- Performance with everyday usability
- Sharp superminis to fast family hatchbacks
- No more than 60,000 miles and 10 years old
We've picked out 10 hot hatchbacks that offer a great mixture of everyday punch and practicality. From small pocket rockets to fast family holdalls, and from the nearly new to those on the cusp of modern classic stardom, this selection has something for everyone.
How we did it: for everyday practicality – and the ability to sign up to a warranty firm, if you require it – we've limited our scope to ten-year old cars, up to 60,000 miles. We've kept them as petrols, and all have to do the 0-60mph sprint in less than 8.0 seconds.
For many, this is the default choice – it's frugal, refined, practical (with three or five doors) and reliable too. But if you're the kind of person who thought the MkV GTI was a bit too clinical and lacking in theatre, then the Mk6 ramps up the pleasure senses with a raspy exhaust note, a free-revving almost lag-free engine and direct, feelsome steering.
Though you can provoke the GTI into naughtiness easily, this is a truly refined experience when you want it to be – you can easily wile away the hours behind the wheel in great comfort.
- One we found: 2009 VW Golf GTI 5dr, DSG, blue, full leather interior, £9,970
- Find a used VW Golf GTI for sale on Parkers
If the Golf looks a little too staid and you prefer your motoring experience to hark back to more old-school hot hatch theatrics, then try the Alfa Giulietta. The 1750 Tbi engine delivers its turbocharged thrust in a big lump, which makes for a properly engaging experience.
Alfa has largely shaken off its unreliability image, and so too its depreciation worries – these are rare cars and that will help to maintain values going forwards. Oh, and there's some kudos for sharing its engine with the 4C mini-supercar.
- One we found: 2010 Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf, manual, blue, 45,902 miles, £8,695
- Find a used Alfa Romeo Giulietta for sale on Parkers
These quirky-looking machines have bags of alternative appeal – just look at it. The styling is a proper love it or hate it choice (especially in black and orange), but this is a properly distinctive car that will help you stick out from the norm. The interior has enough carbon to make a McLaren feel a bit left out of the autoclave party, and the bucket seats look fantastic. It shares its engine with the Mini Cooper S, and in this form packs a 210hp punch.
The steering isn't quite as feelsome as others on our list but it makes up with it with sheer gallic charm and outsider appeal. You're also likely to get much newer car than the equivalent Mini for the same money...
- One we found: 2011 Citroen DS3 Racing 1.6, manual, black and orange, 36,026 miles £8,250
- Find a used Citroen DS3 for sale on Parkers
But there's an irresistible pull about the Mini, isn't there? You'll be rewarded with a pleasingly retro-themed car that certainly doesn't drive like the 1950s car it's inspired by. It's got quick steering, excellent Brembo brakes, and punchy performance from its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine.
The interior can be a little tight for taller drivers but it's worth folding yourself into for a spirited B-road drive.
The options list was huge for the Mini so make sure you choose your car well – look out for cars equipped with the Chili pack, which adds Xenon headlights, alloy wheels, aircon, electric mirrors and an MP3-compatible CD player.
- One we found: 2011 Mini John Cooper Works 1.6, manual, 51,658 miles, green with black stripes, £9,995
- Find a used MINI Cooper for sale on Parkers
If you're looking for a hot hatch with a luxury angle, then the Audi ticks a lot of boxes. It has an exquisite interior, a subtle look and refined motorway manners. However, should you feel the mood take you the long way home, the four-wheel drive system is perfect for exploiting its 265hp thump. It might not offer the fingertip-teasing thrills on a B-road in the same way as some on our list, but its sheer straight-line heave is truly staggering.
It can do 0-60mph in less than six seconds – something most supercars struggled with until the 1990s. And all in something that'll carry the family in excellent comfort...
- One we found: 2008 Audi S3 2.0 TFSI manual, 58,000 miles, grey, £9,950
- Find a used Audi S3 for sale on Parkers
If you want the complete opposite to the Audi, then Vauxhall's lairy VXR should be top of your considerations. It's aggressive-looking machine, and it's suitably macho to drive – the turbocharged four pot dominates the experience, with a whopping 240 horses stampeding through the front wheels.
