Best hot hatch 2024

See our pick of the best hot hatchbacks

By BuyaCar team

When carmakers first crammed powerful engines under the bonnets of hatchbacks, in the mid ‘70s, they created Europe's answer to America’s muscle car scene: the hot hatchback.

These were affordable cars that were practical enough to take a friend or three out for a curry or, with the back seats folded flat, could carry a mountain bike or two for a weekend of mud, sweat and gears. But when it was just you and the open road, a good hot hatch would put a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon on your face.

In the early 1990s, a spate of car crime made all the easier by poor security features meant insurance prices soared, sales stalled and carmakers invested little time and energy in creating any more hot hatchbacks.

The past decade has seen a resurgence, though. For less than £20,000 you can drive away in a brand new Ford Fiesta ST, with a zippy engine and a gymnast-like ability to change direction. There’s also the stylish Mini Cooper S, a car that delivers as much feel-good vibe on the driveway as it does on the North Coast 500.

With a bigger budget, the desirability and performance of hot hatchbacks kick into another gear. Cars like the Honda Civic Type-R, Hyundai i30N, and the car that effectively started it all, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, all promise to make a couple of days behind the wheel one of the most enjoyable weekends in memory.

And for those who crave the ultimate in performance, there is a new generation of super-hatches, cars with four-wheel drive, highly tuned engines and more power than a Ferrari F355 from the late 90s. We've selected the best models that are currently on sale. Here’s where to start your search for a hatchback that puts the scorchio into every drive.

1. Honda Civic Type R

Best hot hatch for punch in the stomach acceleration

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The first thing you’ll notice is the Honda Civic Type R's looks. They’re certainly something… but purposeful at least. The bonnet bulges cool the engine, and that massive rear wing actually creates negative lift - just like a race car.

To some, it might be a bit much, but there’s no denying that it works. On the road, it’s savage, and simply catapults you around a corner. It will even brake an inside wheel for you when cornering, to help you get around a corner.

The gearbox is as slick as they come, and it has rev-matching too - which means when you change down a gear, it will blip the throttle for you in order to achieve the best RPM for changing gears. Under the bonnet, it has a 320hp 2.0-litre engine. 0-62 comes in 5.7 seconds, and max out it’ll do 169mph.


2. Ford Fiesta ST

Best hot hatch for affordable fun

Used deals from £5,995

If you want a car that’s a hoot to drive but won’t leave your bank account smarting from the monthly repayments, not much can better the Ford Fiesta ST. The latest version is only available in ST-3 trim, costing more than £26,500, which means buying a used example represents very good value.

What’s more, the Fiesta ST’s size and speed are perfectly suited to the typical country road, whereas plenty of more expensive sports cars these days are simply too large and too powerful to be anything other than a trophy for posing and parking on the driveway.

The same could be said for the previous-generation Ford Fiesta ST, which was replaced by the current car in 2018. If you don’t mind the dated interior and less comfort, then you can have all the fun, for half the cost .


3. Hyundai i30N

Best hot hatch for a reassuringly long warranty

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When you fall under the spell of a hot hatchback, the chances are you won’t want to give it back at the end of any finance agreement. In that case, it’s good to know that after the typical three-year finance period, anyone who went on to buy a Hyundai i30N would still have a further two years of warranty remaining.

Although the terms and conditions of any warranty tend to vary and require careful checks of the small print, knowing that you have two further years of peace of mind, and no limit on the mileage in that time, is reason enough to rise early on a Sunday morning and indulge yourself in another drive.

And what a drive the i30N offers. It’s more fun than a Golf GTI, so long as you choose the Performance Package, which increases the engine’s output to more than 270hp, adds a limited-slip differential to deter wheel spin in corners, and throws suspension damping that can be adjusted at the touch of a button. Nearly new cars can come with substantial discounts.


4. Seat Leon Cupra

Best hot hatch for feisty fun

Used deals Limited stock

A Cupra badge on the back of a Seat has always been a pretty good indicator of a fun-to-drive car – and this uprated version of the Leon hatchback is no exception. The highlight of the Cupra is its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The 290hp unit is a firecracker, able to send the car surging forward from low in the rev range and maintaining that sense of urgency all the way to the rev limit.

Helping make the most of this performance is the Leon’s road holding. It’s agile in corners, thanks to technology that helps boost grip when you're turning and the accurate steering allows the driver to place the car precisely on a winding road.

You can adjust the car to suit your mood with the adaptive driving modes. These let you calm the car down, such as when piling on the miles on the M1, or switch to the maximum fun mode – Cupra – for those times when you just want to go for a drive for driving’s sake.

