We count down our top ten
A hot hatch gives you so much. You have that easy access to the boot, and usually some practical space, plus you get sporty looks, sharp handling and a rorty engine. They’re usually fairly compact in size so there’s pretty much something for everyone. And there are a lot of them about on the used market. Here is our list of the top ten cars that we reckon best combine all the virtues you want in one sleek package. And every single one is under £5000.
10. Renault Twingo Renault Sport 133
We found: 2010 Renault Sport Gordini, 43,000 miles, £4500
This may not be the hottest of hot hatches, but you’ll still enjoy that free-revving engine and the really taut and compliant chassis. It’s an interesting choice yet prices are really sensible, so this comes easily into our budget. Check for electrical issues but otherwise have fun.
9. Vauxhall Corsa VXR
We found: 2008 VXR, 61,000 miles, £4993
The Corsa VXR isn’t the most sophisticated of hot hatches, but it does have a gutsy engine and a superbly balanced chassis. The ride is comfortable, the cabin is solid and well made, and there’s a great deal to like and rely on. Check for noisy wheel bearings and air con problems, but otherwise this is great value for money.
8. Renault Megane Renault Sport 225
We found: 2007 Renault Sport 225 Cup, 62,000 miles, £4990
The version we found was the 225 Cup, and that firms up what is otherwise a slightly soft suspension set up. As standard, it’s a terrific and rather novel looking hatch, with really quick performance up its stylish sleeve. Check when the cambelt needs changing, as it’s an expensive job and avoid tuned versions which are often bodges.
7. Ford Focus ST Mk 2
We found: 2007 ST-3, 80,000 miles, £5000
With a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, the ST is a brute of a thing, fast and furious and with a fairly prodigious thirst. It’s quite a car to thunder round in, but be sure you can handle the necessity for frequent fuel stops. But, despite the charisma, it’s also a comfortable car, with a pliant ride quality and a smart cabin. A great car to hammer out the miles.
6. Suzuki Swift Sport
We found: 2008 Sport, 63,000 miles, FSH, £3490
Can it be a hot hatch with 123bhp? Yes it can. The Swift Sport has a spangly engine that loves to be revved up, and it’s not held back by the light and compliant chassis. This is a refreshingly simple, light and uncomplicated take on hot hatch heaven. Check the gearbox works smoothly and remember that the tyres are an unusual size so can be more expensive to replace.
5. Skoda Octavia vRS
We found: 2008 vRS, 80,000 miles, £4800
Practicality and space meet up with a genuine hot hatch pace. The boot is huge and there’s lots of cabin space. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine adds some real speed, often married to VW’s dual-clutch automatic transmission. That transmission can cause problems so check it changes smoothly, and watch out for high oil consumption which seems to affect some cars for unknown reasons.
4. Honda Civic Type R
We found: 2007 Type R GT, 77,000 miles, £5000
Take a sensible hatchback, then add power, aggressive bodywork, sharper suspension and much more and you have the cult Type R. The engine really likes to shout and spin up, while the pliant chassis allows you to explore everything the car has to offer. Ride is a touch hard, and the seats aren’t that comfy, but reliability should be rock-solid.
3. Mini Cooper S
We found: 2007 Cooper S, 68,000 miles, £4995
It’s neat to discover you can get a Mini Cooper S for under £5000, and here it is. The styling is retro-chic, which helps make up for the rather cramped rear space and boot size. You’ll forget the cramps when you let the punchy engine have its head. The handling is sharp and famously rollerstake-like, so you’ll have a ball.
2. Volkswagen Golf Mk5
We found: 2005 GTI 3dr, 92,000 miles, £4900
The Mk5 is a top mark, and personifies what the Golf GTI does best. It may not be the most outstanding hot hatch in any particular narrow section, but you won’t find a better all-rounder out there. Inside it’s comfy, quiet, spacious, well finished. So it’s sensible and practical. Yet it also goes hard, grips ferociously and handles with real confidence. It really is the consummate all-rounder. Watch out for that auto transmission and also beware of high oil consumption.
1. Renault Clio Renault Sport 200
We found: 2009 Renault Sport 200, 62,000 miles, £4677
What was the epitome of hot hatches may not be top of the pile right now, but this Renault Sport 200 within our £5000 budget makes a great buy. The engine is a peach, pumping out plenty of power with style, while the chassis is so taut and compliant you’ll be wanting to wring every drop of performance out of the Clio. There’s even a smart and chic cabin, which is comfy and well equipped. Make sure you get one which hasn’t been messed around, and you’ll be a very happy hot hatcher.