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Hot Hatch

Ten of the best used hot hatchbacks for under £10k

Counting down some of the finest retro hot hatch heroes available for ten grand or less

Vauxhall Astra VXR (2012-2018)
  • Renault Sport Megane (2009-2016)

    Renault Sport Megane (2009-2016)

    The daddy of modern hot hatchbacks if you’re a handling nerd. The second-generation of RS Megane came in a dizzying array of specifications. Launching as the 250 before developing through 265 and 275 iterations – each suffix relaying the car’s metric horsepower figure – its stock culminated in the 275 Trophy-R, a two-seat special that ripped up the Nürburgring front-wheel-drive lap record. For that particular month, anyway. You won’t get one of those for ten grand, but an early 250 provides most of the fun with a huge dose of extra useability. And few cars are as tuneable on the aftermarket…

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  • Vauxhall Astra VXR (2012-2018)

    Vauxhall Astra VXR (2012-2018)

    There are plenty of first-gen VXRs under ten grand, but some careful shopping will snare you a gen-two. It’s one of these you want; the seductive looks of the genuinely quite pretty Astra GTC coupe intertwined with some proper serious mechanicals, namely a 276bhp turbo engine hooked up to a motorsport-inspired Drexler limited-slip differential. It was nearly a match for the Megane as a track-day toy, but looked arguably a touch more glamorous going about its business.

  • Abarth Punto (2007-2015)

    Abarth Punto (2007-2015)

    Yep, Abarth really did do a Punto. You’d be forgiven for not knowing, given it lived a significantly shorter life than the still-very-much-in-production Abarth 500 and sold in much smaller numbers. Whisper it, but this was the significantly better car. The 500 (and its numerous 595 and 695 spin-offs) is fun in a pogo stick on a trampoline kinda way, with comfort levels to match. The Punto was fun in a more traditional, car-y sort of way. While not quite as sharp as a contemporary Clio, it looked and felt much more exotic thanks to its Jaeger dials and optional Esseesse suspension upgrade that arrived at the dealer in branded crates. Well, at least according to the marketing material…

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  • Renault Sport Clio 200 Cup (2009-2013)

    Renault Sport Clio 200 Cup (2009-2013)

    That contemporary Clio was pretty unbeatable, though. Some say this is the greatest modern hot hatchback of all; a buzzy nat-asp engine and scalpel-sharp dynamics were bundled into something barely bigger than a training shoe. The interior was a tribute to the invention of plastic and fuel economy was never superb, but you’d always be having far too much fun to care. Our budget allows plenty of scope for hunting out one with the utterly terrific optional Recaro buckets – possibly the best seats ever offered on a road car.

  • Mini JCW (2008-2014)

    Mini JCW (2008-2014)

    Prefer your dinky hot hatches a little more premium? An early 2010s Mini John Cooper Works should fit the bill. In truth, quick Minis have only got uglier and more needlessly complex since this R56 model appeared. Its 208bhp turbo engine had enough punch to overwhelm the front wheels in a fun, frisky kinda way, while the rear axle was so care-free about its own grip levels, it was a surprise someone as corporate as BMW allowed such wanton oversteer to fall into the hands of excitable estate agents who’d just racked up some sweet commission. A possible future classic, if you can keep it one piece…

  • VW Golf GTI Mk5 (2004-2009)

    VW Golf GTI Mk5 (2004-2009)

    Volkswagen invented the mainstream hot hatchback with the Mk1 Golf GTI, then nailed the format with number five. Light on its feet yet substantially screwed together, it melded performance and practicality as well as any hot hatch before or since. Those rapscallion Renaults still feel better to drive – no doubt about it – but they ask of more compromise than this GTI. Five grand buys you a slightly rough one; ten grand opens up a world of choice. You can get a Mk6 for this sort of money, in fact, with an infotainment upgrade to go with it. But stick with the Mk5 and you’ll get icon status as standard.

  • Ford Focus ST (2012-2018)

    Ford Focus ST (2012-2018)

    Each iteration of ST has faced the same issue – playing second-fiddle to the full-bore Focus RS. Which, when it comes to the Mk3 ST that juuuust scrapes into budget, means being the understudy of perhaps the most famous of all the RSs, the mighty 4WD, Drift Mode-equipped car that scooped Top Gear’s Car of the Year gong in 2016. The much simpler ST remains well worth a look, though, and it even came in estate and diesel form. Nowt wrong with a nice solid petrol five-door, though.

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  • Kia Ceed GT (2013-2018)

    Kia Ceed GT (2013-2018)

    The Koreans have nailed the hot hatchback recipe in recent years thanks to Hyundai’s scintillating N division. But there’s little wrong with earlier iterations, and the Kia Ceed GT (and three-door Proceed GT) proved to be likeable everyday performance cars. With a whisker over 200bhp, said performance was fairly modest, but a sensibly laid out interior and a ginormous warranty – many second-hand Ceeds will still have some of their cover remaining – provided some very sensible USPs over the usual fast hatch crowd.

  • Suzuki Swift Sport (2012-2017)

    Suzuki Swift Sport (2012-2017)

    The Swift Sport loiters around at price points much smaller than £10k, but with this much to spend you’ll be luxuriating in a vast array of choice. Half of our budget secures an original, first-gen SSS in particularly fine fettle. Spending the full whack opens up a world of second-gen cars with low-ish miles and strong history. That’s probably peak Swift Sport, in fact; the space and modernity of a car launched in the last decade, but still with the soaring nat-asp engine we knew and loved in the mk1, and which was replaced by a notably less exciting turbocharged (and eventually hybridised) powertrain in the car’s third iteration.

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  • Peugeot 306 Rallye (1999)

    Peugeot 306 Rallye (1999)

    We couldn’t compile a list of the ten best used hot hatchbacks on sale without a trip down memory lane. The problem, however, is that most of the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties greats have long since ascended from the sub-£10k price bracket. If you want one free of rust or bent panels, anyhow. The mighty 306 Rallye – a car owned by a member of the TG ranks – somehow still slips into budget, mind. But for how much longer? Better buy this lightweight, loose-hipped FWD hero for an affordable sum while you still can, funky decals and cheery little window winders an’ all.

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