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

Simon Ostler
Nov 22, 2019

What is a hot hatch? Take a standard, run-of-the-mill hatchback, with all of its practicality and family friendly features, but give it the kind of performance figures that would make a Porsche 718 Cayman take notice.

In almost all cases, the hot hatch formula produces some of the most exhilarating driving experiences you could ever hope to have, yet you don't have to sacrifice usability - or your life-savings - to get them. With many of these high-performance family cars available from under £20,000 on BuyaCar.

And there are plenty of them to choose from too, with all the major manufacturers from Volkswagen, Audi and BMW right through to Suzuki delivering their own versions of these hugely popular cars.

You might have to put up with a little discomfort from firm suspension, as well as budgeting for insurance and fuel costs that are generally higher than a standard hatchbacks, but these cars can win you over with their charm and eager performance that will put a shine on every single journey.

 

Read on for our pick of the best used hot hatches available right here on BuyaCar.

Best used hot hatchbacks

1. Volkswagen Golf R

Best used hot hatch for daily use

Used VW Golf R deals from £16,250
Monthly finance from £238
Power 300hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 4.9 seconds

For a long time, the Volkswagen Golf GTI ruled the hot hatch roost. That name is as iconic as they come in the motoring world, but Volkswagen wasn't content to sit idly upon its past successes. So while the GTI remains a major figure in the Golf range, it has been replaced at the top of the tree by the even more extreme VW Golf R.

The Golf R looks and feels like every other Golf you see on the roads, but underneath that unasuming appearance lies a 2.0-litre, 300hp petrol engine that brings about a whole new level of performance. But it's not just faster, if you can find a used Golf R with the Performance Pack included, you'll be getting improved brakes, a rear spoiler and bolder 19-inch wheels.

Volkswagen Golf buyers' guide

2. Ford Fiesta ST

Best hot hatch for under £10,000

Fiest ST

Used Ford Fiesta ST deals from £8,490
Monthly finance from £146
Power 200hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 6.5 seconds

Prices Ford Fiesta ST start from less than £10,000, and monthly finance prices start at around £150 per month, we don't think there is anything at this kind of price that comes close to offering the same kind of thrills. The Ford Fiesta ST is an exceptional hot hatch, 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.

Unlike the Golf R, 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.

Ford Fiesta ST buyers' guide

3. Seat Leon Cupra

Best used hot hatch for grip

Used Seat Leon Cupra deals from £14,900
Monthly finance from £236
Power 300hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 5.7 seconds

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 R, its 2.0-litre engine produces the same amount of power too.

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. 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 buyers' guide

4. Mini Hatchback John Cooper Works

Best used hot hatch for cornering

Used Mini John Cooper Works deals from £13,790
Monthly finance from £213
Power 231hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 6.1 seconds

The Mini hatchback is exciting whichever way you look at it. Even in it's most humble One trim, it delviers charm and charisma in spaces. If you do decide to up the ante however, the John Cooper Works spec Mini is something rather special to behold.

Still cheeky, still charming and still a hoot to drive – the Mini JCW remains true to its roots as a Mini, but adds a few handfuls of spice to the mix. Admittedly, some of the Mini's family-friendly nature is lost thanks to this one only being available with three doors, but the bonus of buying used is that you'll be able to pick up models with all the extras equipped without having to stump up the extra thousands of pounds they would cost new.

Mini Hatchback buyers' guide

5. Ford Focus ST

Best used hot hatch for value

Used Ford Focus ST deals from £18,987
Monthly finance from £345
Power 280hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 5.7 seconds

The latest Ford Focus ST has not been on sale long, but its 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine is not something to be missed. With barely used 2019 models already plentiful on BuyaCar, you could save as much as £4,000 compared to the price of a brand-new one.

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.

Ford Focus ST buyers' guide

6. Audi RS3

Best used hot hatch for outright speed

Used Audi RS3 deals from £29,890
Monthly finance from £376
Power 366hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 4.3 seconds

One of the larger options of this list, but also one of the most extreme in terms of performance. The Audi RS3 puts sportscar levels of power into the incredibly practical A3 body. 

With five doors and 380 litres of boot space in the Sportback models, the RS3 is one of the best all rounders on this list, as you're also getting that renowned Audi quality throughout the interior and exterior design. It's not cheap, even as a used car, but it is one of the best hot hatches you can buy, and that performance is ludicrous no matter what car you're driving.

7. Honda Civic Type R

Best used hot hatch for striking looks

Used Honda Civic Type R deals from £18,690
Monthly finance from £280
Power 320hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 5.8 seconds

All of the other hot hatches on this list might be fast, but none of them look as fast as the Honda Civic Type R - specifically the model that's been on sale since 2018. With such a bold front end followed up by one of the most recognisable rear ends on the market. 

With the huge spoiler, the three exhaust pipes and the exhuberant lines sweeping up like a 90's super touring car, the Civic Type R has the looks to compete with the most outlandish Lamboghinis. It's just as exciting inside with bold interior colours and carbon fibre-look panels. 

But it's not all form, the Civic Type R is pretty quick too, although perhaps not on the level of the RS3.

8. Peugeot 208 GTi

Best used hot hatch for responsiveness

Used Peugeot 208 GTi deals from £7,799
Monthly finance from £146
Power 208hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 6.5 seconds

The Peugeot 208 GTi has become one of the cheapest hot hatches available from BuyaCar, with 2015 models now available for well under £150 per month on a PCP finance deal. 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 buyers' guide

9. BMW M135i

Best used hot hatch for fun

Used BMW 135i deals from £16,750
Monthly finance from £231
Power 319hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 5.1 seconds

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 buyers' guide

10. Suzuki Swift Sport

Best used hot hatch for cut-price fun

Used Suzuki Swift deals from £12,070
Monthly finance from £164
Power 140hp
Acceleration 0-62mph 8.1 seconds

On sale since 2018, 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.

Suzuki Swift buyers' guide

 

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