Review: Used triple test Fiat 500 Abarth vs Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart vs Renaultsport Twingo

Review: Used triple test Fiat 500 Abarth vs Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart vs Renaultsport Twingo
Review: Used triple test Fiat 500 Abarth vs Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart vs Renaultsport Twingo

Which is the best secondhand entry-level hot hatch?

Want a fun-to-drive hot hatch but worry that your limited budget will see you miss out on the fun? Fear not. In recent years, manufacturers have launched some great entry-level hot hatches and, today, depreciation means they’re even greater bargains on the secondhand market.

One of the most revered is the RenaultSport Twingo 133 Cup, first launched in 2008. It set a trend; just a year later, Mitsubishi was offering the racy Colt Ralliart and, most enticingly, Fiat was selling an Abarth version of its iconic 500. With prices down to as littles as £2000, here we bring all three together.

Renault Twingo 1.6 RenaultSport 133 Cup

67ca74af7dbe58f5f39630457deefc3ee6a67c53
★★★★☆
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
Price new: £12,220
Price today: £2000-£6500
Power: 131bhp
Torque: 118lb/ft
0-60mph: 9.6sec
Top speed: 118mph
Fuel economy: 40.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 165g/km

Performance and handling

The first priority of a hot hatch for most is to go fast. And it’s the Colt that takes an immediate lead. Its 1.5-litre turbo engine is rapid, sprinting off the line and not giving up until it hits 125mph. The Fiat is sprightly too, though – maybe too much so away from a standstill, where it struggles for traction. Get it rolling and it feels suitably eager, meaning the only pause may come when you struggle with the inaccurate gearbox.

The RenaultSport doesn’t have a turbocharger, unlike the other two. You have to rev its larger-capacity engine much harder, although it certainly delivers the thrills when you do so. Similarly, it’s brilliant on a winding road, with fast and accurate steering plus low, stiff suspension that darts around corners like a go-kart.

The Fiat is also fun, but has less finesse than the Twingo. It’s not as agile and lacks the French car’s elegance. The Colt is even less fun, feeling more like a normal supermini than a sports-tuned hot hatch. The flip-side is the fact it has the smoothest ride – the Twingo has a sharp edge that is complemented by a noisy, rev-hungry engine.

Fiat 500 1.4 T-Jet Abarth

819727f93d5bcc7d663b679ec96e925f349d10f1
★★★★☆
Engine: 1.4-litre petrol
Price new: £13,600
Price today: £5000-£15,000
Power: 133bhp
Torque: 152lb/ft
0-60mph: 7.8sec
Top speed: 123mph
Fuel economy: 43.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 155g/km

Interior

You’ll find sporty steering wheels, gearknobs and seats inside all three, but it’s the Abarth’s interior that’s most appealing. It’s classy and stylish, feeling suitably premium – much more so than the dour grey plastic of the other two. It’s therefore a pity the 500 has a relatively MPV-like driving position, spoiling its sporty feel. The others are better here, although none has a reach-adjust steering wheel.

We found the Colt to be the most practical for passengers. It’s the roomiest in the back and is the only one that can seat five people overall. Surprisingly though, it’s the Fiat that has the largest boot, although not by much – and the Twingo’s rear seats slide back and forth to vary boot capacity.

Prices and running costs

Buying used, the Twingo is the biggest bargain. Today you can buy a RenaultSport from less than £3000, although you’ll need to budget £3500 to get a cleaner, lower-mileage pre-facelift car. That will also get you a scruffy Mitsubishi Colt, but again, we’d rather budget £4000 to get a decent Ralliart.

The popular Fiat is the most expensive of the trio, by some margin. Even the cheapest 500 Abarths still command upwards of £5000, and you’ll need to spend at least £6000 to get one with more reasonable mileage, condition and history. This does mean, however, that the Fiat is likely to depreciate the least going forward.

Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 T Ralliart 3dr

47cd8672a3ff62782cd2e6883534316a4460a347
★★★☆☆
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
Price new: £12,249
Price today: £3,500-£6500
Power: 131bhp
Torque: 118lb/ft
0-60mph: 7.2sec
Top speed: 125mph
Fuel economy: 41.5mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 161g/km

The 500 is the most fuel-efficient as well, although none of them is hardly a gas-guzzler: you’ll get at least 40mpg from all three. The Mitsubishi should prove the cheapest to service, with the Twingo commanding the highest maintenance bills.

Verdict

Overall, it’s the fact Mitsubishi’s hot Colt is comfortable and practical but not very exciting to drive that relegates it to third place in the rankings. It’s a sensible choice but budget hot hatch buyers want more fun – something the Fiat 500 Abarth delivers by the bucketload. It’s expensive, but it’s such a hoot drive, many are happy to pay the extra.

It’s the RenaultSport Twingo that’s our favourite, though. This car is a true bargain that’s also brilliant fun to drive. We can even overlook the firm ride and limited practicality, given what finesse it offers the driver. For the money, you won’t find a more engaging entry-level hot hatch.

 

Review: SsangYong Turismo

A great deal of space for not a great deal of money. Is that a good deal?In our vehicles, particularly if we’re thinking of family transport,

Living with: Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio

Can Alfa Romeo really make a BMW M3-beater?There’s nothing like living with a car to find out what it’s really like. The road testers

Review: Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus

There are some surprising oversights but they don’t stop Audi’s stunning drop-top appealingYou could save yourself £25,000

Review: Porsche 911 GT2 RS

A racing driver describes this 911 as ‘ridiculous’. ExcellentThere we were, minding our own business at Silverstone, when the winner