Best used hot hatches

Speed, practicality and a reasonable price: snap up a used hot hatchback for less than you'd think

John Evans
Jan 24, 2018

The very best hot hatchbacks let you have your cake and eat it. As well as the space, practicality and understated looks of a family car, they also supply seriously quick performance, which is often combined with sophisticated mechanical parts that increase cornering grip and stability.

It's no wonder that there's been a hot hatch renaissance, with more than a dozen new models launched over the past few years. Large numbers of these are now available as used models, at lower prices but offering just as much driving fun.

You might have to put up with a little discomfort, from firm suspension, as well as budgeting for insurance and fuel costs that are higher than a standard family car. But these cars can win you over with their charm and eager performance that will put a shine on your commute.

Scroll down for our pick of the best used hot hatches or click below to search all available deals.


Volkswagen Golf GTI

Best used hot hatch for daily use

Our pick Volkswagen Golf GTI 5dr (2014, 22,500 miles)
Typical price £16,500  Representative finance £245

From quiet and calm family hatchback one minute to a tarmac teraway the next: no other hot hatch manages to excel in as many areas as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It looks solid and restrained. Quality runs throughout, from the satisftying door 'thunk' to the soft-touch dashboard plastics. And the car's suspension smooths out bumps, but remains firm enough to deliver sharp, responsive steering.

Choose a manual gearbox for maximum driving involvement, or opt for the automatic (called DSG), which will shift itself smoothly, but also has steering wheel-mounted paddles that allow you to change gear instantly with a squeeze of your hand. The GTI Performance model has an extra ten horsepower, along with sophisticated electronics, which can improve acceleration in corners, as well as the four-whel drive Golf R, which is in another performance league altogether.
Read the Volkswagen Golf GTI buying guide


Ford Focus ST

Best used hot hatch for value

Our pick Ford Focus ST-2 (2015, 30,000 miles)
Typical price £14,250  Representative finance £211

The Focus ST is enormous fun to drive and practical too, but it's the hot hatch's excellent value for money that lifts it above most rivals. You'll pay around £3000 less than you would for an equivalent Golf GTI, and your smile will be just as broad.

Admittedly the plasticky interior doesn't feel as upmarket as the Volkswagen's setup but the punchy petrol engine and the car's nimbleness deliver sharp and accurate cornering, along with a comfortable ride. Recaro sports seats hold you firmly in place but are quite bulky, so reduce legroom for rear passengers.

There are three grades ranging from ST-1 to 3. All have the same amount of power and a reasonable specification, but it's worth upgrading to ST-2, which adds useful equipment over the standard ST, including part-leather trim on the seats, a heated windscreen and an 8in touchscreen in place of the small display on the entry-level version.
Read the Ford Focus ST buying guide


Mini Cooper S

Best used hot hatch for cornering

Our pick Mini Cooper S (2014, 30,000 miles)
Typical price £12,850  Representative finance £185

Still cheeky, still charming and still a hoot to drive – the latest fast Mini may be roomier, more practical and come in five as well as three-door forms, but in all other respects it remains true to the Cooper S models that have come before.

It feels different to drive, compared with the cheaper Cooper and One models, with a bumpier ride on rough roads, which is meant to make the car more agile in corners. However, if you find a model with adaptive suspension (which was an expensive option when new), you'll be able to choose a softer setting that's better at absorbing bumps. For more performance, check out the John Cooper Works version.
Read the Mini Hatchback buying guide


Seat Leon 2.0 TSI Cupra 280

Best hot hatch for grip

Our pick Seat Leon Cupra 280 (2015, 20,000 miles)
Typical price £17,000  Representative finance £270

Seat is owned by the Volkswagen Group, so underneath the sharply-creased lines of the Seat Leon Cupra are many of the same mechanical parts that make up the volkswagen Golf GTI. This is quite a differerent proposition, though, as the Golf's engine has been modified. In the Cupra 280 version, it produces 280 horsepower - 50 more than in the Golf.

Sophisticated electronics boost grip when you put your foot down, so you can make the most of the power and accelerate from -62mpg in under six seconds, which is faster than any of the cars above (but not the BMW below. Those electronics also lend a hand in corners, where they help to keep the Cupra stable, so that it changes direction sharply when you turn the steering wheel.

But when you've had enough of the rabid performance, you can switch to a softer suspension setting for a smoother ride over bumps and the Seat becomes a calmer car. The transition is almost as impressive as the Golf's, although the quality of the spacious interior is a rung or two below the VW. The Leon Cupra is available as a five-door car or a sportier-looking three-door, which restricts rear headroom because of its more steeply sloping roof.
Read the Seat Leon buying guide


BMW M135i

Best used hot hatch for fun

Our pick BMW M135i 5dr (2015, 20,000 miles)
Typical price £18,990  Representative finance £265

Considering that this is a BMW with an M badge, which is reserved for the brand's fastest cars, a price of less than £20,000 is excellent value when you look at what you're getting.

Top of the list is a six-cylinder engines, which is smoother and more powerful than the four-cylinder engines in the other cars in this list. The result is a blistering acceleration time of 5.1 seconds. This compares with the second fastest car in our group of five, the Seat Leon Cupra, which posts a still-impressive 5.8 seconds.

Not only that but all this power is directed through the BMW’s rear wheels, where the other featured cars use the engine to power their front wheels. The BMW's arrangement makes the car more responsive when you turn the wheel, so it can change direction in a snap, making country roads more fun.

It's no sober and understated Golf, and can't match that car's interior space but the M135i is still comfortable and quiet in normal driving, for the days when you just want to travel in calm.
Read the BMW 1 Series buying guide

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