A really good hot hatchback can be all the performance car you’d ever need – this is because they typically have strong engines and sparkling chassis, but they can be safely enjoyed on the public roads without putting your licence in danger. And they’re just as practical and family-friendly as normal hatchbacks as a bonus, too.
Right now, we’re living in a ‘golden age’ of hot hatches, with a huge variety of models to choose from that will provide plenty of driving thrills for a spread of leasing budgets. Big or small, nimble or fast, front-wheel drive (FWD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD), there should be a hot hatchback on our list that will be guaranteed to put a smile on your face for many years to come.
10. Audi RS3
Drive: 4WD | 0-62mph: 4.8secs | Top speed: 155mph | Power: 310hp | Torque: 400Nm
A monster Audi RS3 with a 400hp 5-cylinder engine will top the range but the S3 provides all the urbane performance you could want. It comes as a 5-door Sportback (and a 4-door Saloon, although that latter body can’t classify as a hot hatch, obvs) with quattro all-wheel drive, as well as a robust 300hp 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine. It’s not the most exciting hot hatch to drive, but it is mighty quick in all weather conditions and it has a fabulous interior.
9. BMW 128ti
Drive: FWD | 0-62mph: 6.1secs | Top speed: 155mph | Power: 265hp | Torque: 400Nm
BMW’s first-ever foray into the world of front-wheel-drive hot hatches is a belting one. Using a MINI-related chassis, the 128ti uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to deliver strong performance for its comparatively modest 265hp. However, it’s the handling which impresses the most – BMW’s engineers deliberately set the 128ti’s rear suspension up to give the impression that it’s actually rear-wheel drive, rather like the company’s most fabled machines. The end result is a hot hatch that’s more fun to steer than the faster, more expensive, 4WD M135i flagship at the top of the range.
8. Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport… Or Golf R
Drive: FWD/4WD | 0-62mph: 5.6-/4.7secs | Top speed: 155mph (Both) Or Optionally 168mph (Golf R) | Power: 300-/320hp | Torque: 400-/420Nm
We’re cheating here. Sorry. But these rapid Mk8 Volkswagen Golfs are so very similar in outlook that we can’t choose between them. Both are powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and both are limited to 155mph, although an option pack on the R can increase that to 168mph. Where they subtly differ is in power levels and delivery: the R has an extra 20hp and 20Nm on the GTI Clubsport, for peaks of 320hp and 420Nm, and it also has 4WD. That means it’s much quicker for 0-62mph, but does the front-wheel-drive Clubsport provide more giggles for its driver? Arguably. Oh, and it’s slightly cheaper to lease, as well. Too tough to split them, we’ve put both forward for your consideration here.
7. Skoda Octavia vRS
Drive: FWD | 0-62mph: 6.7secs | Top speed: 155mph | Power: 245hp | Torque: 370Nm
By no means the most out-and-out exciting car here, the Skoda Octavia vRS is nevertheless a superb all-rounder and definitely the one to pick if you need a family-friendly machine first and foremost. It sits on the same platform and uses the same mechanicals as a regular Volkswagen Golf GTI, but its elegant fastback body makes it far more spacious inside and it has a simply vast boot. The cabin is also beautifully appointed and there are plug-in hybrid, diesel and Estate options if you need them. However, the 245hp TSI petrol is the one to go for.
6. Hyundai i30N!
Drive: FWD | 0-62mph: 6.1secs | Top speed: 155mph | Power: 275hp | Torque: 353Nm
For a company’s first-time effort at a hot hatchback, the Hyundai i30N is quite exceptional. There’s a good argument to be made to say it’s the ‘perfect’ hot hatchback, blending just the right amount of affordability and usable on-road performance with genuinely thrilling dynamics and a storming engine – complete with a raucous soundtrack from the exhausts. A couple of truly outstanding rivals top it on this list, though, but do not let that put you off the hot Hyundai because it’s a sensational car – and there are not 1 but 2 hatchback bodies for you to choose from, the regular model and the swoopy Fastback.
