1. Toyota GR Yaris – 20.25% of the vote
Well, this was a bit of a surprise wasn’t it? The fact that the Toyota GR Yaris, one of the newest cars on our list, edged out some legendary hot hatches (albeit narrowly) to clinch the top spot just goes to show what an exceptional hot hatch the Japanese carmaker has put together. Its popularity has doubtlessly been bolstered by its origins as a homologation special, but it’s the car’s all-weather ability and rally-grade turbocharged three-cylinder engine that won over enthusiasts and jaded journalists alike. Order books were filled in a flash when sales opened in 2020, with queue jumpers having to fork out a hefty premium on ‘used’ examples. The market has calmed down since then, but you can still expect to pay more than £30k for one with a few miles on the clock.
2. Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy – 18.62%
The car that many of us thought would wind up at the top of the pile, not least because it clinched our hot hatch of the century back in 2019. Even though it was ultimately bested by the GR Yaris this time around, it was mighty close. Just goes to show that Renaultsport landed on a winning formula by making a great car better still. Power remained the same over the regular 182, but the addition of some very special (and very pricey) Sachs dampers was transformative – adding layer of sophistication without watering down the 182 Cup’s playful side. Its reputation as a hot hatch legend has inflated values in recent years. We’ve only got one of the 500 cars produced for the UK market on the classifieds at the time of writing, and it’s currently up for £20,675. That’s more than double what you’ll pay for a tidy Cup, but worth every penny to those looking for one of the all-time great hot hatches.
3. Honda Civic Type R (EP3) – 13.93%
The mighty ‘breadvan’. Officially the second Civic Type R to come from Honda, but the first to come to the UK market (helped by the fact it was built in Swindon). While it didn’t look quite as purposeful as the Japan-only EK9 model - though its cupboardy shape is a huge part of its charm - it had one hell of a party piece under the bonnet. Specifically, for the European market, a 200hp 2.0-litre VTEC engine revving all the way to 8,250rpm. Admittedly, the EP3 doesn’t come on song until 5,800rpm and peak power isn't untiil 7,400rpm, but that’s all part of the EP3’s appeal. The good news is that values haven’t exploded (yet), unless you go for a limited-slip diff-equipped JDM model. Expect to pay less than £10k for a good one. Worth it for one of the best four-cylinder engines ever made, surely.
4. Honda Civic Type R (FK8) – 9.03%
The polar opposite of its EP3 ancestor. Marmite looks, five doors and a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Doesn’t sound all that appealing on paper, yet the reality is quite the opposite. What the FK8 lacks in sound it more than makes up for in pace with blistering straight-line performance and seemingly limitless cornering ability. And in a world where most are switching to the safe confines of all-wheel drive power, Honda still manages to defy belief by pumping more power through the front wheels without armfuls of torque steer. Thankfully, a used FK8 will be nowhere near as pricey as its equally brilliant (if iterative) successor, the FL5. Still can’t look past the looks? Get one in black, and maybe only drive it at night. You’d still feel happy to own it.
5. Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy – 7.96%
Though our hot hatch list didn’t spark quite the level of uproar our as sports car poll, the majority of questions raised by PHers were ‘where’s the R26.R?’ and ‘what about the Trophy-R?’. Two sublime offerings from Renaultsport we thought were better suited to a different category, given their uncompromising nature. Of course, that’s the beauty of the 275 Trophy: you get the same power as the Trophy-R, an Akrapovic exhaust and optional adjustable dampers while still retaining a rear bench and air con. And all for less than you might pay for the stripped-out specials. Sure, it’s not as light as a Trophy-R, but it’s far more usable in return. Isn’t that the whole point of a hot hatch, anyway?
6. BMW M140i – 7.22%
Now this is a properly old-school hot hatch. Okay, so it’s a BMW and is therefore fairly upmarket, quite techy and quite expensive - which can’t be said for most cars on this list. But that’s not what we’re talking about, oh no. It’s the whopping 335hp 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six up front; an engine far too big and powerful to be anywhere near a hatchback, which is therefore about as hot hatchy as it gets. And unlike the rest of the cars on this list, the M140i is rear-wheel drive. BMW did offer them with a manual and while they weren’t massively popular, we’ve still got a handful of shift-it-yourself models on the classifieds to choose from. Expect to pay around £20k for something family-friendly and tail happy. Bargain.
