The best hot hatches offer giant-killing performance and a gripping drive, all wrapped in a user-friendly package. Here they are…
While hot hatchbacks are not the fastest cars in a straight line, the newest generation still provide bags of performance at an affordable price point. But which are the best hot hatches on sale today?
Fortunately, the modern motorist has an excellent selection of hot hatches to choose from, ranging from the small and sporty Peugeot 208 GTi, to the larger, faster Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N. Better still is that while the performance of hot hatches has increased, the running costs still remain fairly low, meaning you still get a great balance of smiles per mile and miles per gallon.
• Best hatchbacks to buy now
Over the past 40-years, manufacturers have perfected the hot hatch formula, but the forefathers from the 80s remain hugely popular. Many will say that the best of them all is the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which intoxicated drivers with its small body yet big engine. The original Golf GTI was an after-hours project undertaken by some of Volkswagen’s engineers and was initially only sold in Germany. But word soon spread about the brilliant little car and the likes of the Peugeot 205 GTI, Renault 5 GT Turbo and Vauxhall Astra GTE soon followed in its tread marks.
It wasn’t just your everyday motorist that fell for wily charm of the hot hatch either, thieves and joyriders loved them, pushing insurance costs through the roof and temporarily slowing sales in the 90s.
Today the hot hatch is back to full power, and they come in a variety of guises from a number of manufacturers. Most are still front-wheel drive, although 4WD is gaining traction, and BMW still goes its own way with rear-wheel drive. Most models get a four-cylinder turbocharged engine, and a lot of those are 2.0-litres. But again, there are variations, with smaller 1.6-litre units delivering just as much performance. Most come as three or five-door hatchbacks, but there are estates, compact saloons and convertibles too.
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The latest breed of hot hatches use all sorts of mechanical and electronic trickery to deliver the sharpest performance ever seen from the class. Cars such as the Ford Focus RS Mk3 have four-wheel drive to boost their performance, while the latest VW Golf GTI and SEAT Leon Cupra and Skoda Octavia vRS use trick electronics and front diffs to boost front-wheel traction.
Performance levels have reached new heights as a result, and so have prices, with models like the Audi RS3 Sportback and Mercedes-AMG A45 pushing £40,000. But performance is just one aspect of a hot hatch, because the best models deliver the kind of everyday usability that means a hot hatch should be the only car you’ll ever need. The most extreme models have stiff suspension and a rock-hard ride that picks up every bump in the road, but those models fitted with adaptive dampers – either as standard or an option – offer the best compromise between comfort and handling.
Boot and passenger space are also big selling points, and while the original hot hatchbacks were generally three-door cars, the latest breed come with three or five-doors, and there are even fast estate variants of cars such as the SEAT Leon Cupra and VW Golf R.
So which hot hatchbacks are the best to drive, while still maintaining their versatile side? Our top 10 reveals all…
Click on the links below, or use the navigation panel on the top left of this page, to see our list of the top 10 best hot hatchbacks…
Top 10 best hot hatchbacks
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