A hot hatchback is all things to all men; practical, sporty, fun to drive and cheap to run…you’ll not find that particular combo in many other vehicles. The trouble is, those on a limited budget will find even these criteria stretched – hot hatches aren’t known for being easy to insure, nor will hooning deliver the sort of fuel consumption you need if you’re a cash-strapped teen who’s just passed his test.
You’ll certainly struggle if you want a new one, like the RenaultSport Clio RS 200, Peugeot 208 GTI or Ford Fiesta ST - got around £18,000 to spare? Didn’t think so. And even if you want to check out some of the classic hot hatches, you’ll need a good few grand in your pocket. That’s where the sub-hot hatchbacks come in, aka warm hatches.
Here are 10 tempting warm hatches to get you started:
1. Alfa Romeo 147 1.6 TS
What a way to start our list. It’s in alphabetical order, but even so – an Alfa Romeo. As a 1.6 you get 120 bhp and 62 mph in just over ten seconds, but you also get beautiful styling, a sonorous engine and darty steering. Okay, it’s no GTA, but for a grand or so it’s not GTA money either. And Alfas aren’t even too unreliable these days. If you’re careful…
2. Daihatsu Sirion 1.3 SL
Is “SL” the least sporty trim badge ever to be applied to a relatively sporty car? It certainly doesn’t hint at what’s under the Sirion’s bonnet. Okay, so you’ll not be burning off modern 200-horse hatches at the lights, but 100 bhp from a 1.3 isn’t bad. And the Sirion weighs in at mid-800 kilos, and revs to a healthy 7,700 rpm. Ugly, but tempting. And the Sirion scored highly in our winter-proof cars feature, too.
3. Fiat Punto Sporting
We’ll be honest, there’s little sporting about the 1.2 engine this Punto is packing, but it’s a willing little unit made all the better by being wrapped in a bright yellow and rather striking body. Just do your homework on this one – this generation of Punto isn’t best known for being reliable.
4. Hyundai Accent MVi
Don’t laugh – the humble Accent MVi holds more appeal than you might expect, even if you’re just basking in the dimming glow of the company’s early-2000s rally efforts. The MVi puts 101 horses at your disposal from a revvy little twin-cam 1.5, while a body kit beefs up the Accent’s mundane looks. Owing to their lack of cool, they tend to have been owned by more sedate drivers and most have fairly good service records – always a plus point with a budget vehicle.
5. Mazda 323 Sport
With a pant-wetting 131 horsepower in homage of its typical user base, the 323 Sport is positively searing compared to the others here, but 60 mph is dealt with in a familiar 9.5 seconds or so. However, it’s bigger and more grown-up than the others too and almost estate-like in shape, so it does that practicality thing better than the more diminutive offerings. And, being a Mazda, it’ll be reliable.
6. MG ZR 105
Reliability isn’t a given with MG Rover products, but 1.4-engined MGs and Rovers munch through headgaskets slower than their more potent equivalents. They’re also staggeringly cheap these days for a car that emerged in 2003 – people are put off by the company’s disappearance, but spare parts aren’t too hard to find so you’ll get many years of running from a ZR. They were always praised for handling in the day, too. And honestly, it does look pretty good…
7. Renault Clio 16v
Back in the early 2000s, it was all about the Clio 172. Instantly it shot to the top of the hot hatch charts, but left in its wake was a warm – and still fun – alternative. That was the 16v, with its 1.6-litre 16v engine. In the light Clio shell it still bubbled along nicely, reaching 60 in 9.6 and hitting 122 mph, but sat several insurance groups below and used less fuel. They’re cheaper to buy now too, and worth a punt on a budget.
8. Toyota Yaris T-Sport
A car with even more eastern promise than the Accent or Sirion, the Yaris T-Sport was Toyota’s thoroughly solid effort at turning the driving school favourite into a hot hatch. Its 1.5-litre engine put out 105 bhp and 62 mph flashes by in 9 seconds. It also gets beefy seats, regular dials in place of the normal Yaris digital efforts, and the steering wheel from a Celica.
9. Vauxhall Corsa 1.8 SRi
Surprise the oiks in their Corsa SXis as you arrive at the lights in this. There’s almost nothing to differentiate the SRi from its 1.2-litre brothers, but the extra 600cc means you’ll arrive at 62 mph a full four seconds quicker – eight, rather than twelve. They were never renowned for great handling, but bang for buck they’re not bad these days.
10. VW Lupo 1.4 16v
Like the Clio, the Lupo had its own headline act in 2000 – the GTI. Many hailed it a true successor to the Mk1 Golf GTI, but have you seen the prices they go for these days? That’s VW ‘Scene Tax’ for you. No, to do the Lupo on a budget you’re better looking for the 1.4 16v Sport. They’re still holding their value – it is a VW, after all – but generally a few grand less than a GTI. It’ll cross 60 in 10 dead, handles neatly, and has a centre-exit exhaust like an old Mini.