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Cheap hot hatches 2022

The recipe for a great hot hatch is simple. Take a regular hatchback, increase the performance, add some aggressive styling upgrades, tweak the suspension and improve the interior.

Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, but the formula has remained basically unchanged since the hot hatch first hit its stride in the 1980s.

Today’s hot hatches are faster and safer, but they remain unhinged and slightly naughty. In the case of cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, they can be surprisingly civilised, so you can use them for the daily commute and for having fun at the weekend.

There is one problem: cheap hot hatches are thin on the ground. Today, you’ll need to spend around £20,000 to get on the ladder, with some of the most powerful models available for prices in excess of £40,000.

But fear not, because we’ve created a list of some of the best cheap hot hatches, all of which are available for £30,000 or less.

Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta ST is the best cheap hot hatch on the market. In ST-2 guise, the Fiesta ST costs around £23,000, which is a bargain for such an engaging and entertaining car. Power is sourced from 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 200hp, but the ST’s real strength lies in how it makes you feel. Precise steering, sharp handling and a satisfying six-speed gearbox are the highlights. Upgrading to the ST-3 adds around £2,800 to the price, but the package includes smart 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, a limited-slip differential and 12.3-inch digital instrument panel.

Hyundai i20 N

For years, the Ford Fiesta ST had things its own way, as rival affordable hot hatches came and went. Even the Renault Sport Clio, for many years the hot hatch to beat, has bitten the dust. All isn’t lost, however, because Hyundai has pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the form of the i20 N. At £25,500, it undercuts the Fiesta ST-3 by around £500, and you’ll also benefit from a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine produces 204hp, plus you get a choice of driving modes and exhaust notes. It also looks a little racier than the Fiesta.

Volkswagen Up GTI

The Volkswagen Up GTI is similar in size to the original Golf GTI, the car that popularised the concept of a hot hatch. Power is sourced from a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine producing a modest 115hp, but because the Up GTI is so light, it feels far from slow. It also looks the part, thanks to 17-inch alloy wheels, lowered sport suspension, black honeycomb front air intakes and a plethora of GTI badges. Three- and five-door versions are available, with prices topping out at around £17,000. This makes it one of the cheapest hot hatches you can buy in 2022.

Suzuki Swift Sport

At around £22,500, the Suzuki Swift Sport is cheaper than the Fiesta ST and i20 N. That said, it’s also the weakest of the trio, but it’s not without appeal. Its 1.4-litre turbocharged engine produces 129hp, which is enough to propel the Swift Sport to 62mph in 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. Thanks to a 48v mild hybrid system, you can expect to achieve around 50mpg in daily use, which should make the Swift Sport cheaper to run than its rivals. The spec includes 17-inch alloy wheels with a polished finish, dual exhaust pipes and keyless entry and start.

Hyundai i10 N Line

The Hyundai i10 N Line isn’t a hot hatch in the truest sense. Thanks to a distinctive grille, LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, optional two-tone roof and twin exhaust pipes, it certainly looks the part, but Hyundai hasn’t touched the suspension or brakes. On the plus side, its 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 100hp, so it’s a genuine rival to the Volkswagen Up GTI. It’ll sprint to 62mph in a respectable 10.5 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 115mph. That makes it the quickest i10 you can buy. Don’t forget the five-year, unlimited mileage Hyundai warranty as well.

Abarth 595

No, it’s not a hatchback, but the Abarth 595 ticks many of the hot hatch boxes. Its 1.4-litre turbocharged engine produces 145hp in basic form, while other versions offer 165hp or 180hp. Even the entry-level 595 will sprint to 62mph in 7.8 seconds, then reach a top speed of 130mph. All versions look fantastic, while versions with the Akrapovic exhaust system sound delightfully rorty. Prices start from around £19,000, but the top models weigh in at £24,000. It’s getting a bit long in the tooth, but the 595 remains one of the most exhilarating small cars you can buy.

Kia Picanto GT-Line S

At £16,250, the flagship GT-Line S is around £5,000 more expensive than the entry-level Kia Picanto. It’s worth the expense, because not only do you get a lot more for your money, it’s also powered by the best engine in the range. The 1.0-litre turbocharged motor gives it a terrific turn of pace, with the Picanto hitting 62mph in around 10 seconds. Not blisteringly fast, then, but quick enough for a nimble city car. The GT-Line S boasts a long list of standard equipment, including 16-inch alloys and automatic climate control, plus the reassurance of Kia’s seven-year warranty.

Ford Puma ST

Look, we know it’s a crossover and not a hatchback, but with the Ford Focus ST costing £34,500, we’ve been forced to look elsewhere for our cheap thrills. The Puma ST is like a slightly more mature version of the Fiesta ST, as it sits on the same platform and uses the same 200hp 1.5-litre turbocharged engine. As a result, it’ll hit 62mph in just 6.7 seconds, while an optional limited-slip differential is also available. You also get a long list of standard equipment, and because the price comes in at less than £30,000, we’re happy to include it on our list of cheap hot hatches.

Volkswagen Polo GTI

Looking for a classy hot hatch for not a lot of cash? The Volkswagen Polo GTI costs around £24,500 in standard form, or £26,000 if you opt for the GTI+, and it sits between the Up GTI and Golf GTI in the VW range. Power is sourced from a 207hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which is mated to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. As well as the standard 17-inch alloys, lowered suspension and GTI styling, the GTI+ adds LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, a 10.3-inch digital instrument panel and keyless entry and start. Practically speaking, this is probably the best cheap hot hatch you can buy.

MINI 3-door Hatch

You don’t need to spend £22,000 on the Cooper S or £27,500 on the John Cooper Works to have a good time in a MINI Hatch. The £17,500 One and £19,000 Cooper are powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine developing 102hp and 136hp respectively. Sure, the performance is more brisk than rapid, but the MINI is so good to drive, especially when cornering, that you’re unlikely to care. It’s not like you’ll need to go mad with the personalisation options; a Classic model with some well chosen extras could be just the ticket.

What was the first hot hatch?

The Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI is widely credited as being the first hot hatch, but this isn't the case. It may have been the car to popularise the concept, but both the Simca 1100 Ti and Renault 5 Alpine/Gordini got there first. The 1980s was the decade of the hot hatch, with the Golf GTI, Peugeot 205 GTi, Ford Escort XR3i and Renault 5 GT Turbo battling for high-street supremacy.

Which is the best cheap second-hand hot hatch?

It all depends on your budget. Some of the most iconic hot hatches of the 1980s and 1990s now command big money, so you’ll have to dig deep for the likes of the Peugeot 205 GTi, Renault Clio Williams and Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Early versions of the Renault Sport Clio are still relatively cheap, if a little fragile, but you could also consider a Mk7 Ford Fiesta ST. Launched in 2013, early examples of the Mk7 ST are temptingly affordable – and huge fun to drive.

Money no object, what is the best hot hatch?

With the likes of the Renault Sport Megane and Honda Civic Type R biting the dust, we’d recommend looking at the BMW 128ti, Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport and Cupra Leon. Beyond that, the Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A 45 S offer the performance of a sports car, with price tags to match. For something different, it might be worth joining the waiting list for a Toyota GR Yaris – it’s a genuine modern classic.