Best used hot hatchbacks
Hot hatchbacks are more powerful than the regular versions of family cars, and that means they're more expensive. But you can find bargains on the second-hand market - these are the 10 best used hot hatchbacks.
Hot hatchbacks are family cars moonlighting as sports cars; they’re still practical and easy to park but offer similar performance to fast coupes and convertibles. In Britain, hot hatchbacks have always been popular ever since their introduction in the mid-1980s. They’re the perfect fit for our winding, narrow back roads, and the hot hatch market is currently thriving.
Manufacturers are, of course, aware of their appeal, and now almost every family hatchback is available as a performance model with upgraded parts and a sporty body kit to match. Even car companies like Hyundai, which was previously thought of as middle-of-the-road and sensible, now produces its own hot hatch, the Hyundai i30 N.
Part of the appeal of hot hatchbacks is that they’re almost always based on more humble models. That means servicing is usually no more difficult or expensive, the performance is covered under warranty and there’s plenty of equipment. None of these cars are sparsely equipped or stripped-out racing cars; they sit at the top of the range, so many are available with cruise control, sat nav, DAB radio, air conditioning and parking assistance.
With that range-topping status comes a higher price tag, and the performance war is helping to push prices up and up - the latest Mercedes-AMG A45, for example, costs over £50,000. This is where one of the best used hot hatchbacks makes sense because, if you can put up with a few thousand miles on the odometer, you can save a lot of money over a brand-new model.
Hot hatches may cost more to run than the base models on which they’re based, but they’re always in demand. As a result, a used model may well hold its value better when you come to sell it.
If you don’t need the practicality of a hot hatchback, check out our list of best cheap sports cars or our top three used sports cars for £10,000. Read about the best used hot hatchbacks you can buy now below.
The latest Ford Fiesta ST is our favourite hot hatchback currently on sale and it makes a good choice on the used market too. Its three-cylinder engine produces just shy of 200bhp, which is plenty in a small, lightweight car. Zero to 62mph takes just 6.5 seconds, and it’s even more fun in corners than in a straight line. It’s one of the sweetest cars to drive currently on sale, so much so that we prefer it to some supercars that cost six times the price. It’s on a par with the previous Fiesta ST for driving thrills but feels more sophisticated. Despite the exciting performance, the Fiesta ST is surprisingly efficient when you’re not in the mood to drive it quickly; it can shut down one of its cylinders under light throttle, helping it to manage almost 50mpg. Plus, it has a hi-tech interior, enough space for four adults and a reasonably big boot, but it’s considerably cheaper than some of the slightly bigger cars on this list.
The standard Skoda Octavia is one of our favourite family cars, and the rapid vRS version adds extra pace and sportiness without sacrificing any of its qualities. You still get class-leading practicality, thoughtful ‘Simply Clever’ touches and all the space you could wish for, but a 242bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine helps to turn up the excitement - 0-62mph takes 6.7 seconds and the top speed is 155mph. There’s also a 2.0-litre diesel version that offers most of the speed of the petrol but much better fuel economy (7.7 seconds to 62mph and 44.8mpg), and it’s one of three cars on this list that can be had as an estate. The Octavia vRS has subtle styling additions to make it look sharper than the standard car, but it’s still much more discreet than alternatives such as the Honda Civic Type R. Skoda Octavia vRS models are always in demand, so prices stay higher than a regular Octavia in the same condition.
There’s no mistaking the Honda Civic Type R, with its massive spoiler, vented bonnet, wide body kit and red badges and brake calipers. This styling won’t appeal to everyone, but the aero additions aren’t just for show - they really do help the Civic’s performance and impressive cornering ability. The most powerful and fastest Civic Type R ever produced, the ‘FK8’ generation has 316bhp and officially manages 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, on the way to topping out at 169mph. All the standard Civic’s plus points still apply: the boot is cleverly designed and bigger than most of its rivals, it’s well-built and it has plenty of equipment - although it’s slightly disappointing that you don’t get sat nav as standard. Honda’s infotainment system as a whole is eclipsed by the systems in rivals, while some cheaper materials can be found if you look hard enough. We don’t think you’ll care too much once you sit in the red bucket seats and use the aluminium gear lever. All five Type R generations are highly sought after on the used market, but the latest car has been produced in higher numbers than the previous generation so it should be more readily available.
Now in its seventh generation, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is the iconic hot hatchback. It faces stiff competition from the likes of the Octavia vRS and the Hyundai i30 N, and from within its own ranks from the more powerful Golf R. You’ll be able to find a 227bhp version on the used market, alongside the 242bhp Performance version that is now the entry point for a new GTI. The Performance is likely to hold its value better as, alongside the extra power, it adds extras like a limited slip differential for better handling. Above that is a limited-run TCR model with 286bhp, lowered suspension and an Akrapovic sports exhaust, which’ll catch the attention of collectors and likely always have high residual values. Golf GTIs are often thought of as the everyday hot hatchback, as they’re comfortable, quiet and refined when you’d rather cruise. Generous equipment levels and the classic GTI touches like the tartan seats and the golf ball gear knob make it feel more special than a standard Golf, too.
