Fast hatchbacks

After a hatch that offers decent punch without breaking the bank or budget-busting insurance costs? One of these models should fit the bill

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
May 16, 2022

Hot hatchbacks have been delivering (relatively) cheap thrills for nearly 40 years - offering serious power and road holding in an affordable, compact form. However, the high cost of insurance means they’re often out of reach for younger drivers, while they can also tend to be pretty uncomfortable thanks to lower and stiffer suspension magnifying every small bump in the road.

Choose the right model, though, and it’s possible to get the hot hatchback look and feel with performance that’s more lukewarm and user-friendly on a day-to-day basis, but still exciting enough that you can have fun behind the wheel without wondering how you'll be able to afford the next insurance payment. It's a win-win situation.

So if you're in the market for a fast but usable hatchback, we’ve selected eight examples that look the part and are fast enough for the traffic light Grand Prix. Some of the deals are so good, you’ll want to keep them to yourself. They can be our little secret.

Whether you're after a sporty looking, sporty feeling Mercedes, a rapid all-electric BMW that is far faster than you'd think or a super-subtle Hyundai with a surprisingly powerful turbocharged engine under the bonnet, we have a car to suit. Keep reading to find out which suits you best.

Fast hatchbacks

1. Ford Fiesta

Our pick Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost ST-Line
Used deals from £10,195

The Ford Fiesta ST is one of the best hot hatches around; capable of upstaging cars costing ten times the price. It’s fun at all speeds, meaning you don’t need to risk a run-in with the law to get the best from it. The downside is, it has a group 28 insurance rating, which places it out of reach for the majority of young drivers.

But there is an alternative; it’s called the Ford Fiesta ST-Line. This is a sporty trim for the standard Fiesta, featuring a 140hp turbocharged petrol engine and suped-up looks offering excitement that comes close to the fire-breathing ST, but it sits in a much cheaper insurance group 9.

Despite a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds for the 140hp model (or 8.9 seconds for the more up-to-date 155hp mild hybrid 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine), this Fiesta feels far quicker than that and it's seriously fun to drive, darting around corners with agility but being relaxing and comfy to drive when you just want to get home. All ST-Line models boast 17-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, a rear spoiler, flat-bottomed steering wheel and sports pedals.


2. Mercedes A-Class

Our pick Mercedes A250 AMG Line
Used deals from £20,989

The Mercedes-AMG A45 is the most powerful hot hatch you can buy, but it is staggeringly expensive - with one version costing practically £55,000. Even if you could afford the price tag, the group 40 insurance rating renders it off-limits to all young drivers except YouTubers with a few hundred thousand followers and serious money to splash.

Meanwhile, the A250 AMG Line should be far easier to insure. Not that it’s a slouch – far from it. Its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine will propel it from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds, which is fast enough to match a Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance.

The AMG Line trim includes 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, an AMG bodykit, visible exhaust tailpipes and leather upholstery. The fact that you can get a 66-plate A250 AMG Line for around £250 per month is the icing on a very fine cake.


3. Seat Leon

Our pick Seat Leon 2.0 TSI FR
Used deals from £6,290

Seat is part of the Volkswagen Group, building cars that have always offered a touch more flair and sportiness than their sensible VW equivalents. Take the Seat Leon, which looks much sharper than the Volkswagen Golf upon which it is based, especially in FR trim.

The Leon FR is available with a choice of engines from more economical, less powerful models to the punchy 190hp 2.0 TSI petrol and Golf GTD-derived 184hp 2.0 TDI diesel. Go for one of these and you can zoom to 62mph in 7.2 seconds with the petrol or 7.4 seconds in the diesel. That makes them quick, with plenty of muscle for easy overtaking, but far cheaper to insure than the high-performance Seat Leon Cupra models.

Standard equipment for 2020 models includes 17-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights, sat-nav and FR styling, but be aware that the specification varies a little with older models if you're after anything specific.