Cupra has since become its own brand, and the Cupra Leon has become the replacement. It's based on the new version of the Seat Leon, and uses 245hp or 300hp versions of a 2.0-litre engine as well as a 245hp 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid, sourced from the latest version of the Volkswagen Golf GTE. It's also available in hatchback or estate forms , with BuyaCar prices starting from £16,600.


5. Ford Focus RS

Best hot hatch for a thrlling ride

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Ford was the hot-hatch king in the 1980s, and little has changed today. Its Focus ST is a fast and fun model, but it's eclipsed by the top-of-the-range RS. There's no mistaking it from the outside, thanks to bodywork additions that make the Focus look lower and meaner.

From the driver's seat, performance from the car's 2.3-litre turbocharged engine is blistering. A four-wheel-drive system delivers eye-opening grip when accelerating and the ability to whip through corners at an exhilarating rate. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in less than five seconds.

Combined with responsive and accurate steering, this is a car that can blast down a back-road, although you will have to put up with stiff suspension that gives a choppy ride. Head for the race track, and you’ll be able to put the car’s unique Drift Mode to the test, which lets you pull the sort of moves that could put The Stig out of work.


6. Volkswagen Golf R

Best hot hatch for all-round sophistication

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The Volkswagen Golf GTI is good but the Golf R is better. With a more powerful, 310hp engine, four-wheel drive to maintain traction and the option of a Performance Pack - which brings lighter wheels, uprated brakes, a larger roof spoiler and removes the electronic top speed limiter – it provides searing performance without ever bringing the driver out in a cold sweat.

That’s because its road holding is not only responsive but also surefooted. So a commute to the office, on a cold and frosty morning, is just something the R takes in its stride. Better still, strap on a roof rack, clamp some skis in place and drive to the ski slopes, where the hottest Golf yet will prove that you don’t need a Land Rover to get places, just a set of winter tyres. And you’ll have a lot more fun in the process.


7. Mini Cooper S

Best hot hatch for cheeky charm

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Mini boasts that its cars all feature go-kart-like handling, and it's in the Cooper S version of the hatchback that the claim is closest to being true. This is a car in which you feel connected to the road beneath, yet when you’re not in the mood for driving like an extra from The Italian Job, there’s one of the funkiest cabins of any car to enjoy.

From the outside, it looks the part too, with an air intake slot in the bonnet, deep front spoiler, twin exhaust pipes poking out of the middle of the car and a hunkered stance that suggests this Mini is all about having fun.

On a bumpy B-road, it proves to have just the right mix of performance, suspension comfort and responsive road holding, making it one of the most enjoyable small cars to drive, alongside the Ford Fiesta ST. If you need more power, the John Cooper Works model should deliver.


8. Renault Megane R.S.

Best hot hatch for tight turn-ins

Used deals Limited stock

Renault has previous experience in creating hot hatches. Most enthusiasts would agree that it has one of the best back-catalogue of epic hot hatchbacks, and luckily, the Renault Megane R.S. lives up to that hype.

280hp ensures it’ll hit 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, and the engine feels strong in any gear. It sounds good for a two-litre too, plus it has four-wheel-steering, meaning the rear wheels can turn (ever so slightly) the opposite way to the front, really digging you into a corner.

Looks-wise, it’s up there with the best on the market. That rear diffuser is pure racing car, and the large alloy wheels fill those massive arches.


9. Peugeot 308 GTi

Best hot hatch for a comfortable ride

Used deals Limited stock

Peugeot has been trading on the GTi name since the 1980s when the Peugeot 205 GTi was the hot hatch to have. It’s only now, 30 years later, that the French carmaker has come close to making a car that offers that same, heady blend of spine-tingling handling and grin-inducing performance wrapped up in a family-friendly package.

Although it’s substantially larger and heavier than the original, the 308 GTi is quick, thanks to its powerful turbocharged engine (0-62mph takes 6.0 seconds) and has direct steering, while the chassis has plenty of grip in corners.

When you don’t feel like pushing on, the 308 GTi settles down to a relaxing and comfortable cruise. Not something you could ever say about the original 205.


10. Audi TT RS

Best hot hatch for a slick interior

Used deals from £12,125

This might surprise some, but the TT is actually a hatchback, although its coupe shape ensures that it’s not as practical as the other cars on this list. What it lacks in practicality, it makes up for it in power though - as it has a five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine with 400hp. Four-wheel-drive and launch control come together so it can propel itself to 62mph from a standstill in 3.7 seconds.

On the outside, it's bigger, bolder, and altogether louder than regular versions. Being an Audi, it’s a bit more high-end inside than other cars on this list. Hardback sporty leather seats, suede steering wheel, and Audi’s 'virtual cockpit' digital display ensure this.

Purists will be annoyed that it doesn’t come with a manual gearbox, and the four-wheel-drive system is geared more towards safety than lairyness. However, the TT is the most serious performance car on this list, which should at least get some people salivating.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.