Small hot hatchbacks are ideal for nipping to the office at rush hour and enjoying a back-road blast on the way home. We’ve pulled together a list of our 10 favourite pocket rockets that combine dinky dimensions, perky engines and enjoyable handling.
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- Ford Fiesta ST
- Peugeot 208 GTi
- VW Polo GTI
- Suzuki Swift Sport
- Vauxhall Corsa VXR
- Mini Cooper S
- Renault Clio RenaultSport
- Audi S1
- Fiat 595 Abarth
- Nissan Juke Nismo RS
1. Ford Fiesta ST
Its 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine produces 182hp – enough to sprint this sporty hatchback from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds – but can return a reasonable 47.9mpg. Some rivals do come with more stylish interiors and better build quality, but the Ford fights back with an affordable price tag. Entry-level versions can be had for less than £18,000.
2. Peugeot 208 GTi
The Peugeot 208 GTi is a more grown-up offering than its iconic 205 GTi and 106 GTi predecessors but, thanks to its tempting 197hp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, it promises to be just as much fun behind the wheel. Jump on the throttle and you’ll reach 62mph from rest in just 6.8 seconds – settle back into a relaxed cruise, however, and this practical Peugeot can return an impressive 47.9mpg.
Its more mature character extends to the interior, too. The French firm’s iCockpit layout – a small steering wheel beneath high-mounted instruments – gives the GTi a distinctly modern appearance while its striking red and black trim helps to set it apart from the standard 208 hatchback.
3. VW Polo GTI
The VW Polo GTI might play second fiddle to its bigger Golf GTI brother, but it sneaks into our top three thanks to its tempting blend of refined road manners, punchy engine and excellent build quality. Its slick six-speed manual gearbox and lowered suspension make it good fun to drive but the Polo can’t quite match the agility and charisma of rivals from Renault and Ford.
The hottest Polo features a powerful 192hp 1.8-litre engine with a suitably sporty exhaust note and enough grunt to launch you to 62mph from rest in just 6.7 seconds. Entry-level cars cost more than £19,000, however, but do come with a well-appointed cabin with good equipment levels and eye-catching tartan seats as standard.
4. Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki might not be the biggest name on the hot hatchback world, but its Swift Sport is something of a hidden gem that gives the class leaders a real run for their money. Under the bonnet, there’s a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 136hp – not the most potent unit on our list but enough to launch the lightweight Swift to 62mph from rest in a healthy 8.7 seconds.
The interior doesn’t feel particularly plush, but equipment levels are impressive for a car costing less than £15,000. A pair of more supportive seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and brushed aluminium pedals are also included to help this sporty model stand out from the standard Swift.
5. Vauxhall Corsa VXR
The standard Vauxhall Corsa is a sensible machine, beloved by driving instructors and young drivers alike. In £17,995 Corsa VXR guise, however, this practical hatchback becomes a whole different animal. Aggressive styling and a throaty exhaust note make sure you won’t go unnoticed – especially if you spec yours with a lurid lime green paintjob.
It’s a little less wild than previous generations but the latest 202hp Corsa VXR is still one of the most lairy vehicles on out list to drive. Pick the optional £2,400 Performance Pack and you’ll find the VXR changes direction with an enthusiasm few rivals can match. Despite its noticeable turbo lag, it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds, too.
6. Mini Cooper S
With each new generation, the Mini Cooper S has grown larger and more refined. Thankfully, the latest model retains the terrific go-kart handling that made the original so popular. Combine this with a 2.0-litre engine developing 189hp – enough grunt to sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds – and you have yourself a hot hatch perfect for regular back road blasts on the way home from work.
The interior may be a little too retro for some tastes but it feels well-built and can be had with one of the best infotainment systems on the market. While the Mini Cooper S is more practical than ever – it’s now offered as a family-friendly five-door model – costly optional extras can hike the asking price up considerably.
Read our detailed Mini Cooper S review for more information.
7. Renault Clio RenaultSport
Compared to previous hot Clios, the latest Renault Clio RenaultSport is a more grown-up offering. A standard-fit dual-clutch automatic gearbox, an upmarket interior and fancier styling all compliment the latest car’s more refined driving experience and improved build quality.
Drivers looking for a more hardcore hot hatch can choose to upgrade their Clio to track-ready 220 Trophy spec with the lowered suspension, a racy bodykit and an upgraded gearbox. These modifications will add £2,700 to the standard car’s £19,725 price tag, however.
Find out what discounts are on offer by putting the RenaultSport Clio 200 in our car configurator.
8. Audi S1
Audi’s baby S1 might look almost identical to the standard A1 hatchback but underneath its sharply styled exterior lies a turbocharged 227hp 2.0-litre engine and the firm’s famous quattro four-wheel-drive system. As a result, it’s one of the quickest cars in its class and easily the most rapid on our list – flat out you’ll be travelling an astonishing 155mph.
The S1 comes equipped with bundles of standard kit and lashings of plush trim in its well-built cabin. Its sporty leather seats are the perfect place to savour a 0-62mph blast – even if you’ll only have 5.8-seconds to enjoy it. All this pace comes at a price, however – entry-level cars will set you back more than £25,000.
9. Fiat 595 Abarth
The Fiat 595 Abarth may only have 145hp in entry-level guise but its diminutive size and lightweight body mean this cheeky Italian hatchback never feels underpowered. Its stiffened chassis encourages you to make the most of its rev-hungry 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, too. Dive into a corner too quickly, however, and you’ll find it understeers more readily than some rivals.
It’s not the fastest hot hatch out there but the 595’s cutesy styling, retro charm and meaty exhaust note will doubtless appeal to many buyers. Entry-level cars can be had for just £15,090 while fully-specced 695 Biposto versions will set you back an eye-watering £53,720.
10. Nissan Juke Nismo RS
The Nissan Juke Nismo RS certainly hasn’t popped out of the traditional hot hatch mould, but its chunky crossover body boasts the same useful combination of practicality and compact dimensions as any other family friendly hot hatch on our list.
It doesn’t boast the most accurate handling in this company – partly due to its tall body – but its stiffened suspension and limited-slip differential help you make the most of its 215hp 1.6-litre engine without too much body roll or wheel spin. Entry-level models cost significantly more than most cars on our list but for £22,505 you do get sat nav and suede trim as standard.
Save money on your new hot hatchback
If you like the look of any of the cars on this list, head over to our new car deals page to see the latest discounts on offer or use our PCP calculator to get a better idea of how much your new car could cost per month. Not sure what to buy? Read our list of the best hot hatchbacks currently on sale or let our car chooser tool narrow down your search.