people who want all the benefits of a small car and a larger cargo area than the typical sedan provides. But what if you also want your hatchback to be fun to drive, too? For that, you should consider a “hot hatch,” a small car that combines the strengths of a hatchback with a powerful engine and sporty demeanor. Although various hot hatches have come and gone over the decades, the Volkswagen GTI has truly stood the test of time and has earned an almost iconic status since its introduction to the American market in 1983. Take a drive in a 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI, and you’ll quickly realize why this car has been so popular. Like the Golf upon which it is based, the Golf GTI offers plenty of practicality and near-luxury cabin materials.But that’s where these siblings split. The Golf is all about fuel efficiency and competitive pricing, and the GTI ups the ante with a punchy engine, a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission and stylish upholstery. The GTI rides much stiffer than the Golf, which degrades the car’s ride quality some, but the payoff is heroic stability and grip around turns. You can get the GTI with more features than the Golf, too. If you’re the kind of person who wants (and is willing to pay for) a complete all-rounder, check out the loaded Autobahn trim.Its adjustable suspension dampers allow you to soften the GTI’s ride for long-distance cruising or tighten things up on twisty backroads. You can further equip the Autobahn with an automated parking system and added safety features. If the Golf GTI doesn’t hit the right spot, however, you might consider several other hot hatches on the market instead. The Mini Hatchback comes in two- or four-door body styles, as well as a convertible if top-down adventuring is more your style. The 268-horsepower Subaru WRX is similar in price to the GTI, and it comes standard with weather-beating all-wheel drive. The 252-hp Ford Focus ST is another popular option and boasts a more comfortable ride. And if you have a need for speed that the GTI just won’t satisfy, you’ll want to think about the VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS or Subaru WRX STI.Overall though, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI ticks all the right boxes for those who prize fun and practicality. .