Best used hot hatches: all the fun at half the price

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

BuyaCar team
Nov 8, 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 mechanical upgrades 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.

Best used hot hatchbacks

1. Volkswagen Golf GTI

Best used hot hatch for daily use

Latest VW Golf GTI deals from £13,000
Finance from £225 per month

From quiet and calm family hatchback one minute to a tarmac tearaway 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 satisfying 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 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.
Volkswagen Golf GTI buying guide


2. Ford Fiesta ST

Best hot hatch for under £10,000

Fiest ST

Latest Ford Fiesta ST deals from £8,999
Finance from £153 per month

Now that prices for the Ford Fiesta ST have dropped below £10,000, and monthly finance prices start at around £150 per month, the only question for some drivers is "which colour do I want?". The Ford Fiesta ST is an exceptional hot hatchback, with a rasping engine that demands to be revved so that it can blast you down the road, and a mechanical set-up that switches direction in an instant, providing unrivalled driving fun - crucially - at legal speeds.

Unlike the Golf GTI, it always feels like a sporty car, with firm suspension, that engine note and a sense of urgency when you press the accelerator. Most of the time it's as engaging as a new puppy, but after a long day at work, you might wish for the extra comfort of the Golf - to say nothing of Golf's much neater and higher-quality interior.
Ford Fiesta ST buying guide


3. Seat Leon Cupra 280

Best used hot hatch for grip

Latest Seat Leon Cupra deals from £13,965
Finance from £209 per month

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 different proposition, though, as the engine 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 0 to 62mph in under six seconds, which is faster than any of the cars above (but not the BMW below). It's grippy in corners too, where direction changes are sharp.  But when you've had enough of the rabid performance, you can switch to a softer suspension setting for a smoother ride 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. 
Seat Leon buying guide


4. Mini Cooper S

Best used hot hatch for cornering

Latest Mini Cooper S deals from £9,499
Finance from £140 per month

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's sportier than 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.
Mini Hatchback buying guide


5. Ford Focus ST

Best used hot hatch for value

Latest Ford Focus ST deals from £11,999
Finance from £186 per month

You could argue whether the Ford Fiesta ST, higher up this page, actually represents better value than the larger Focus ST, but it's fair to say that Ford knows how to make an affordable hot hatchback and that they both look like bargains as used models. You'll pay around £3000 less for this Focus ST than you would for an equivalent Golf GTI, for example. 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. Mid-range ST-2 cars are best value, adding part-leather seats and an 8in touchscreen in place of the small display on entry-level ST-1 models.
Ford Focus ST buying guide


6. Peugeot 208 GTi

Best used hot hatch for responsiveness

Latest Peugeot 208 GTi deals from £7,690
Finance from £128 per month

The Peugeot 208 GTi has become one of the cheapest hot hatches available from BuyaCar, with 2013 models now available for well under £150 per month with finance. It’s entertaining enough, with plenty of urge without needing to be revved hard - although you’ll only get maximum performance if you do. The small steering wheel means that only a nudge is needed for the responsive car to change direction.

But if you can afford the premium of around £2,000 for a 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport (the paint scheme, shown above, was optional), you’ll find that the car’s character is enhanced further by engine and mechanical improvements, which make the car livelier, grippier - and more fun to drive.
Peugeot 208 buying guide


7. BMW M135i

Best used hot hatch for fun

 Latest BMW M135i & M140i deals from £15,499
Finance from £242 per month

BMW's M badge is reserved for the brand's fastest cars, so the price of the M135i is excellent value. You're getting a six-cylinder engine that's smoother than the four-cylinder-powered cars in this list. It's more powerful and quicker too, with a breathless 0-62mph acceleration time of 5.1 seconds. All this power is directed through the BMW’s rear wheels (most hot hatches send it through the front), making the car more responsive when you turn the wheel, so it can change direction in a snap.

If your budget can stretch to it, the newer and more powerful M140i is even faster and uses a little less fuel too. Neither car is a sober and understated Golf, and they can't match the VW's interior space but they are comfortable and quiet in normal driving, for the days when you just want to travel in calm.
BMW 1 Series buying guide


8. Suzuki Swift Sport

Best used hot hatch for cut-price fun

The current Suzuki Sport has a turbocharger, which boosts power from the engine to provide a surge of acceleration without having to rev the engine hard. On most roads, you can leave the car in one gear for reasonable performance.

That's not the case for the car it replaced: the previous-generation Swift Sport has no turbocharger, so you need plenty of revs to get maximum power, which involves paying close attention to the dials and changing gear frequently. It's a different way of driving that feels more involved and - for many drivers - more fun 

It’s a tall-looking car and that height translates into ridiculously good headroom. Fortunately, what it doesn’t do is make the car lean heavily in corners. Instead, the little Swift feels poised, and grips and steers like a hot hatch should. Electric windows, sports seats, a digital radio and air conditioning are all standard, making the Sport excellent value for money.


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