It's not as subtly nuanced as other cars here but herein lies its appeal; it's properly old-school driving experience, and all the better for it. That might prove tiresome on the daily commute, but you'll love it come Friday at 5.30pm...
- One we found: 2010 Vauxhall Astra VXR Sporthatch, manual, 32,000 miles, blue £8,995
- Find a used Vauxhall Astra VXR for sale on Parkers
Now for the first of two cars on the cusp of Modern Classic status – if they aren't there already. The reason? We're simply not going to get engines with this level of mechanical intrigue in cars this size again – and the one in the Focus ST is a wonder. The Volvo-derived turbocharged five cylinder sounds absolutely fantastic with its warbling warcry, and the on-boost performance is spellbinding.
Despite a reputation for lairy colours, when you calm down behind the wheel, so too does the Focus – it has exceptional road manners. Bag a limited-edition gen-one ST500 with low miles and you could even make some money...
- One we found: 2011 Ford Focus ST-2 manual, 48,000 miles, black £9,995
- Find a used Ford Focus ST for sale on Parkers
The second of our true modern classic selection is the Honda Civic Type R FN2. This car had a rough ride from the critics when new – it wasn't nearly as hardcore as the beloved EP3 that went before it. While true that this era FN2 is much more refined, this is still a naturally aspirated four-pot that can rev to the heavens – and that kind of car just won't be made anymore.
As such it's a driving experience that you have to warm to; if you love riding a torque wave from 2000rpm this isn't for you. However, if you like fighting to keep a car in its rev-happy place, then the VTEC effect will keep you fully engaged. The top of our price range will get you into a Championship White edition, which has a mechanical limited slip differential that transforms the car – highly recommended.
- One we found: 2009 Honda Civic Type R Championship White Edition, manual, 24,000 miles, white £9,850
- Find a used Honda Civic Type R for sale on Parkers
This pocket rocket can seriously embarrass much bigger fare – its 163hp might not sound a lot but it only has a small package to carry. This is one of the most fun cars you can buy in hot-hatch land, at the expense of ultimate refinement – it's noisy, the ride's hard and you sit quite high, so uncomfortable for taller drivers.
But it's blessed with sharp steering and a lively exhaust note – and it's nippy too, the turbo spooling up beautifully past 2000rpm. Only slightly dead steering counts against – that and its poor ride – but it's hard to step out of a B-road thrash without a wide grin on your face.
- One we found: 2014 Abarth Competizione 1.4 T-Jet, manual, 58,000 miles, black £8,995
- Find a used Abarth 595 for sale on Parkers
If you want to go further hardcore, then say hello to the hot hatch equivalent of a 911 GT3, according to Modern Classics magazine columnist Jethro Bovingdon. That's why we've gone for this over the newer turbocharged RenaultSport Clio – the 200 Cup will be revered as a true hero in years to come and is likely to be in demand.
It's easy to see why – fantastic steering, a rev-happy, naturally aspirated buzz-bomb of an engine and fantastic Recaro seats make this absolutely essential if you're serious about that track day idea you may be having... True, its ride comfort isn't the greatest but point it at your favourite set of twisties and you simply won't care.
- One we found: 2011 RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup, manual, 47,000 miles, white £8,990
- Find a used RenaultSport Clio 200 for sale on Parkers
However, if you need something a bit newer then the Fiesta ST makes a superb buy. Excellent handling, a lag-free turbocharged engine and great B-road manners make this a future star.
These were cheap to buy new, so you really could drive away in three-year-old car – but don't go thinking that just because this was cheap to buy it offers only tiny amounts of fun. That comes in stacks. Frenetic and frantic when you want to be, yet comfortable and considerate when you want to cruise. The Fiesta ST is a fantastic hot hatch.
- One we found: 2015 Ford Fiesta ST-3 Style Pack, manual, 41,793 miles, blue £10,000
- Find a used Ford Fiesta ST for sale on Parkers
- Read: Ford Focus ST vs Volkswagen Golf GTI
And the winner is:
if we're being sensible, the Golf GTI.
Because I'm absolutely not, the Abarth, or the Giulietta.
by Nathan Chadwick
Assistant Editor, Modern Classics