Two grand for a hot hatch? Sounds good to us
You’d need £31,000 to buy the latest hot hatch god, the Honda Civic Type R. While that represents some sort of value for money, if you don’t have more than a few grand to spend then whether it’s good value is largely irrelevant. What’s relevant is this list of our favourite ten ten hatches all for under £2000. Now that’s more like it.
10. Honda Civic Type R (EP3)
So instead of £31k you get can a Type R for £2k. The EP3 is the one that started the real reputation of the Type R, a reputation solidly based on an affordable, fun, reliable, practical and rather bonkers hatchback. It’s a bit of Jekyll and Hyde, with decent drive up to 5,000rpm and then a manic lunge for the 8,500rpm screaming upper edge. The 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine is a reliable peach, and the rest of the car was up to par, although steering was a bit average. Go for a post-2003 model and you’ll be happy, although tax and insurance are a bit high.
9. Renaultsport Clio 172
For our budget we’ll find the Mk2 Clio as the Mk1 is now too expensive, but even so you’ll be getting plenty of ‘big engine, small car’ fun. Light weight, decent power and fine suspension delivers a thrilling handling package, with seriously chatty steering.
8. Audi S3 (Mk1)
It may be old, but it’s still got clout – you can get the uprated 225bhp car from 2001 for our budget. An Audi S3 is a premium product with lots of go, grip and grin. The smart cabin is well appointed and well equipped and if you’re thinking of a three-door hot hatch for the budget this is a class act.
7. Mini Cooper S (R53)
What a brilliant idea. Take the 1.6-litre Mini, with its super-sharp handling and handsome cabin, and add a great big Roots supercharger. With the increase in torque, there was immense in-gear grunt across the range and across the box.
6. BMW 325ti Compact
This is a classy option, being the only one here to offer a straight-six engine. The silky smooth and potent engine got a lighter chassis, tweaked suspension and steering and much else. Ride is firm, but rear-drive fun makes it all worthwhile.
5. Ford Fiesta ST (Mk6)
The ST has a more powerful – 148bhp – engine than the normal Fiesta, along with lowered suspension, bodykit, 17-inch alloys and a more aggressive attitude. It handles a treat, won’t cost a bundle to insure and can be cheaply serviced.
4. Seat Leon Cupra R (Mk1)
The Cupra goes the usual route of being lower and firmer than the standard Leon, and the bodykit is bespoke. The engine spec is the same as the early Audi S3 but all the 210bhp goes to the front wheels, and gets to the ground without any drama. The cabin is improved by the optional Recaro seating, but this is good value for money, even if our budget will only get an older, high-mileage example.
3. Peugeot 206 GTI 180
This is the pokiest 206 GTi but its lack of outstanding character means it’s cheaper than the 205 GTi and so is better value – and available in our budget. Handling is sharp but not razor-sharp, while the stiff suspension does mean lots of grip. You’ll find plenty of examples out there, and they’re good value and easy and cheap to fix.
2. MG ZR 160
Our £2000 budget will get you pretty much any example of this MG. This is the range-topper, with the 160 having the K-series 1.8-litre engine from the MGF. It’s a mixed bag, with decent performance, reasonable handling and feeble brakes and driving position.
1. Volkswagen Golf 4Motion (Mk4)
This isn’t exactly a GTI since it lacks real zest and body control is similarly lacking, but on the other hand who could argue with a 2.8-litre V6, pumping out 204bhp to all four wheels? Not us. It’s certainly quick, with a top end of 150mph, so it’s a mixed bag for you to delve into and see if you like the contents.