Hot hatches may be the default option for yoofs who want fun wheels, but there’s good reason for that. Combining a feisty engine at one end, a decent boot at the other and reasonable running costs, they offer a great intro to exciting cars for those of us with Ferrari aspirations but Fiat budgets. So following our top 10 used coupe and convertible articles, today we’ve sifted through the classifieds to find you the best hot hatches available for under £5k including a year’s fully comp insurance (for a 21 year old with one year’s no claims in an average risk post code). Here are our favourites:
10. Peugeot 206 GTi 180 (2003-2006)Peugeot has form for amazing hot hatchery and this one looks the part with a tasty bodykit and big wheels plus a brawny rev-hungry engine on its side. However, the interior is a depressing, dated place to be with traditional Peugeot build “quality” and the 180 has a big appetite for petrol too. For a combined car and insurance cost of £3,600 though, you get a lot of car and performance for the money. Average total cost = £3600
9. Renaultsport Megane 225 (2006-2009)Number 9 in our countdown is another Frenchie, this time aided by a turbo and comfortably kicking out more power than any other car in the line-up. Mash the throttle into the carpet and the 222bhp Megane will launch itself to 60mph in 6.3 seconds. Thankfully it also has the handling finesse to match the power. Its interior is similarly uninspiring as the Peugeot though and you’d have to blow the entire £5k budget to buy and insure the 225. Average total cost = £5000
8. MG ZS180 (2001-2004)Bear with us a minute. Yes your mates might laugh at the idea of you tooling around in a ZS but just wait until you give them a ride. Despite the old skool styling, the ZS180 packs a mighty V6 engine that sounds the absolute tits and has the firepower to catapult the lightweight ZS to 60mph in 7.3 seconds. It’s also pretty handy on the bendy bits too and best of all, it’s the cheapest car in our top 10. You can pick up a decent ZS180 plus insurance for just £3,200 or even less if you shop around. Tempted? You should be. Average total cost = £3200
7. Fiat Panda 100HP (2006-2012)Ok, the Panda might seem like a big step down after our first three cars, but while the 100HP has less than half the power of the Megane, you definitely won’t have half the fun in the Panda. With a measly 1.4-litre engine you can thrash the hell out of the Panda and not worry about the fuzz being on your back, although its lightweight chassis means you can still outdrag some lardier hatches. The fizzy little engine and six speed gearbox let you feel like a superstar, but decent economy and running costs mean you won’t need the bank balance of one. £4,800 might sound like a lotta dough for a Panda but you get a pretty new car for your money. Average total cost = £4800
6. Honda Civic Type-R (2001-2006)The Civic isn’t the most powerful car here, it’s definitely not the prettiest and with an all-in price of £4,800 it sure ain’t the cheapest. But what you do get is a gymnastic chassis, a precise six speed gearbox and a brutal motor to exploit. Work that engine and you should be able to keep everything else here in the rear view mirror. However, the car’s bloated styling and engine that begs to be thrashed mean that the Type-R is an acquired taste. Average total cost = £4800
5. BMW 325ti Compact (2001-2004)Yes the 325ti isn’t your stereotypical hot hatch, but it is definitely hot and has a hatchback round the back so that’s good enough for us. Cast aside the questionable styling and instead bathe in the sound from the orchestral six cylinder engine and savour the precision chassis. You can get a tidy 325ti for well under our £5k budget and if you shop around you’ll have yourself a performance bargain. Just choose your 325ti carefully as BMW repairs can be excruciatingly expensive. Average total cost = £4000
4. MINI Cooper S (2002-2006)Yes a MINI had to be on our list somewhere and for five grand you can get yourself a reasonable supercharged Cooper S along with insurance. This micro hot hatch majors on fun, fun, fun and everything from the rev meter growing out of the steering column to the whiny supercharger and oversized speedo screams MINI. But sadly so does the reliability record which isn’t great. The maintenance costs can also be painfully high and the boot really is mini. You’re sure to have fun in a MINI but from the owner reviews we’ve seen, numerous mechanical headaches are also not that unlikely. Average total cost = £4900
3. Renaultsport Clio 182 (2003-2005)No the Clio doesn’t have the boutique interior of its MINI nemesis and apart from a brace of oversized exhausts it looks more M&S than S&M outside, but it’s cheaper to buy, cheaper to insure, drinks less petrol and is faster than the MINI. With 182bhp coursing through the front tyres it’s a frisky little thing. Yet many motoring journos have slated it for an awful driving position and the interior is completely underwhelming. These two black marks alone stop it from scaling any higher in our chart. Average total cost = £4000
2. Suzuki Swift Sport (2006-2011)The Swift Sport is both our most expensive car (along with the Megane) and the second least powerful with just the Panda saving it from last place in the power stakes. But for us the Swift is a truly gorgeous little machine inside and out with an eager motor and a tight chassis as Ollie found out a few weeks ago. The Swift is simultaneously fast enough, handles well enough, is practical enough and cheap enough to run. It doesn’t have any real party tricks but it does the basics so well that you can’t not want one. And I for one would have taken the plunge if it wasn’t for the fact that early models drink from the super unleaded pump and the car has a few practicality quirks like a passenger seat which doesn’t fold forward to let passengers into the back and rear seats that don’t fold down separately. Small things yes, but when you have the option of an equally appealing car without those drawbacks which one are you going to choose? Average total cost = £5000
1. Ford Fiesta ST (2004-2008)Ok, so the outcome of our top 10 is pretty predictable if you read my Buying My New Ride article on Monday and saw what I bought, namely a Ford Fiesta ST, but hear me out. What we were looking for in a hot hatch was a gutsy engine, a decent boot, reasonable running costs and crucially road manners which plaster a great big smile across your face. Now the Fiesta ST is nowhere near the fastest car here but having spent a good few hours bombing around undulating Essex roads over the weekend, I can promise you that the 148 eager horses on offer in the ST are more than enough. This Fiesta is a feisty little performer that thrives on revs and makes a noise to match. And it handles beautifully too with a firm but controlled ride, meaty steering, a slick gearshift and powerful brakes. Average total cost = £4700 So you’ve heard where out money would go for a five grand hot hatch, but what about you? Let us know what you think of our ranking and whether there are any cars you think we missed out that should have made the grade.
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