Best hot hatchbacks

Last updated: Nov 26, 2014

We have a team of Volkswagen engineers to thank for the fast hatchback phenomenon that is often called the hot hatch. Back in the 1970s, the German engineers put their private time to good use by modifying a standard Volkswagen Golf to be faster in a straight line as well as being more fun in the corners. By 1975, it had been christened the VW Golf GTI and had gained new wheels, sporty red exterior trim - making its debut at that year's Frankfurt Motor Show.

The GTI would go on to be a huge success and other manufacturers followed Volkswagen's lead by spawning their own hot hatches including cars such as the Peugeot 205 GTI, Ford Escort XR3, Vauxhall Astra GTE and Renault 5 Turbo.

Nowadays, hot hatches have grown to be safer, more comfortable and better equipped than their ancestors, but one thing remains the same – they’re still great fun to drive. To find out which one could be right for you, keep reading our definitive countdown of the best fast hatchbacks on sale today.

Ford Fiesta ST hatchback

The Ford Fiesta ST is our 2014 hot hatchback of the year thanks to its excellent performance, everyday usability and great value. It can get from 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds and has a top speed of 137mph. While other hot hatches use sophisticated gearboxes and fancy suspension, the Fiesta is a relatively simple car. As well as being easy to drive, the ST is just as spacious, stylish and easy to live with as the standard Fiesta. Although the suspension is firmer than other models in the range, and fuel consumption’s also higher, that’s the payoff for a car that’s this fun to drive. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£17,395 - £19,395

SEAT Leon Cupra hatchback

Despite sharing plenty of parts with the iconic Golf GTI, we actually prefer the SEAT Leon Cupra. It provides more power than the Golf, and in some cases is also cheaper. It's available as a sleek three-door hatchback, called SC, with either 261bhp or 278bhp. But the five-door hatchback is only available as the faster model. Despite the huge performance on offer, the Leon Cupra is fairly cheap to run with up to 44mpg possible. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£25,960 - £28,865

Suzuki Swift Sport hatchback

The Suzuki Swift Sport follows the mould of the Fiesta ST – keeping things simple, but fun. Our 2012 hot hatchback of the year’s small dimensions and firm suspension make it an excellent car if you want to have fun on a twisty back road. With a 0-60mph time of 8.7 seconds the Swift isn't the fastest hot hatch, but it still feels pretty quick. The Suzuki’s trump card is its low price, which means it undercuts most of the competition without lacking a generous list of standard equipment. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£13,999 - £14,499

Skoda Octavia vRS hatchback

The Skoda Octavia vRS is an excellent choice if you have a family thanks to its roomy cabin and large boot. It uses the same petrol and diesel engines as the VW Golf GTI and GTD.,The larger body means the Octavia isn’t as much fun to drive on a twisty back road, but it feels more grown up than many of its rivals thanks to its conservative looks both inside and out. The Skoda’s price means it undercuts most of the competition, while all models should be reliable too thanks to a strong performance in the 2013 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. Read more.

Key points

4.3 / 5
Price 
£24,100 - £25,755

Peugeot 208 GTi hatchback

When the Peugeot 208 GTI went on sale in 2012, the brand hoped to capture some of the magic of the old Peugeot 205 GTI, which is still considered one of the best hot hatchbacks ever built. Peugeot has spruced up the exterior of the standard car and the 208 GTI gets a new grille, larger alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, GTI badging and a twin exhaust. It’s not all show and no go, though, because the 208 can manage 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds and has a top speed of 143mph. The Peugeot’s also fun to drive, although it’s not as sharp as the Fiesta ST. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£11,445 - £21,995

Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback

It was the Volkswagen Golf GTI that introduced the idea of fast performance in a practical hatchback way back in the 1970s. The current model is available as a three-door or five-door hatchback, and has a practical interior, with decent space and plenty of cubbyholes. It is great fun to drive, with lots of grip and very little body roll – making the GTI particularly easy to drive quickly. Optional extras like the DSG automatic gearbox add to the GTI’s appeal, but they can send the list price soaring. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£26,580 - £28,650

BMW 1 Series hatchback

We would normally expect BMWs to be fun to drive, well built and good to look, but the BMW M135i also represents excellent value. The engine is almost 50 more powerful than the VW Golf GTI and helps the car from 0-60mph in just 5.1 seconds. It's more expensive than a standard BMW 1 Series, and costs around £5,000 more than the Golf, but the BMW’s rear-wheel drive set up means it is the most fun-to-drive car on this list. Read more.

Key points

4.3 / 5
Price 
£17,775 - £31,375

Volkswagen Golf R hatchback

The second Golf on the list is also the fastest - and the most expensive by some margin. The Volkswagen Golf R offers up nearly 300bhp, which it is able to make use of thanks to its grippy four-wheel drive system. Despite the performance on offer, VW says it'll manage just over 40mpg, although if you drive it hard, expect that number of halve. The sports seats means that interior space isn't quite as good as other models in the Golf range, and the four-wheel drive system eats into boot space. Perhaps its biggest problem is cost - it's significantly more than the Golf GTI. Read more.

Key points

3.9 / 5
Price 
£30,150 - £32,220

MINI hatchback

The MINI Cooper S really delivers on its maker's promise of driving like a go-kart. It has steering that immediately reacts to the driver's input, and its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine provides a 0-62mph time of just 6.9 seconds. It's full of spoilers and scoops to give a racy look and improve aerodynamics and engine cooling. The car is available with a six-speed manual gearbox, or an excellent automatic which, unusually, improves the car's fuel economy. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£13,750 - £21,070

Kia Pro_cee'd GT hatchback

Regular readers of Carbuyer will know the huge improvements Kia has made in recent years, and the Pro_cee’d GT is the company’s first attempt at a fast hatch. With 201bhp, it isn't as powerful as some of the cars in this list, but it's still plenty fast enough for most people – doing 0-60mph in just 7.4 seconds. It also has relaxing suspension and comfortable seats, as well as being good looking, reliable and relatively cheap to run. Kia’s strong seventh place in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey and the manufacturer’s seven-year warranty add up to another excellent car from Kia. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£20,200 - £22,900

Sponsored Links