Ford Fiesta ST

The best hot hatches for under £10k

The best hot hatches for under £10k

Need a heady mix of practicality and performance on a budget of £10,000? You should buy a hot hatch.

Since the MK1 Volkswagen Golf GTI set the genre in the ’70s, the formula has been clear – take a roomy hatchback body, fit a powerful engine, uprate the suspension and brakes, add a muscular body kit, sprinkle the interior with go-faster touches to finish and, et voila, you have a hot hatch.

Brought before you today, you’ll find everything from classics to 100 horsepower heroes, giant-killing Clios, track kings and family wagons – there’s something for everyone. So keep reading Goodwood Road & Race’s guide to the best hot hatches on a £10,000 budget. 

VW Golf GTI Mk5

Volkswagen hit the nail on the head with the MK5 Golf GTI representing a return to form after the disappointment of the car that preceded it. The MK5, by contrast, was a checklist of everything you want from your hot hatch. Powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine? Check. Burbly exhaust? Check. Agile handling and that’ll cock a wheel under hard cornering? You bet.

The MK5’s USP was its ability to combine all these qualities with everything you would expect of a Volkswagen: superb cabin quality, a practical well-thought-out interior and affordable everyday running costs. Factor in retro nods to the MK1 GTI like tartan seat upholstery and a golf-ball gear knob and there’s not much not to like about the MK5 GTI, even if it does occupy the more conservative end of the hot hatch market. But who’s caring when our £10,000 budget is enough to get you an exceptional example of the breed?

Renaultsport Megane RS250 Cup

To say the Renaultsport Megane RS250 could be mentioned in the same breath as Porsche GT products of the period sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. Fine, so the Megane doesn’t have the exotic mechanicals of a 997 GT3 but the sum of its parts combine to deliver comparable levels of driving pleasure – it’s one of the most compelling hot hatches ever built. You get a punchy 250PS turbocharged engine and a front-wheel drive chassis that is so keen to oversteer, you’d swear it was a rear-wheel-drive trapped in the wrong configuration.

Cup models go one step further by adding a track-ready suspension setup, limited-slip differential and Recaro seats that hold your body with a vice-like grip. Downsides? Well, the Cup’s hard ride and noisy cabin mean this track refugee isn’t the easiest car to live with every day but, for less than £10,0000, such irrelevancies can be pushed to one side.

BMW M135i

The M135i stands in stark contrast to a modern BMW hatchback in that it was good-looking, had rear-wheel drive and came exclusively with six cylinders. It was also something of a bargain at the time. The turbocharged straight-six gives the BMW a creamy soundtrack and performance that will match even its fastest modern rivals.

The rear-wheel-drive setup, meanwhile, meant you could adjust the car mid-corner on the throttle. Sure, the BMW doesn’t feel as nimble as other hot hatches here (we’d call it the long-legged GT of the hot hatch world) and the back seat is cramped, but for less than £10,000 it still looks like a steal.

Peugeot 106 Rallye S2

As modern hot hatches chase ever-increasing power figures, the Peugeot 106 Rallye S2 is hot hatching how it used to be done, with a lightweight body pulled along by a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that loves to be abused. The Peugeot’s unassisted steering and nimble chassis only reinforce the fact that the 106 Rallye represents back-to-basics motoring, with a level of driver involvement not replicated by (the stunningly fast but somewhat detached feel) of the current crop of hot hatches.

The 106 Rallye costs buttons to run, is easy to maintain and feels the part from behind the steering wheel thanks to its Rallye sport upholstery and classic three-spoke steering wheel. This £10K hot hatch even holds investment potential, but what it doesn’t offer is modern creature comforts like motorway refinement and, well, any form of safety. But, as a tribute to the hot hatches of yesteryear, it’s impossible to fault.

Fiat Panda 100hp

With cheap running costs and prices starting from around £3,000 for a mint example, the Fiat Panda 100hp is an ideal choice if you’re taking your first tentative step onto the hot hatch ladder. It gets everything right, kicking off with neat handling and a raspy 1.4-litre 16-valve engine that fills the cabin with glorious induction noise as you work your way through the tightly-stacked six-speed gearbox.

Sure, the Fiat doesn’t offer the last word in handling finesse and some will find its suspension a little too firm, but the Panda counters by offering five-door practicality and a surprising amount of space inside its lofty body. The perfect starter hot hatch? It’s definitely in with a shout.

Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta ST achieved cult-car status almost the minute it went on sale following its reveal at the 2012 LA motor show. The ST had everything. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine felt way quicker than its raw figures suggested, while the uncompromising suspension and fast steering meant it could bound into corners with an enthusiasm few of its contemporary rivals could match.

But the Fiesta’s strength was that it coupled the charisma of an old-school hot hatch with modern safety standards and generous equipment levels, giving you creature comforts like sat-nav and heated seats. Prices start from as little as £5,000 although it’s worth spending closer to £8,000 for a fresher example.

Honda Civic Type R FN2

It’s fair to say the Honda Civic Type R FN2 was not universally loved when it went on sale in 2007 and for good reason – it replaced the legendary EP3 but was no quicker and lost the old model’s sophisticated independent rear suspension. Times change, though, and now there’s a lot to be said for the FN2’s combination of spaceship styling, high-revving naturally aspirated engine and uncompromising body control.

There’s also something to be said for Honda’s excellent reliability record when you’re procuring a hot hatch that went off sale in 2011. What isn’t so good is the bumpy ride and engine roar that’ll quickly prove tiresome on long motorway runs. Still, when £4,000 is enough for a clean example, what’s not to like? 

Skoda Octavia vRS

Combining practicality with performance is the name of the hot hatch game, but the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate (a hatchback is also available) brings practicality to an all-new level thanks to its generous rear legroom and huge boot. It’s a hot hatch that can swallow whatever you and your family throw at it.

The driving experience is more grown-up than your regular hot hatch; the Octavia isn’t rabidly quick nor hugely involving, but if you want to get from A to B quickly and safely, it’s a solid choice. Its 2.0-litre petrol engine (shared with the Golf GTI) delivers its power evenly across the rev range and it can be paired with a twin-clutch DSG gearbox that’ll be ideal if you live in town, and all for less than £10,000.

Renault Clio 182 Trophy

Getting your hands on a genuine piece of hot hatch exotica for under £10,000 might sound like a pipe dream, but the Renault Clio 182 Trophy – which was revealed at the 2005 Monaco GP by none other than Fernando Alonso – makes the impossible a reality. The Trophy is based on the (already excellent) standard 182, adding lightweight wheels, Recaro sports seats and a fetching Capsicum Red paint job.

The highlight of the show, however, is found under the skin, where the Clio got motorsport-grade Sach dampers with remote reservoirs. The result? Body control the likes of which the hot hatch world had never seen before or since. It remains one of the best ever built, although it’s not one of the most practical. With future-classic status all but guaranteed – the Trophy should put you on a safe financial footing.

Peugeot 309 GTi

The times when you could pick up a clean Peugeot 205 GTi for £10,000 have long since passed, but the rarer 309 GTi can still be had on budget if you keep your eyes peeled to the classifieds. The 309 gives you 99% of the 205 experience while making you a significant cost saving. Unlike the 205, the 309 only came with Peugeot’s gutsy 130PS 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine, which gave the 950kg hatchback more than enough performance, plus the 309’s stretched wheelbase meant it handled more predictably than its pirouetting sibling.

Dare we say, period road testers preferred the 309’s driving experience. Factor in the option of five doors and the 309’s big boot and this is one purchase you can justify to yourself as being almost sensible, even if the 205 is the car you really want.

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