What’s better than a thoroughly functional yet fantastically fun hot hatch? A bargain-priced used hot hatch, that’s what. The sector has been thriving in recent years, meaning there’s plenty of choice out there on the secondhand market to indulge in.
Here, we’ve given ourselves a budget of £5000 to go and see what’s out there for the money. Just what’s within reach may well surprise you…
10. Renault Twingo Renault Sport 133
We spotted: 2010 Renault Sport Gordini, 43,000 miles, £4500
It may not be the fastest car here, but the little Twingo RenaultSport is certainly one of the most engaging. It has a cracking chassis and the high-revving engine is a blast when on the boil. You can get a 2010 car for a song, but you do need to make sure all the electrics work.
9. Vauxhall Corsa VXR
We spotted: 2008 VXR, 61,000 miles, £4993
The bombastic Corsa VXR may not be the most purist of hot hatches, but there’s no doubting it serves up a good old fashioned slug of excitement. A roomy interior comes as standard with the scrabblingly exciting chassis too – just check the wheel bearings aren’t noisy, and that the air con blows cold.
8. Renault Megane Renault Sport 225
We spotted: 2007 Renault Sport 225 Cup, 62,000 miles, £4990
Later models developed into hot hatch icons, but even the original Megane RenaultSport 225 is worth a punt for less than £5000 – particularly if you find one with the desirable Cup chassis option. We’d steer clear of any cars that haven’t had a recent cambelts change or have been ‘chipped’, though.
7. Ford Focus ST Mk 2
We spotted: 2007 ST-3, 80,000 miles, £5000
The warbling Ford Focus ST Mk2 has a charismatic 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo that’s tremendously entertaining, provided you can afford the fuel bills. Handling is great and the roomy interior is extremely practical. Don’t be lured by any modified models pretending to be an RS, though…
6. Suzuki Swift Sport
We spotted: 2008 Sport, 63,000 miles, FSH, £3490
One of the least powerful cars here is also one of the most fun: the high-revving Swift Sport blends a brilliant chassis with its jewel-like engine as well, meaning it can’t help but rouse a grin. Suzuki reliability is legendary, and for less than £3500, it’s little short of a hot hatch steal.
5. Skoda Octavia vRS
We spotted: 2008 vRS, 80,000 miles, £4800
The world’s most practical Golf GTI: the Octavia vRS shares the same 2.0-litre turbo engine, which you can even pair up with a fast-shifting dual-clutch automatic. It doesn’t quite handle with the Golf’s resolve, but it’s still capable, and the sheer amount of space inside is eye-opening.
4. Honda Civic Type R
We spotted: 2007 Type R GT, 77,000 miles, £5000
A real cult hero with a wild high-revving VTEC engine, the Civic Type R is about more than just its engine. The chassis is also incisive, although the pay-off is a very hard ride. Distinctive styling is perhaps a bit too distinctive inside too, although you do have all that Honda reliability to be reassured by.
3. Mini Cooper S
We spotted: 2007 Cooper S, 68,000 miles, £4995
The second-generation turbocharged Mini Cooper S has lots of power and an impeccable chassis that means it’s almost as much fun to drive as the legendary original – and, compared to rivals, as cramped today as it was back in the 60s, too. Check for regular oil changes and make sure the timing chain isn’t rattling.
2. Volkswagen Golf Mk5
We spotted: 2005 GTI 3dr, 92,000 miles, £4900
After years in the wilderness, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was back to its best with the Mk5 model. A modern classic, it’s the perfect blend of sensible everyday practicality and lively B-road fun. It’s still one of the most compete hot hatches you can buy, and now yours for under £5000.
1. Renault Clio Renault Sport 200
We spotted: 2009 Renault Sport 200, 62,000 miles, £4677
We adore the Clio RenaultSport 200. For years, it was the new hot hatch to beat, and today, it takes on that mantle in the secondhand market. It’s incredibly good fun to drive and surprisingly practical too – but it is worth checking for accident damage, electrical niggles and unwise modifications.
Rob Adams is a writer for WhatCar.