Hot hatches are undoubtedly the most common performance cars out there, and for good reason. They blend hatchback practicality and affordable price with a fun fast driving experience designed to make you smile. But which used ones should you look at if you have a reasonable budget of say £10,000? Which hot hatches in this price segment bring the biggest smiles to our face? Look no further than these seven little gems.
Ford Fiesta ST
Usually you’re supposed to leave the best until last, but the Fiesta ST deserves to be put front and centre whenever hot hatches are mentioned. Ford has always been the king at making small, fun, cheap, quick cars – its reign still continues to this day. You’ve probably heard the praise before, but this tiny hatch is the pinnacle of being a hoot to drive. Everything about it engages you in the experience, from the steering to the torque-filled 1.6 litre engine. And you can find them in good condition starting from around just £9,000 on the used market – a bargain for arguably the most fun small car on the planet.
Ford Focus ST
Yes, it’s another Ford, but while we’re on the subject we might as well give the Fiesta ST’s bigger brother a mention. If you need a bit more room and a bit more power than the Fiesta, the Focus ST is a good bet. With similar driving dynamics, the Focus will still make you grin like a kid at a birthday party, but it has two main differences to its little Fiesta brother. One is that the Focus ST is a little quicker due to having a slightly larger engine (2.0 litre), and the second of which is simply the size – which makes it a lot more practical than the dinky Fiesta. Just be warned, you will have to venture closer to the £10,000 mark to find a used one in good nick.
If those two choices are a bit too close to the £10,000 mark for your liking, take a look at the Abarth 500 which starts at around £7,000. The Abarth 500 is what happens when you give a cute little Italian city car to a tuning company with a scorpion on its logo. The Abarth version of the popular Fiat has 135bhp squeezed from its small 1.4 litre turbo engine. Couple that with a short wheelbase and you’ve got a car that is a complete riot to drive. There has never been a car which suited the term ‘pocket-rocket’ more than this.
Renault has always been very good at making fun little hot hatches that feel as at home on the race track as they do on the weekly shopping run. The Clio is Renault’s long-running mid-sized hatch and it has frequently received the Renaultsport treatment throughout its many generations. The face lifted generation pictured above is the main one you’d be looking at, as it starts from around £4,000 used. If you’re willing to creep right up to the £10,000 budget, you may be able to squeeze yourself into a latest generation model – though this was offered as an automatic only. If manuals are your thing (which to most hot hatch enthusiasts they are) you’ll have to backtrack a few years to find yourself a good old-fashioned stick shift version like the one in the picture above.
Peugeot 208 GTi
Another French contender in the hot hatch market is the Peugeot 208 GTi. Even though it may have the same size engine as the Fiesta (1.6 litre), it puts out more horses – 200 in total, to be exact. This makes it slightly faster than the Ford in a straight line. On the used market, the Peugeot 208 GTi starts around £ 6,000, so it should end up cheaper to buy than the Fiesta as well.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The Volkswagen Golf GTI has always been an icon ever since it was introduced in the 70s and has undergone many changes and updates throughout its lifetime. You can’t really go wrong with a Golf GTI; it’s arguably the best all-rounder on this list thanks to a good balance of practicality, performance and comfort making it far from a pain to drive everyday. And plus, because it’s a Golf GTI and was introduced in the 70s, it comes packed with retro flare. This retro flare, and the car itself, can be yours from £8,000 (for the generation pictured above) on the used market.
Mini Hatch John Cooper Works
On a lesser budget, you may have had to go with the Cooper S model of the Mini Hatch, but with £10,000 you can get yourself a John Cooper Works one. This sees 211bhp driving the front wheels, pushing the compact hatchback to 60mph in just 6.5 seconds. For a Mini, that’s mega quick – quicker than the Cooper S. That much performance paired with go-kart like handling means this hatch is a force to be reckoned with. Fortunately, all this performance can be picked up for as low £8,000 used.