FROM £2K TO £10K, we count down our top 10 budget hot hatches.
The hot hatch segment has been one of the most fiercely fought over the decades, with many phenomenal small performance cars created. What this means is that even those of us on a budget can still have a seriously rapid and impressive car on our driveways.
So here it is; our top ten pocket rockets. (Or why not watch the video right here?)
10. Renaultsport Twingo 133 – From £4000
Renault’s baby hot hatch is deceptively hardcore; so while it thrives in the twisties, it isn’t the most comfortable of motorway cruisers. It isn’t the most practical either, with small rear seats and a tiny boot, but flared arches, big wheels, stiffer ‘Cup’ suspension and a rev happy naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine will have you grinning from ear-to-ear.
9. SEAT Leon Cupra R – From £3000
SEAT took all the ingredients that Volkswagen used to make the underwhelming MK4 Golf GTI and turned them into a proper hot hatch. Sharper, harder, faster and better looking than the Golf, but with a less premium badge on the nose to keep prices lower. What’s not to like. Also look at it’s more practical cousin, the similarly priced MK1 Skoda Octavia vRS.
8. Volkswagen Golf R32 – From £6000
Speaking of MK4 Golfs, after the decidedly poor reaction to the lukewarm GTI, VW took the running gear from sister company Audi’s TT Quattro to create the Golf R32; complete with a 237bhp 3.2-litre V6 engine and four-wheel-drive. It still looks subtle, but bigger wheels bumpers and arches give it the beefy looks it deserves. Only 500 came to the UK.
7. Fiat Panda 100HP – From £2500
We’ve spoken of our admiration for the Panda 100HP before, and with good reason. The Panda may only have, as the name suggests, 100bhp from its 1.4-litre engine, but it weighs very little, has a well sorted chassis and suspension and the classic ‘wheel at each corner’ stance. It isn’t possible to have more fun on four wheels for less cash!
6. Honda Civic Type -R – From £2500
The Civic Type-R is all about image, and its up to you whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Typically driven by young men, and usually fitted with obnoxiously loud and entirely unnecessary exhausts. But underneath it all is a reliable hot hatch with a powerful and rev-hungry 197bhp 2.0-litre engine. VTEC just kicked in yo!
5. MINI Cooper S – From £2000
After years of holding their value like nothing else on the roads, MINIs have finally dropped to reasonable prices, which means you really can get a MINI Cooper S (albeit a leggy one!) for £2000. Unlike most, MINI opted for supercharging for the S’ 1.6-litre engine, giving it a unique sound and character. Handles like a Cooper S should, too!
4. Ford Focus RS – From £8000
A bona fide ‘get-it-while-its-cheap’ future classic, the MK1 Focus RS has pretty much reached the low point of its value graph. However, it is not a car to be garaged and mollycoddled; with rally-derived looks and a 215bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, the MK1 RS is a serious and sometimes unforgiving weapon! The interior’s a bit naff though.
3. Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy – From £5000
The Trophy was the final edition of the utterly magnificent Renaultsport Clio 182. Limited to just 500 examples, all painted red and fitted with lightweight alloy wheels, lower and stiffer suspension, the larger rear wing from the Clio V6 and Recaro bucket seats. The Clio trophy is considered by many to be the finest handling hot hatch of all time.
2. VW Golf GTI – From £5000
From the finest handling hot hatch to the greatest all-rounder. The MK5 Golf GTI was the car the MK4 should have been; comfortable, spacious, loaded with kit, but powerful with sublime handling. MK5 GTIs held their value, but early cars are now around £5k. Available in three and five door versions with manual and DSG gearboxes.
1. Renaultsport Megane – From £10,000
So, how do you beat the best handling hot hatch and the best all-rounder? With the finest hot hatch of the current generation. Yes that’s right, even though it’s still on sale, early Megane RS’ are now dipping below £10k. The fantastic coupe looks conceal serious suspension and brakes, a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine producing either 250 or 265bhp and a softer normal chassis or a hardcore Cup chassis. It’s basically a new car too, so it’ll also be loaded with tech and shouldn’t really go wrong.
The most accessible performance cars just got that little bit more accessible.