What are the best hot hatchbacks on the market today? Read our expert guide to get the full lowdown on the best hot hatches of 2024.
The best hot hatchbacks are some of the most versatile cars on sale. They'll deal with a dull commute, take your kids to school and put a huge smile on your face when the time is right to enjoy yourself, all with an affordable price and compact body.
The idea of the hot hatch started in the 1970s and has continued to prove incredibly popular. The idea is simple - take your ordinary common or garden hatchback, give it a more powerful engine, a sporty bodykit, tuned suspension and some bigger wheels, et voila, you’ve got yourself a hot hatch.
Pick one of the best hot hatches and it will certainly add a bit of enjoyment to the daily commute and when you do find a quiet bit of road, you can really get into your stride. Yet being a hatchback it's still practical and ideal for family transport. Most have five doors, plenty of passenger space, ISOFIX points and roomy boots. Diesel hot hatchbacks also deliver impressive fuel economy, while we've even added the first electric hot hatch to this list.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI can rightly claim to have popularised the idea and the formula has been refined ever since. Over the years the best hot hatches have become more powerful, more sophisticated and more capable - but the one thing they still aim to offer in abundance is fun.
You don't have to spend big either, with some of the best hot hatches costing under £15,000. We've picked out a range of brilliant used hot hatches at different price points, from those costing under £10,000 to supercar-baiting mega hatches that cost £50k+. Whatever your budget though, any car on this list of the best hot hatches is bound to put a huge smile on your face.
If you're looking to save money on a new or used hot hatch, check out our Best New and Used Car Deals.
Best hot hatch 2024
1. Mercedes-AMG A45 S
Year launched: 2020
If you want to have your hot hatch cake and eat it, then you'd best have a look at the Mercedes-AMG A45 S. It's one of the priciest hot hatches on sale, but combines outrageous performance with one of the classiest interiors you'll find here.
So what does more than £50,000 buy you? How about a 421PS, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, four-wheel drive and an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox? It's a recipe that means the Mercedes-AMG A45 S can get from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 168mph. Point-to-point, even a six-figure supercar will struggle to keep up.
And it can serve up this scintillating speed while pampering you inside one of the poshest interiors you'll find this side of a Mercedes S-Class luxury saloon, thanks to huge infotainment screens and trick augmented reality sat-nav. Sure, it's not the roomiest car here, but four adults and a medium-sized dog won't be complaining too much.
2. Volkswagen Golf GTI
Year launched: 2013
The car that popularised hot hatches, the Volkswagen Golf GTI may no longer have the market to itself, but it remains one of the most desirable hot hatches around and one of the most capable all-rounders. True, others are quicker, better to drive or look more aggressive, but the understated Golf GTI is a hot hatch which can also be a practical day-to day-family car.
It does this by offering nearly all the same comfort and refinement of a regular Golf. Some criticise it for being too civilised for a hot hatch, but when you need to get round most of the M25 at rush hour you'll be glad you didn't opt for something more hardcore.
The very latest Mk8 Volkswagen Golf GTI (pictured) launched in 2021, but it costs over £37,000 and comes with the same fiddly infotainment as the regular new Golf. If you don't need a new car, then, we reckon you'll do well to go for the previous 2013-on Mk7 version.
The standard Mark 7 GTI has 220PS but the models to go for are those fitted with the optional Performance Pack. A £1000 option when new, this ups power to 230PS but more importantly it adds uprated brakes and a limited-slip front differential.
The latter of which makes the most difference. It means traction from low speeds is markedly improved with the wheels able to transfer power cleanly down without the tyres scrabbling for grip. A budget just over £15,000 will get you a four-year-old Golf GTI.
3. Honda Civic Type R
Year launched: 2023
Let’s just say the Honda Civic Type R’s styling might be your biggest hurdle to purchase – you either like it or you hate it – but it deserves its place in any list of the best hot hatches. After all, if supercars can get away with having outlandish styling, why can’t hot hatches?