5. Mercedes-AMG A45S
Drive: 4WD | 0-62mph: 3.9secs | Top speed: 168mph | Power: 421hp | Torque: 500Nm
You won’t get any more power from a hot hatchback than this. The Mercedes-AMG A45S 4Matic+ has a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine like so many other cars on this list, but its hand-built motor is the most powerful 4-cylinder unit in the entire world. To corral such massive outputs of 421hp and 500Nm, the AMG runs 4WD and an eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox, which allow it to go from a standstill to 62mph in just 3.9 seconds. Of course, such supercar-like performance isn’t cheap to lease but the mad Mercedes is most definitely worth the considerable outlay.
4. Cupra Leon 300 TSI
Drive: FWD | 0-62mph: 5.7secs | Top speed: 155mph | Power: 300hp | Torque: 400Nm
This is the same car underneath as the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport at No.8 on our list but, somehow, SEAT’s new performance spin-off brand Cupra does everything a little bit better than Volkswagen does. Looks are subjective but it’s hard to argue that the more-demure Leon will have greater widespread appeal than the lurid, big-spoilered Volkswagen, while the Cupra’s interior looks smarter, feels better-built and has a superior infotainment system. The 300hp Leon is also more fun to drive than its Golf relation, so all in all this is one of the greatest hot hatchbacks of the present day.
3. Ford Fiesta ST
Drive: FWD | 0-62mph: 6.5secs | Top speed: 143mph | Power: 200hp | Torque: 290Nm
You might look at the stats here and think we’ve gone mad putting something relatively slow and underpowered this high up. However, the Fiesta ST is a smaller car than (almost) everything on this list and it’s such a cracking supermini hot hatch that practically all its competitors have given up the ghost and gone home. Aside from the ho-hum Volkswagen Polo GTI and a new challenger in the form of the Hyundai i20N, the Fiesta ST doesn’t have any direct competition. But that doesn’t make it any the less astounding: its 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder engine delivers 200hp into a chassis that’s one of the best in the business, regardless of the class of car you’re talking about. You won’t find many hot hatchbacks that are more fun than this Fiesta – and the final cherry on the cake is it’s very cheap to lease, too.
2. Honda Civic Type R
Drive: FWD | 0-62mph: 5.8secs | Top speed: 169mph | Power: 320hp | Torque: 400Nm
The Honda Civic Type R is the best hot hatch on sale right now. And it will definitely go down as one of the best hot hatchbacks of all time. So why is it only at number 2 on this list? Ah, well we’ll reveal all in a moment. However, with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder VTEC Turbo pumping out 320hp, the Honda is the outright fastest car on this list as it doesn’t have a speed limiter – so if you were ever on a racetrack, you could go all the way to 169mph. Yet immense speed is not its only party trick, as it handles quite brilliantly and yet, with adaptive damping, is reasonably comfortable to travel in for daily duties. As long as you don’t mind its wild looks and its patchy cabin finishing in places, then this Honda is about as good as it possibly gets.
1. Toyota GR Yaris
Drive: 4WD | 0-62mph: 5.5secs | Top speed: 143mph | Power: 261hp | Torque: 360Nm
Strictly speaking, this isn’t quite a hot hatch. The Toyota GR Yaris is a weird, bespoke type of car called a homologation special and while it might say ‘Yaris’ on the back and it has Yaris-shaped lamps clusters, almost every panel on it is different to the base supermini and it also has a completely unique chassis. It’s therefore a very special model with one minor point to note – it’s sold as a less practical 3-door only – but you will not get many finer driving experiences from anything else than you would from the GR Yaris. Not even on sports vehicles and supercars which are many times more expensive per month to lease than the Toyota. And as it has a hatchback-shaped body, even though it’s an impractical and small one, then it takes the coveted top spot on our list.
Also Check Out:
- Abarth 595
- BMW M135i
- Ford Focus ST
- Hyundai i20N
- Mercedes-AMG A35
- Renault Megane R.S. 300
- Volkswagen Up GTI
- Volkswagen Polo GTI
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