The SEAT Leon Cupra undercuts the Golf GTI but is quicker and more powerful. In current form, the Cupra produces 286bhp but it has had varying amounts of power during the last few years, and there have been several special editions. All sprint from 0-62mph in six seconds or less, and all now come with an automatic gearbox as standard - although earlier models were available with a manual gearbox. Like the Octavia vRS, you can have a SEAT Leon ST Cupra estate version but, unlike the Skoda, the SEAT is petrol-only. Inside, the Cupra adds a smattering of sporty touches over the standard Leon, including Alcantara suede-fabric trim and exclusive badges.
The Volkswagen Golf R is one of the fastest hot hatchbacks you can buy, getting from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. That’s not far off the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3, which both have at least 90bhp more. With four-wheel-drive as standard, it can provide driving thrills in all weather conditions and it can better use its 306bhp. The four-wheel-drive system does cut into boot space slightly, but you’ll probably be having too much fun driving it to care about that. Besides, there’s an estate version if you need the extra space. The R will be expensive, even second-hand, but you do get plenty of standard equipment including sat nav, 18- or 19-inch wheels and heated seats. The current Golf range is soon to be replaced by the upcoming Mk8, so the outgoing Golf R will be the quickest Golf for several years to come.
It’s often unfairly overlooked in the hot hatch arena and the Peugeot 308 GTi isn’t too common on the second-hand market. But they’re good value used, especially when you consider the 308 GTi has a 266bhp 1.6-litre engine capable of 0-62mph in around six seconds - faster than both the Golf GTI and Octavia vRS. The car is agile and is brilliant to drive through a set of quick corners, although its ride is firmer than either of those cars. Unless you find a car with the two-tone ‘Coupe Franche’ paint, the 308 GTi is definitely one of the more subtle hot hatchbacks, and that continues inside. There’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching and a metal manual gearlever, but almost everything else is lifted from the standard Peugeot 308. Some will like its mature feel, while others may want it to feel a bit sportier. Still, there’s plenty of equipment including sports seats, sat nav, cruise control, a reversing camera, two-zone air conditioning and LED headlights.
Want your hot hatchback to fly under the radar and surprise sports cars? The Audi S3 looks almost identical to a standard Audi A3 (besides the badges and four exhaust pipes), but it packs 306bhp and quattro four-wheel-drive as standard. As a result, it’s grippy and confidence-inspiring, so you can drive it fast without worrying that it might suddenly pitch you into a nearby hedge. It’s safe and drama-free, which will appeal to you or put you off depending on your point of view, but we would wish for a bit more steering feel and a slightly comfier ride. Inside, the S3 features a high-quality interior - as you’d expect - with leather upholstery and lots of technology, while the five-door Sportback offers decent rear passenger space. You’ll be able to find the Audi S3 in three-door and five-door hatchback guises, as well as four-door saloons and two-door convertibles. The more powerful Audi RS3 has beefier looks and even more impressive performance, but it’s much more expensive, doesn’t resolve any of the S3’s shortcomings and you won’t be able to use all its 395bhp on the road very often.
MINI offers two fast versions of its hatchbacks but the John Cooper Works version is more powerful and racier than the Cooper S. Both provide an exhilarating drive and are excellent fun on a back road, but the JCW sits on lower, sportier suspension and comes with a more eye-catching body kit and paint scheme - complete with a handful of red accents. Despite featuring one of the lowest power figures on this list - 228bhp - it gets from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds, which is quicker than some bigger hot hatchbacks. Its size means it’s nimble and easy to drive around town, although the usual MINI three-door practicality considerations apply here too: the back seats don’t offer much legroom, and the boot is small. Those drawbacks doesn’t stop the regular MINI from selling well, and it’s even less important here as you’ll buy a JCW for its speed and cornering ability.
There’s a new A45 AMG with 415bhp on sale now but, if you don’t fancy spending £50,000, the previous-generation car is a great option if you want a scorching hot Mercedes hatchback. It’s only three-tenths of a second slower than the current car - you’d struggle to notice the difference in real driving - thanks to the 376bhp output of later cars, and all are fast enough to worry your license. Like the Golf R and S3, it has four-wheel drive so it’s quick even on wet or greasy roads. A slightly boy-racer-ish spoiler set was optional, but you’ll be able to find plenty of examples without the extra wings if you’d prefer a more subtle look. Inside, there’s a high-quality interior with lots of technology and plush materials, although its button-heavy centre console now looks dated compared to the current car’s dual screens. The tail-light clusters cut into the boot opening, too, but the boot is a decent size once you’ve got your luggage in.
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