4. BMW i3

Our pick BMW i3S 120Ah/42kWh
Used deals from £23,257

What if you want to drive fast and save the planet? It won’t have escaped your notice that electric cars are in right now - and few are as fashionable as the BMW i3. It boasts one of the nicest interiors at any price, complete with a eucalyptus wood interior option and two colour displays. There’s also a long list of standard equipment.

Go for the i3S and you can rocket - silently - to 62mph in as little as 6.9 seconds. Opt for the standard car and it's still quick, taking 7.3 seconds. Thanks to the instant electric power on tap, the i3 is seriously fast away from the lights, with no gears to break up to acceleration. If you're after performance, be aware that heavier 'Range Extender' models - which include a small petrol engine to keep the electric motor going when the batteries have run out - are a little slower, with just under a second added to the 0-62mph times.

One of the criticisms of the BMW i3 when new was its high list prices, but that’s not an issue if you buy a nearly new or used model via BuyaCar. Handily, second-hand prices for the i3 are far less than you might think. Click on the link below to find out for yourself.


5. Suzuki Swift Sport

Our pick Suzuki Swift 1.4 Boosterjet SHVS Sport
Used deals Limited stock

The Suzuki Swift Sport has been delivering low-cost hot hatchback thrills in different incarnations for 15 years, cementing a reputation for delivering maximum fun for the minimum amount of cash. The current Swift Sport is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged 'Boosterjet' engine, which sounds quick even when you’re saying it. And it is quick - feeling much more zippy than the performance figures suggest.

Show it a good road and it’ll behave like a terrier chasing a stick, with boundless enthusiasm for corners and punchy performance for the bits in between. It’ll hit 62mph in a little over eight seconds, which might not sound quick, but believe us, it is.

When you’re not chasing your tail like the aforementioned terrier, the Swift Sport is capable of returning 47.1mpg, while the insurance group shouldn’t result in mild terror when the comparison sites feed back your quotes.


6. Audi A1

Audi A1 front

Our pick Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport
Used deals from £8,200

The 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the previous-generation Audi A1 is a little cracker, with a relentless enthusiasm for revs. Although the 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds for the 150hp version might not seem rapid, the engine thrives on being pushed to its limit, making this a satisfying car to drive quickly.

But pace is only part of its appeal, because the Audi A1 offers an unrivalled image and an interior that’s a cut above anything else this size. Equipment levels are good, especially on later cars, many of which feature parking sensors, cruise control and a fancy digital display as standard.

Expensive when new, the Audi A1 holds its value well, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to bag a great deal - especially if you go for PCP finance, where the car's high residual values help to reduce your monthly payments.


7. Vauxhall Astra

Our pick Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Turbo SRi
Used deals from £8,196

Don’t let the sombre styling fool you, because the Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Turbo SRi is one of the unsung heroes of the performance car world. While it’d be wide of the mark to suggest that it’s a cut-price Astra VXR, it’s certainly no slouch.

Its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers 200hp – a figure that would have made this Astra one of the fastest cars on the road when your mum and dad were young. It’ll hit 62mph in 6.6 seconds, before going on to reach a top speed of 146mph. That means it's barely any slower than the outgoing Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance, so if you fancy a speedy but subtle car to surprise other motorists, this could be it.

Despite this, the Astra 1.6 Turbo SRi slots into insurance group 21, making it cheap to insure for young drivers. Whether you're after the 2015-on generation pictured above, or an older, sportier three-door GTC version, you should be able to find plenty of deals.


8. Hyundai i30

Our pick Hyundai i30 1.6 Turbo
Used deals Limited stock

The Hyundai i30 Turbo is the fast car equivalent of having your cake and eating it. Sold in limited numbers over a short period of time, all versions should still be covered by the remainder of Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty.

Power is sourced from a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, producing enough poke to catapult the Hyundai i30 Turbo to 62mph in eight seconds, yet delivering a respectable 38.7mpg. An insurance group rating of 21 should mean that it’s relatively cheap to insure, too.

The three-door version certainly looks better, but the five-door model is more practical and should be easier to sell on if you're buying with cash. Drivers with deeper pockets - enough to cover the extra cost of the car and higher insurance premiums - may want to consider the high-performance Hyundai i30 N, which belongs to a newer generation.


*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.


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