10 underrated used hot hatches for less than £15k we found this week | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October

10 underrated used hot hatches for less than £15k we found this week

Alpine’s new A290 is the hatch of the future, but what about something a little different from the past? TO THE CLASSIFIEDS!

  1. Alfa Romeo 147 GTA

    Alfa Romeo 147 GTA

    A small Alfa with a 3.2-litre V6? Yes please. A small Alfa with a 3.2-litre V6 firing 250bhp and 221lb ft through the front wheels… Maybe? In the Noughties, that was a recipe for lots of nose heavy understeer. It was also prone to munching through its gearbox if you were unlucky. It didn’t sell in massive numbers despite bucketfuls of style, but get your hands on one now and there are plenty of ways to deal with its foibles and turn it into a pretty solid car. You’ll find people crowding around it making pleasing noises about never seeing them… because you never really do.

    Here's one we found earlier

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  2. Audi S1

    Audi S1

    When Audi’s A1 hatch came out we all hoped a properly quick one was on the way. The quattro-equipped mega limited A1 Quattro was cool, but too expensive… enter stage left: the S1. It came with all wheel drive, a perky 228bhp 2.0-litre turbo four, and looked pretty good. It was a fun little rollerskate of a thing, and did a decent impression of a rally car if you squinted really hard. It never hit legendary status, which is a shame because it’s all kinds of ace. You could even get them in a wonderfully lurid yellow with red accents. Lovely.

    Here's one we found earlier

  3. Toyota Corolla T Sport

    Toyota Corolla T Sport

    Wait… Toyota made a hot hatch? Oh yes it did, and judging by the quizzical look on your face its place on this list is probably well earned. The Corolla, back in the early ‘aughts, wasn’t the kind of car that dreams were made of, but it did the job of being A Car very well. Throw in Toyota’s rev happy 189bhp 1.8-litre motor (that made the S2 Lotus Elise and Exige rather entertaining) and you get yourself a stealth… we wouldn’t go so far as to say rocket, but it was quickish. The facelift’s lower springs helped handling, too.

    Here's one we found earlier

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  4. Citroen DS3 Racing

    Citroen DS3 Racing

    Citroen’s reinvention of the DS brand (before it became one in its own right) led to some decent cars. The DS3 was a decent foil to the MINI Cooper, but Citroen’s go at a hot hatch was a blast. A 1.6-litre turbo four pot breathed on by Citroen’s keenest nerds, carbon fibre all over the place, and the option of an orange roof made it stand out from the crowd. Sadly, so did a high price point, which made it fodder for only the keenest of Francophiles. The mainstream went elsewhere, leaving this French gem for the people who REALLY wanted them. Drive one today and you’ll see why they chose... wisely.

    Here's one we found earlier

  5. Seat Leon Cupra R

    Seat Leon Cupra R

    In the days before Cupra was a hugely successful brand, it was the name Seat reserved for its quickest cars. Back when Seat's design language leant towards ‘chrysalis-ish blob’ the Leon was given the full Cupra treatment - an angry bodykit, two centrally-mounted exhausts, and a delightfully potent turbocharged motor sending power through the front wheels. As is ever the way with things that aren’t Golf GTIs, it wasn’t quite as loved as its VW opposite number, but it found a dedicated group of fans nonetheless. Spain’s flagship hot hatch was joyfully noisy when driven spiritedly, and fantastically capable in the right hands.

    Here's one we found earlier

  6. MG ZR

    MG ZR

    You can find an MG ZR’s owner from about half a mile away by whispering ‘nice Rover’ and waiting before they storm over and tell you that it’s definitely not a Rover and that it’s very different in every way thank you very much. While yes, it is mostly Rover 25, there are some hefty under-the-skin changes to make it feel like something that deserved to wear an MG badge. It was a decent steer by all accounts, came in bright colours with big wings, and had a ‘please let this car help save MG Rover’ attitude. It didn’t save the company, but it was at least entertaining. 

    Here's one we found earlier

  7. VW Scirocco R

    VW Scirocco R

    The Golf R gets all the praise for being a snorty angry point-to-point monster, but what about its fashion forward sibling, the Scirocco R? The Scirocco came with cracking looks, and a 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged motor. It didn’t get all wheel drive though, sending power only through the front. While VW’s tricky XDS differential did a good job of keeping the power in check, it wasn’t dynamically up there with the sensible Golf. As such they didn’t quite fly off the shelves, and are going for keen money these days. They also looked incredible in bright green.

    Here's one we found earlier

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  8. Suzuki Swift Sport

    Suzuki Swift Sport

    While turbocharging all the things has been de rigueur for a while now, Suzuki decided to keep things simple with the 2005 Swift Sport. A buzzy 123bhp naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine drove the front wheels, letting drivers make lots of noise and not go very fast while hammering around bends as quickly as they wished. Quality power over quantity was the name of the game, and the Swift Sport was a charming little thing to hoon around in that made you do big silly grins. Decidedly old school in its approach and now criminally overlooked, it deserved bigger love.

    Here's one we found earlier

  9. Renault Sport Twingo 133

    Renault Sport Twingo 133

    Renault Sport churned out some incredible cars that mixed everyday practicality with a slice of revvy corner carving fun. The second generation Twingo was a car begging for some extra go, so Renault Sport got to work. It was a tiny box of buzzy fun that showed that even 133 horses can be more than ample. The harder edged Cup spec Twingo was a bit much for the UK’s nasty roads, but the pliability of the standard car proved to be pretty bang on. Too few people took ‘em up, which means too many people missed out on a gem.

    Here's one we found earlier

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  10. Volvo C30 T5

    Volvo C30 T5

    There was once a time when a smallish Volvo shared its underpinnings with the Ford Focus. That meant it could have Ford Focus engines, which at the time included the ST’s 217bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged five pot. It looked like the safest, friendliest car in the world, but beneath its calm, Swedish exterior lay the thrumming heart of a lunatic. It was, unsurprisingly, brisk off the line, throwing a little bit of old school hot Volvo charm into a not-too-angry package. It wasn’t as hard edged as its more blue and ovally sibling, which meant it was often overlooked.

    Here's one we found earlier

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