Particularly because the Civic Type R will give most supercars a run for their money on A and B roads. That comes thanks to a combination of a 329PS 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, a limited-slip differential that gives it limpet-like grip, direct steering and adjustable dampers. It's the most powerful front-wheel drive production car on sale.
It can be rock solid one minute and (relatively) soft and cosseting the next. That makes the Honda entirely usable. And there's good news when it comes to the Civic's infotainment as it's been upgraded from the woeful offering in its predecessor. It's a solid interior, has loads of space and a surprisingly big boot.
You'll need a budget of over £47,000 for a latest-generation Honda Civic Type R due to production numbers being severely restricted, otherwise you'll be looking at the older car, which is still impressive in its own right.
4. Ford Fiesta ST
Year launched: 2018
Ford has quite the heritage when it comes to hot hatches, with the Escort XR3i becoming a blue-collar icon of the 1980s. And it continues to produce some of the best around, with the Fiesta ST being a huge hit. Yes, you could go for the bigger Focus ST but we think the Fiesta ST is the best hot hatch from Ford.
It’s powered by a turbocharged 1.5-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. You might be concerned that this represents somewhat of a step down the performance ladder but worry not – the advanced engine punches out a hefty 200PS and 290Nm, granting a 0-62mph time of just 6.5 seconds.
Being a Ford hot hatch it handles superbly too. There’s endless fun to be had and the ST serves up masses of grip and a playful feel which – in conjunction with accurate, well-weighted steering and plenty of feedback – makes it reassuring, quick and (most importantly) fun through corners. Prices start from a little over £15,000 for the latest 2018-on version, too.
5. Hyundai i30N
Year launched: 2018
If you're thinking of buying a hot hatch, Hyundai may not be a name that leaps to mind. But the Hyundai i30N is making the brand leap a bit higher as this is one of the best hot hatches we've driven in a long time. Surprised? Yes we were too. This isn't just good for a Hyundai, it's a great performance hatch full stop.
It's powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine - the standard version has 250PS but the Performance version with 275PS proved much more popular and you will find them slipping into the £20,000 price tag bracket.
But what makes the Hyundai i30N is the character it possesses. The standard Hyundai i30 may be forgettable to drive but this is anything but. The Hyundai i30N is an absolute revelation and massively enjoyable to drive. It even rides well. Try one and we guarantee you won't be disappointed.
6. MINI Hatch John Cooper Works
Year launched: 2015
While the MINI Cooper S is hardly slow, if you want the pinnacle of the MINI range when it comes to performance, the John Cooper Works (or JCW as for short) is the model to go for. It is in fact available on all MINI bodystyles, from the Clubman estate car to the Countryman small SUV. But for us, the standard three- or five-door MINI JCW hatchback is the best in the range.
True, the JCW hatch doesn’t have as much power as the Clubman or Countryman versions but with ‘just’ 231PS in a small car like this it’s hardly short on pace. You also get a rorty exhaust note, a must-have feature in a power-boosted MINI to relive The Italian Job.
And being a MINI, this is a car that’s fun and engaging to drive, even if you’re not using all that power. Responsive steering means it tackles corners with gusto and while the suspension is pretty firm, it’s just about still comfortable enough for everyday driving.
A £15k budget will get you a four or five-year-old MINI JCW three-door with below average mileage. Look for models with the optional (but desirable) Chili Pack fitted.
7. Cupra Born
Year launched: 2022
Going all-electric doesn't have to mean sacrificing fun, even if the electric hot hatch genre is limited to a class of one right now with the Cupra Born. But we reckon the next couple of years will bring some more EVs to this list of the best hot hatches.
Okay, so the Cupra Born is far from the fastest electric car and isn't the most exciting to drive in this list, but it's a real step in the right direction. Right now you can have a 204PS or 230PS model with either a 58 or 77kWh battery, which translates to a 0-62mph time of as little as 6.6 seconds and a range of up to 340 miles depending on version.
