Best cheap hot hatchbacks

Need a car that delivers on power as well as practicality? You could do worse than these cheap hot hatches

There comes a point in every motorist’s life where the need for a practical car becomes inescapable. For some it happens the moment they pass their test, while others manage to hold off for a while longer until growing families and stretched finances take their toll.

But while the inevitable will catch up with everyone, that shouldn’t mean that you have to do without a car that’s fun and engaging to drive. Fortunately manufacturers understand this conundrum, which is why the hot hatchback exists to bring us driving thrills combined with real-world usefulness.

And if you can fulfil these criteria while keeping your expenditure down, then you really are onto a winner. The used car market is awash with cheap hot hatchbacks, meaning that there should be something out there for everyone across a wide variety of budgets.

• Buying a used car – your complete guide

What model you go for really does depend on what your priorities are. For example, something like a Volkswagen Golf GTI from 2005 will give you 197bhp to play with on your local B-road, and will still accommodate five passengers in a way that a Mazda MX-5 simply can’t.

A Mk2 Ford Focus RS on the other hand will give you even more power at 300bhp, while still allowing for plenty luggage space. If you want almost supercar levels of pace, though, then the 395bhp Audi RS 3 could the one you want.

• Best hot hatchbacks on sale

This list features a range of new and used cars to help you find the perfect car whatever your budget. As with any used car, a thorough inspection and test drive is advised before you part with any cash. Remember that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is, and that paying a little extra for something that has a full service history, and evidence to prove a lifetime of careful maintenance and sensible road use, is probably worthwhile.

But with the right approach and realistic aims, you’ll be whizzing around in your own cheap hot hatch before you know it.

Best cheap hot hatchbacks 2018Volkswagen Golf GTI

Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5 3dr (05/05-reg, 119k miles)
Price new: £20,495
Now: £2,494
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 197bhp
Economy: 35.3mpg
CO2/tax: 189g/km/£290
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2004) 

Seriously quick thanks to its 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine, composed and comfortable on long journeys, but also sharp enough to be genuinely entertaining on a challenging B-road, the Mk5 Golf GTI was a real return to form for Volkswagen. 

It still looks good today and the interior feels relatively modern. Find a good Mk5 GTI and you’ll have a practical car that can make you smile. 

Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Price: From £4,500
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo
Power/torque: 189bhp/266Nm
0-60/top speed: 6.8 secs/140mph

Hot versions of Vauxhall’s supermini don’t have a flawless reputation, but at less than £5k, the first Corsa VXR is a hoot. It boasts 189bhp and up to 266Nm on overboost, for a sub-seven-second 0-60mph time. It’ll stay pretty flat in corners, too. 

Subaru Impreza

Model: Subaru Impreza WRX (10/10-reg, 71,000 miles)
Price new: £18,995
Now: £7,995
Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl, 226bhp
Economy: 27.2mpg
CO2/tax: 246g/km/£540
Euro NCAP: N/A 

If you fear the hard ride that comes with some more unyielding hot hatches, then the Impreza WRX is worth a look. The suspension on this rally car for the road glides over even the most ragged of British tarmac, allowing you to give the 2.5-litre ‘Boxer’ flat-four a workout.

High emissions and pretty terrifying fuel economy (expect 25mpg on a good day) mean the WRX is expensive to run, but Subaru’s reputation for reliability should keep unscheduled garage visits to a minimum.

Ford Fiesta ST

Model: Ford Fiesta ST-2 Mountune (13/63-reg, 57,000 miles)
Price new: £18,594
Now: £8,490
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 212bhp
Economy: 47.9mpg
CO2/tax: 138g/km/£140
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2012)

For anybody who loves their driving, this fast Ford Fiesta is up there with the best of them – particularly as it’s been fettled by Mountune. As a reminder, Mountune is the blue oval’s accredited tuner, which means you know that any upgrades are well within the car’s capabilities and, just as importantly, didn’t void the standard warranty when the model was first produced.

The modifications consist of a new airbox and a tweaked engine-management system. Together, these upgrades boost the engine’s power from 178bhp to 212bhp, resulting in an impressive 0-60mph sprint time of only 6.4 seconds.

It’s also reassuring to note that the power increase does nothing to spoil the ST-2 Mountune’s superb handling. This car still darts between corners with laser-guided accuracy, all the while offering a sublime balance between grip and adjustability.

ST-2 trim comes with part-leather-trimmed Recaro seats and a DAB radio, but does miss out on satellite navigation. Fear not, however, for getting lost in a Fiesta ST is just a convenient excuse to spend yet more time behind the wheel. 

Honda Civic Type R


Model: Honda Civic Type R Mugen 200 (10/60-reg, 28,000 miles)
Price new: £24,370
Now: £11,999
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 198bhp
Economy: 37.0mpg
CO2/tax: 215g/km/£315
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2009) 

It seems amazing that 198bhp from a family-sized hot hatch now seems merely adequate, but in the FN2 Civic Type R it is still enough to entertain. The core of this car’s appeal lies in the way the 2.0-litre VTEC has two distinct characters, being smooth and refined at low revs, before taking on a hard-edged roar.

Throw in a beautifully slick gearchange and the Mugen 200’s limited-slip diff and aero kit, and the illusion of it being a BTCC car for the road is complete. 

Volkswagen Golf R

Model: Volkswagen Golf R 5dr manual (14/64-reg, 60,000 miles)
Price new: £30,600
Now: £15,250
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 296bhp
Economy: 38.9mpg
CO2/tax: 165g/km/£195
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2012)

Some people scoffed at the prospect of a £30,000 Golf, so it’s a measure of just how good the Type R is that it made that sum seem quite good value.

Here, after all, is a perfectly practical family hatch that can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds (or 4.9 seconds if you have the DSG dual-clutch auto). Meanwhile, its four-wheel-drive system delivers massive grip but not at the expense of adjustability, making it endlessly fun to drive.

Ford Focus RS

Price: From £20,000
Engine: 2.5-litre 5cyl turbo
Power/torque: 300bhp/440Nm
0-62/top speed: 5.7 secs/163mph

Ford mulled over the idea of a Mk2 Focus RS for some time before finally committing to the idea in 2009. This is a more civilised beast than the original, but that hefty 2.5-litre five-cylinder means it can still be a bit of a handful in bends. 

Peugeot 208 GTi

Price: £23,555
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo
Power/torque: 205bhp/300Nm
0-62/top speed: 6.5 secs/143mph

In the market for a hot hatch, but the Ford Fiesta ST doesn’t take your fancy? The 208 GTi is worth a look. The dinky 205bhp 1.6-litre Pug is fast, fun and even frugal. Peugeot Sport has near enough managed to recapture the spirit of the 205 GTi – and the model is just as practical as the standard 208, too. 

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