Hot hatchbacks need to do it all.
It’s the only place in the market you can find a car that has excellent handling and power as well as easy ability to load up the family and their accoutrements for a quick weekend away, or a full holiday – and all for a fairly affordable fee.
But there are some that out-perform others. The best hot hatches are taut but also comfortable enough to absorb the worst lumps and bumps. They’re quick on the road, but not too quick at swigging fuel.
Some are better at this magic than others. Here are the ones that, in our opinion, do it the best.
10. Volkswagen Golf GTI, from £28,465
The original hot hatch has been superseded by more potent examples. In fact, there’s a hotter Golf hatchback than the GTI today
The Golf was the first car to carry the GTI badge and it’s still one of the top exponents of the art.
It’s relatively costly, but over time you don’t lose out as the quality is high and the depreciation low. Quick, accomplished and well facelifted last year with upgraded infotainment.
9. Audi S3, from £35,805
The RS3 might be the most potent of all Audi hot hatches, but the more civilised S3 is a better choice if you’re looking for a daily driver
Pots of ‘premium’ as well as performance in this 306bhp petrol version of the everyday A3 family hatchback.
Pure driving excitement isn’t quite up at the top of the class, and the price can be high if you tick a few options boxes, but the quality is matchless and there’s speed to spare.
8. Ford Focus ST, from £25,760
The Focus RS is the ultimate Ford hot hatch, but the Focus ST isn’t far behind. It might be almost 100bhp down on the RS but it will be more comfortable to live with
If you need a useful family hatchback, the normal Ford Focus is brilliant not just for its practicality but also for its driver engagement. The ST is the same, but faster.
It comes as either a 182bhp or a 247bhp forms. You’ll notice a reduction in class compared to the best German offerings, but the fine driving position is a nice compensation. Look out for discounts as dealers shift stock to prepare for the new version arriving in 2018.
7. Ford Fiesta ST, from £18,995
For less than £20,000, there isn’t a batter hot hatch on the planet than the latest Ford Fiesta ST
There are quicker hot hatches, but none below £20,000 that are more fun to drive than the Fiesta ST.
It beats much of the opposition on steering, body control and – importantly – insurance costs. It looks great too.
6. Audi RS3, from £44,755
If you want something bigger – and want to fork out a load more money – the Audi RS3 could be the car for you. At a smidgen under £45,000, it’s not cheap
This recently refreshed RS3 packs the TT RS’s potent 394bhp five-cylinder engine, so it goes like a banshee.
It’s no economy option though. Cars that are more accessible and arguably more fun to drive include the BMW M140i (which doesn’t make it into our list) and Ford Focus RS.
5. Volkswagen Golf R, from £32,880
This is the Golf that gazumps the GTI. Volkswagen decided it wanted almost 300bhp from its headline hot hatch and has thrown four-wheel drive into the equation too
The second hot Golf on our list is quicker and generally better than the GTI, thanks to its extra performance – 0 to 62mph in just 5.3 seconds – and all-wheel drive.
A really entertaining steer with decent practicality and a superb cabin.
4. Mercedes-AMG A45, from £41,875
Of all the hot hatches here, the Mercedes-AMG A45 is the most powerful. The four-cylinder twin-turbo engine produces a masive 375bhp. It’s also nearly £42,000
Another pricey option, but the Mercedes-AMG A45 repays you with scorching pace from its bombastic 375bhp engine and quick-action automatic gearbox, and with its well-controlled cornering skills.
Super capable, but you can get the same degree of ability for a lot less money. And keep in mind a new one is due any time soon.
3. Hyundai i30N, from £25,010
Hyundai has come a long way in recent years. It’s first effort at a proper hot hatchback in the i30N is a pretty good one
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Hyundai was perceived as a non-aspirational economy brand. The i30N is changing all that.
It’s mounting a serious challenge to the likes of the VW Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST – which is properly impressive for a first entry into the hot hatch market. Of the two models, the normal one and Performance variant, we’d stick with the regular car for road-based fun.
2. Ford Focus RS, from £32,795
There’s been a lot said about the Focus RS, but it just misses out on the top spot in our list. For £33,000 it is good value against many of the hot hatches in this top 10 countdown
The Ford Focus RS is a five-star car irrespective of its status as a hot hatch. Its 345bhp output puts it right up there with the best on power, while its four-wheel drive allows full use of that power: the 0-62mph is under five seconds.
Better yet, it doesn’t sting you on price: entry to the club begins at £32,795.
Our winner is the British-built Honda Civic Type R. As well as having a spacious boot and interior it also has superb handling and a spooling 2.0-litre motor
1. Honda Civic Type R, from £31,525
It’s no shrinking violet with all that mad-looking bodywork all over the place, but the Civic Type R’s add-ons are all functional and designed to prevent this rapid machine from taking off at the speeds it’s capable of.
On paper, it’s fractionally slower than the Golf R or Focus RS but this turbocharged 2.0-litre Honda never feels short on cross-country pace – and is marginally cheaper.
It’s big inside too, with a particularly large boot. You don’t have to compromise to enjoy the Type R experience.
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