Underneath the Cupra Born is basically the same as the Volkswagen ID.3, but there's been some key changes to the chassis to make it sharper in the bends and more aggressive to look at. You'll enjoy zipping about town and bombing along the open road in it, plus it's the only rear-wheel drive car here.
What's more, the Born is a solid all-rounder, with plenty of kit, refinement and practicality. Prices start at £35,000, though, and you won't find many cheap used deals around because it's so new.
8. Abarth 500e
Year launched: 2023
Hot hatches don’t need to have a snarling petrol engine. Abarth's pocket-rocket tune-up of the highly popular Fiat 500 has always been a riot to drive, but now it's turned to the fully electric 500 Electric to fine tune the pint-sized EV.
Turn the Abarth 500e on and inside the cabin you get guitar riff audio to welcome you to the car, while on the outside an embarrassingly loud burble reminiscent of a petrol Abarth is played. It’s certainly a gimmick, but it all adds to the playful nature of this car - you can turn it off though, if you so wish.
This is an EV which will put a smile on your face, and keep it there. Handling is sharp and there’s enough power underfoot thanks to the electric motor to nip you through traffic and dart round country roads.
Abarth has also souped up the interior for a sportier aesthetic to complete the package. If your budget allows, go for the Turismo trim which gets you a bunch of great extras.
9. Renault Megane Renaultsport
Year launched: 2009
If you like your hot hatches distinctly old school - in a good way - then the previous version of Renault’s Megane Renaultsport is an ideal choice. While many other hot hatches have gone for refinement and practicality, the Megane Renaultsport sticks to the tried-and-trusted method of plenty of power and raw thrills.
Like many hot hatches, Renault continually improved the Megane Renaultsport over its lifetime, improving power and adding more equipment and technology. What started off with 250PS ended up with 275PS along with better brakes, uprated suspension and even better performance. It's one of the sharpest and most exciting hot hatches ever made as a result.
The Renaultsport Cup models are the ones to go for if you want your hot hatch to be that bit more hardcore, but the standard model still delivers more than enough performance and fun for the money. A budget of £15,000 will get you a five year-old car with below average miles.
Of course there's a new-generation model, called the Renault Megane RS, which launched in 2018. It gets even more power and better tech, but we don't reckon it's quite as exciting as the much cheaper older model.
10. Suzuki Swift Sport
Year launched: 2018
The latest Suzuki Swift Sport may not have the power or performance of other hot hatches in this list - nor the badge kudos - but as a used buy it represents good value for money. In fact, we struggle to recommend it as a new buy in 2023, firstly because at over £23,000 it's expensive, and secondly because the newer mild-hybrid engine isn't as good as the older one.
Used, then, the latest Suzuki Swift Sport makes lots of sense. Just £13,500 will get you in a 2018 model with 19,000 miles on the clock, a saving of nearly £10k over new.
Admittedly with just 140PS from the 1.4-litre BoosterJet engine it's more warm than hot in this company, but because it's turbocharged it doesn't need to be worked as hard to extract its performance as previous Swift Sports. It's also quieter as speed, too, and uses less fuel.
Like the little Abarth 595, the Swift Sport weighs less than 1000kg so, despite only modest power figures, it’s still good fun to drive with sharp steering, an agile feel and plenty of grip. What's more, Suzuki throws everything but the kitchen sink in as standard, so it's better value than you might think.
Best Hot Hatch FAQs
The best hot hatches continue to be produced by Ford, with the Fiesta ST and Focus ST being two of the best hot hatchbacks on sale. Honda continues to prove strong competition with the excellent Honda Civic Type R, and the MINI Hatch John Cooper Works is a great buy
The fastest hot hatchback money can buy is the latest Audi RS 3, which manages a 0-62mph time of just 3.8 seconds. It's closely followed by the Mercedes-AMG A45 S, just beaten with a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds.
The best cheap hot hatch is undoubtedly the Ford Fiesta ST. New prices start at £22,000 but go for a used model and you can get a lot of hot hatch for not much money.
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