7. Ford Fiesta ST (Mk7) – 7.21%
Ford didn’t quite nail the Fiesta ST format the first time around (which, as an owner of an original ST150, I say through gritted teeth). By no means the mere warm hatch some would make it out to be (honest), but it wasn’t helped by a sizeable power deficit to the Clio 182, nor was it as fun to drive as a Mini Cooper S. That, however, would all be resoundingly fixed with the all-conquering Mk7. Out went the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Duratec, in went a zesty 1.6-litre EcoBoost with a 32hp upgrade over its predecessor. Better still, it was mated to the Mk7’s wonderfully versatile chassis that struck just the right balance between poise and playfulness. Moreover, the ST was produced in massive numbers, so it’s going to be cheap to buy for years to come. Have at it.
8. Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk5) – 7.13%
Obviously a Volkswagen Golf GTI was going to feature in the top 12 somewhere - the question was, where? The Mk1 and Mk2 don’t count as they were discontinued well before 1998, while the Mk3 (which just scrapes in) and Mk4 were, frankly, rubbish. But after a decade of disappointment, the GTI came back with a bang with the Mk5. It was stylish, lively and punchy, and, back in 2004, left much of the competition in its dust. A landmark GTI if ever there was, so better jump on one as soon as you can before the inevitable appreciation kicks in as the numbers start to thin. Budget at least £5,500 for a decent example, but the more powerful Edition 30 is still available for less than £10k, and comes with some of the coolest alloys of any era.
9. Ford Focus RS (Mk1) – 6.49%
You know a car’s going to be brilliant when it’s fails to make a profit. Famously Ford lost out on every Focus RS sold at £20,000 back in 2002, ultimately forcing the company to shelve the pumped-up Fiesta RS Concept. Oh, what could have been. Of course a lossmaking performance car usually means the company has done everything possible to make it truly great, which the original Focus RS was even with its faults. It’s said that 70 per cent of the car was reworked, with Ford throwing in Sachs dampers, a Quaife limited-slip diff and heavy-duty Brembo brakes to give drivers a slice of Colin McRae’s rally machine (even if it was front-wheel drive) they could call their own. Given its reputation, the RS has never been cheap to buy, and a well-used example will still cost the best part of £20k; don’t be surprised though if immaculate examples start changing hands for serious cash.
10. Volkswagen Golf R (Mk7) – 6.41%
Hard to think of a more versatile performance hatch than the Mk7 Golf R. Like the M140i, the Mk7 Golf R is enormously fast in a straight line, and boasts the sort of quality and sophistication German manufacturers are known for. But unlike the BMW, the VW sends its 300hp to both axles, and is therefore at least twice as usable. The result is a pacy 5.1-second 0-62mph time with the manual version (4.9 with the DCT) and it will happily be ragged everywhere no matter how wet and greasy the road surface. Not the be-all and end-all in engagement and feedback, perhaps, but few offer can match the bang-for-buck performance of the Mk7 flagship. Manual cars can be had for as little as £15,000, but throwing an extra £5,000 into the mix bags you the more powerful facelift model. Either way, this is do-it-all hot hatchery at its finest.
11. Peugeot 306 Rallye – 6.13%
Well done Peugeot. You successfully reanimated the GTI name with the 208 about a decade ago; can we now have a follow up to the Rallye please? Specifically, the downright brilliant 306 Rallye. Based on the no less magnificent GTI-6, only with luxuries such as air conditioning and a sunroof and electric windows removed. Just like that, you’ve knocked off 16kg. And while other Pugs to wear the Rallye name were arguably down on power (more on that in a bit), the 306 Rallye carried over the same 170hp motor as the GTI-6, meaning you didn’t have to wring its neck to get anywhere. Peugeot only made 500 for the UK market, and they seldom appear on the classifieds. We’ve got one at £45,995, but that’s only because it’s factory fresh with 309 miles on the clock. You’ll pay a quarter of the that for a tidy one, though, and they're absolutely worth seeking out.
12. Peugeot 106 Rallye – 5.78%
Last but certainly not least, the Peugeot 106 Rallye. A car I’m sure many PHers would like to own at some point, because what’s not to love about a stripped-out supermini that relishes a good thrashing? Actually, scratch the word ‘relishes’ and replace with ‘requires’. To get the maximum 98hp from the dinky 1.3-litre eight-valve motor, you’ll need to rev it all the way out to 7,200rpm and there’s not a whole lot going on below 5,400rpm. But that’s what makes the 106 Rallye a left-field entry on this list, because while others major on cheap power and performance, the 106 is all about momentum - of the most rewarding sort possible. More 106 Rallyes were built than their 306 equivalents, but they’re still mighty hard to come by. Cult status means they’re heading towards £20k, too. It says much that the car remains tempting even at that price.
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