Bucket list hot hatches | Six of the Best

Everyone should own at least one great hot hatch in their lifetime – time to pick from a superb six…

By PH Staff / Saturday, 9 December 2023 / Loading comments

Honda Civic Type R, 2002, 68k, £8,990

We probably didn’t realise it back then, but the early 2000s really were a great period for the humble hot hatch. Ford resurrected the RS badge in spectacular fashion with the Focus, the new Mini silenced many doubters with a supercharged (and super fun) Cooper S, and the Clio 172 was a more than worthy Williams follow-up. Plus, of course, there was the Civic Type R, the first offered in Britain and a different prospect even to the Accord and Integra Type Rs that had established the brand over here. It was more affordable, crucially – just £15,995 in 2001. And while some of the hardware wasn’t as advanced, the Type R still shrieked beyond 8,000rpm like little else. While remaining as practical and usable and reliable as any other Civic. Prices have picked up of late, though this early, low mileage, really smart EP3 still seems like decent value at £8,990.

Mini GP, 2013, 14k, £24,995

A decade is a long time on planet Mini. In 2023, around £30k will get you a build slot for the new electric Cooper, as we prepare for a future with only two pedal Minis regardless of powertrain. In 2013, the second GP was what £30k of Mini looked like, complete with two seats, almost 220hp, Bilstein coilovers, semi-slicks and huge 330mm brake discs. Mirroring the template of the wonderful first GP, the GP2 moved the game on massively with comparable power: it was 19 seconds faster around the Nurburgring. It was a fantastic follow-up to a much-loved original and a cracking hot hatch in its own right. With the latest GP3 having not quite hit the spot in the same way, values are holding strong. This one is from near the end of the 2,000-unit run (#1763), and has covered just 14,000 miles. It’s for sale at £24,995.

Peugeot 205 GTI 1.6, 1990, 77k, PH Auction

Obviously, this hero hit list wouldn’t be complete without a Peugeot GTI – the difficulty is knowing which to choose. 106, 306 and 309 can all make valid claims (and some of the later stuff isn’t half bad, either), but in the end, the 205 is the one that left an indelible mark on the world. Next year will mark 40 years of the Peugeot pocket rocket, and it remains as revered now as it ever did: pert good looks, exciting handling and effervescent engines see to that. This particular 205 is a 1.6, a PH auction lot that’ll go under the hammer a week into the big anniversary year. It’s a low mileage 1990 car that’s been with the current owner since 2009; stored in a heated garage when not in use and driven sparingly, it looks a corker. The guide price is £8,000-£12,000 – and apparently life begins at 40…

Renaultsport Megane Cup-S, 2016, 22k, £16,990

There was a time not so long ago when no other mainstream car maker could get close to matching the driver appeal offered up by a Twingo, Clio, or Megane R.S. Those who placed a premium on feel, engagement, ability and performance could do no better than beating a path to Renaultsport’s door. They were seldom the most stylish hatchbacks, inside or out, but that didn’t matter – they drove superbly, on road and track. The 275 Cup-S was a high point for the Megane, a run-out special in the best tradition: the price was dropped (to £24k), power boosted ever so slightly, and optional equipment previously reserved for the Trophy was made available. It was the perfect sign-off for a memorable hot hatch. This one had us at Liquid Yellow, but also benefits from a full service history, plus recent cambelt and dephaser pulley – it’s £16,990.

VW Golf GTI Clubsport S, 2016, 10k, £41,995

A modern Golf GTI might not necessarily be on a shortlist of do-anything-and-everything-possible-to-own hot hatches, but then the Clubsport S wasn’t just any Golf GTI. It wasn’t much like a VW at all in fact, with its unashamed track focus, extremely limited production run and manual-only powertrain, and we should be very glad it exists. There would be no way a Golf like this, with its own front subframe and array of detail tweaks, would have made it past the bean counters after the Dieselgate fines. Though famous for its Nurburgring lap record of 7:47, the joy of the Clubsport S was how much fun it was on the road as well, more feelsome and interactive than a GTI without sacrificing (much) usability. All 150 UK cars were snapped up pronto at £33,995 – that hallowed rep means more than £40k is now required for one of the best.

Ford Focus RS Red Edition, 2018, 8k, £36,999

Every single generation of Focus RS redefined what we could expect from a hot hatch – they were that seismically important. The first demonstrated that more than 200hp could be handled by the front wheels – the second showed that more than 300hp was possible. Having conquered FWD, Ford made the next Focus RS four-wheel drive, complete with its innovative (for the time) Drift Mode. It was exactly the kind of feature a fast Ford should pioneer, and it – along with many other traits – made for another Focus RS legend. This one is a Red Edition, which boasted the front limited-slip diff, Recaro seats and carbon trim of the standard Edition with some snazzy paint on top. Just 300 were made, and this one has only 8,000 miles from new, and is just about back down to its new price at £36,999. You might have heard by now that the best fast Fords hold onto their money quite well…

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