The best hot hatches on sale – which car is fastest?

At the start of this century, the fastest hot hatchbacks were producing around 200hp, and they were no slouches. Fast forward to now and to get entry into the fast family car club, you’ll need at least 300hp, or close to 400hp if you want one of the very quickest. The current champion of the hot hatch power race is the Audi RS3, but alternatives in the shape of the Mercedes-AMG A45 and Ford Focus RS are chomping at its heels. How will they all compare when they’re all side-by-side at the start of a drag strip?

Car Power 0-62mph Top speed Engine size Drivetrain Price 1/4 mile time
Audi RS3 395hp 3.7 secs 155mph 2.5-litre 5cyl turbo 7spd DCT auto, 4WD £44,000 12.2 secs
Mercedes-AMG A45 381hp 4.0 secs 174mph 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo 7spd DCT auto, 4WD £42,000 12.9 secs
Honda Civic Type R 320hp 5.8 secs 177mph 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo 6spd manual, FWD £31,000 14.0 secs
VW Golf R 310hp 5.3 secs 155mph 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo 6spd manual, 4WD £33,000 14.0 secs
Ford Focus RS 350hp 4.9 secs 165mph 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo 6spd manual, 4WD £32,000 13.5 secs

Revs rose as the cars sat on the start line, waiting for the signal. With its four-wheel-drive and launch control, it’s the Audi that got off the line quickest, closely followed by the Ford despite its manual gearbox. Almost immediately, the Audi and Mercedes fired into the lead, leaving the Ford, Honda and VW far behind.

On paper, the Civic Type R should be slower than the Golf R – only 10hp more, a slower 0-62mph time and front-wheel-drive instead of four-wheel-drive – and it was indeed slower off the line. But it powered through the quarter mile and ended up almost exactly matching the blue VW. In fact, a photo finish was needed, and the Civic probably won thanks to its pointier chin.

But will all that change in the rolling drag race? The five cars were starting from 30mph in second gear, and in this race it was the powerful Mercedes that edged the start. Over the quarter-mile, the Audi summoned its extra oomph and shot into the lead. It was comfortably ahead at the flag, followed by the A45 and, slightly surprisingly, the Civic Type R. Honda’s angry-looking hatch eventually passed the Golf and the Focus, even though it’s 40hp down on the latter.

If you’re in the Fast & Furious franchise and measure a car’s speed by its quarter-mile time, you’ll be more interested in the RS3. It took just 12.2 seconds, compared to 12.9 seconds for the A45 and 13.5 seconds for the Focus RS. The Civic Type R and Golf R, meanwhile, both covered the distance in 14 seconds dead.

Save money on your next hot hatchback

Visit our RS3, A45, Focus RS, Civic Type R and Golf R deals pages to see how much you can save on these ferocious family cars. Or, why not read about a few more fast cars here?