The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

A £5k budget opens up all sorts of brilliant used hot hatch options. We reckon these are the ones to go for
The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

There’s an incredible amount of choice in the hot hatch market right now. Whether you want an all-wheel drive rally homologation special in the form of the Toyota GR Yaris or a traditional do-it-all performance car like the Mk8.5 VW Golf GTI, you’re covered. So long as, of course, you have the cash.

Not so long ago we picked our top 10 best hot hatches for 2021, but anyone not wanting to shell out tens of thousands of pounds or commit to several years of monthly payments is still spoiled for choice if going down the used route.

A realistic budget of £5k is enough to snag one hell of a hot hatch, so long as you’re aware of any potential pitfalls.

So, in no particular order:

Renault Sport Clio 182

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

Finding a good one of these that hasn’t been binned or thrashed within an inch of its life on circuit is easier said than done. The Clio 182 and the earlier 172 are popular low-cost track hack choices, but there are still tidy, well-cared for examples out there.

It’s worth seeking one out, as the 182 is peak Renault Sport. Low weight, a fine chassis and a zingy N/A inline-four work together to make a sublime driving experience.

On the flip side, the Clio isn’t particularly well built, the cabin is poor, and the tight engine bay makes the 182 difficult to work on. But hey, you can’t have everything.

Renault Clio RS 172/182 buyer’s guide

Honda Civic Type R (FN2)

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There was a time, not so long ago, when you could pick up an EP3 Honda Civic Type R for less than £5000. And you still can, but if you want a really good one then you’ll have to find a fair amount more, because prices are starting to really go up for what many reckon is the best Type R of them all.

But all is not lost if your budget is restricted to £5k – a thoroughly decent FN2 Type R should be well within reach. Sure, it’s not quite as sharp as the EP3 and was somewhat derided when it tried to follow what’s now a modern classic. But the FN2 is still an entertaining car to drive, and the last of the naturally aspirated Civic Type Rs, housing basically the same soaring VTEC as the EP3.

We reckon the futuristic-for-the-time looks have agreed rather well, but feel free to argue with us about that. For £5k or less, however, we’re adamant that it’s lots of fun for the cash.

Mini Cooper S (R53)

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

The R53 has so much going for it. BMW’s first Mini Cooper S has bags of retro charm, is the only car here to feature a supercharger, and prices for the earliest cars start at around £1000. The 1.6-litre ‘Tritec’ engine is good for 178bhp in post-facelift form, and more power can be extracted with an inexpensive pulley upgrade.

They’re not particularly well built, however. It’s worth going for one of the more solid facelifted cars, but even then, you need to be wary of various pitfalls. Oil leaks are common, and at the 100,000-mile mark, you’ll need to complete a very labour-intensive supercharger surface.

The bottoms of the doors, the tailgate and the joins between the metalwork and the plastic body kit trim are all rust-prone, and the power steering pumps have a habit of failing.

R53 Mini Cooper S buyer’s guide

Renault Sport Megane 225/R26

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

Initial reviews for the Megane 225 weren’t exactly glowing, but it didn’t take Renault long to rectify things with the stripped out Cup package. For our imaginary £5000, you should be able to snag an R26. Built to celebrate Renault’s F1 success, these cars feature a small bump in power, revised suspension and a standard-fit limited-slip differential.

A cambelt change is due at 72,000 and it’s an expensive job, so make sure this has been done before taking the plunge. The bodywork is pretty solid, but the electronics have a deserved reputation for being iffy - check that everything works before handing over the money. And make sure you can cope with that odd rear styling.

VW Golf GTI (MkV)

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

There’s no shortage of VW Golf GTIs in various forms for under £5k, but to get the most bang for your buck, look no further than the MkV. This is the car that got the GTI back on track following its wilderness years (although the 180bhp 20-valve version of the MkIV is better than you’d think), providing an engaging drive, good looks and a healthy serving of tartan trim.

£2000 now buys you a leggy one, meaning a £5000 budget is more than enough for a very tidy example. High mileages are fine so long as the service intervals have been stuck to, especially if you want one with a DSG automatic gearbox. You might even be able to track down a MkVI for £5k, although at this stage it’ll have lots of miles on it.

Ford Focus ST

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

As USPs go, an inline-five turbo engine is a damn good one. Yes, this generation of Ford Focus ST may share its Volvo-developed 2.5 with the C30, but that wasn’t really a proper hot hatch. The Focus is, and there are now plenty knocking around for under £5000.

The ST’s version of the engine got variable valve timing, a lighter flywheel and a 222bhp/236lb ft output, which is shockingly easy to increase. This does also mean if you’re after a standard one, you’ll have a much smaller pool to pick from - the Focus is a very popular car to modify. It’s also not quite as nice inside as the Golf.

Given its Volvo roots, it should come as no surprise that the engine is a strong one. The ST’s bodywork is less robust, so keep an eye out for rust around the rear wheel arches.

Seat Ibiza Cupra

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

The hardcore version of the 2009-2017 Ibiza isn’t perfect – for a start, there’s no manual gearbox. But the Ibiza Cupra remains a cracking little hot hatch and prices have now dipped below £5000 for a decent one. You might even be able to pick up one of the eye-catching Bocanegra versions, with their raccoon like front-ends.

Your money gets you a 1.4 TSI engine with 178bhp, seven-speed DSG box with paddles and an impressively composed driving manner. This is both the Cupra’s strength and curse – it’s admirably well behaved even when you throw it around, but this can give it a slightly humourless character. Think of the AMG A-Classes – some people love the fact that they’re unshakable, but others want them to feel a bit more wild. If you want one as an everyday car with no shifting to worry about on the motorway, then it could be a great choice.

Suzuki Swift Sport

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

The Swift Sport in its early form is more of a warm hatch than a hot one. Don’t let that put you off, though - they’re great to drive and cheap, and there’s precious little to go wrong.

The initial version can be had for well under £2000, with a 1.6-litre, 123bhp naturally-aspirated four-pot providing revvy thrills. The Swift Sport that arrived in 2010 is referred to as the ‘second generation’ car, although carries a lot of the original over.

Suzuki kept the 1.6 but raised the power to the heady heights of… 136bhp. Nothing to get too excited about, but the Swift does have low weight on its side, tipping the scales at around a tonne. You’ll need at least £4000 to buy one of these later cars. It was replaced by an all-new Swift Sport in 2018, which isn’t anything like as fun.

Vauxhall Astra VXR

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

For a time in the mid-noughties, there were three main C-segment belligerents in the hot hatch battlegrounds: the Golf GTI, the Focus ST, and this. The Golf was the sensible one, and the ST was the entertaining middle ground, leaving the Vauxhall Astra VXR as the tearaway of the trio.

It was the most powerful with 236bhp offered up by its 2.0-litre inline-four turbo engine, at a time when anything over 220bhp was deemed a little silly for a front-wheel drive car. Its lack of finesse isn’t as off-putting these days, however, since you can pick one up for as little as £3500.

Audi S3

The 10 Best Hot Hatches For Under £5000

Enough time has now passed that second-generation Audi S3s have now dipped below £5000, and there are quite a few out there. Sold new from 2006 to 2012 and with three or five doors, these upgraded A3s pop out 261bhp through all four wheels, which makes them something of a rocket in a straight line.

For £5000 you’ll be looking at early cars up to around 2010, and probably with fairly high mileage. As always, check history with a fine-tooth comb and be prepared to spend on maintenance and repairs. Being an Audi, it might not be cheap. But at least the initial outlay won’t be too painful.


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