Hot hatches are great; really hot hatches are even better…
By PH Staff / Saturday, 28 January 2023 / Loading comments
Mercedes-AMG A45, 2015, 64k, £19,999
The A45 is so super it’s hard not to believe this was a series production car and not some wild homologation special, built solely satisfy some FIA regs before blasting the competition to smithereens. Sure, these days even 360hp in a family hatch doesn’t raise too many eyebrows, but in 2015, when this car was built, it was something quite special. That said, they ramped it up to 381hp for the next model year, but we couldn’t find one of those for the money. Still, 360hp buys you 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, and if that’s not quick enough find your reset button. It is quick. And the A45’s brilliant suspension setup means it’s not only quick in a straight line, but also along a B road, too. Admittedly, the body control comes at the expense of ride quality, and the four-wheel-drive setup is a little one-dimensional, but if that troubles you then fine: see below.
Focus RS, 2016, 81k, £20,495
We all know the excitement of youth because we were all young once. And we all know that excitement gradually wanes as we become wizened and old. One of the best tonics for this, in my experience, is the Ford Focus RS. The spec sheet describes a super hatch – and with 350hp and 347lb ft of torque there’s no questioning it. That little lot is fed through a four-wheel drive system, which normally doesn’t say ‘Fun’ with a capital ‘F’, but get yourself behind the wheel of this Nitrous Blue, 81,000-mile Focus RS and it’s almost guaranteed to bring back the kid in you. Why? Well, engage Sport mode and the 2.3-litre Ecoboost’s pops and splutters come with an ASBO attached. Launch control sounds pure WRC-manic. And if that’s not enough to make you smile, there’s the Drift mode. The RS has its faults, of course, but a capacity for super-grade silliness was not among them – and that’s why we love it.
Mini GP2, 2013, 77k, £18,995
It’s a shame that the latest Mini GP hasn’t quite hit the spot, because the first couple were brilliant. The two-seat, two-door approach is a slightly different one taken to the rest here, with a predictable focus on big power and all-wheel drive technology, but the GP2 is undoubtedly a hot hatch great. The standard R56 Cooper S was already a fun pocket rocket: the faster, firmer, leaner, meaner GP was an absolute blast. Power for the 1.6-litre turbo four was only up 8hp to 218hp from a JCW, but a raft of chassis revisions – adjustable coilover suspension, huge brakes, sticky Kumho tyres – made the GP enormous fun on track. With just 2,000 units made, a design that looks better with each passing day and a rorty exhaust, it should be no surprise the GP2 has proved collectible – this one is 10 years and almost 80,000 miles old, yet commands £19k. Look where GP1s still are for proof of what it might do in future…
Subaru Impreza STI 20th Anniversary, 2008, 124k, £20,995
Years ahead of the good German hyper hatches, Subaru made a fast five-door with a 2.0-litre turbo and staggering all-weather performance. Though UK Impreza hatches made do with the 2.5-litre flat four (cars for the Japanese market kept the trusty EJ20) another rally-inspired rocket was still on the cards. Those after a plush interior best look at the others in this list (and definitely not inside the Subaru), but those who covet an absorbing driving experience from an all-wheel drive hot hatch won’t do much better. This 20th-anniversary car gets upgraded STI parts (springs, dampers, anti-roll bars) for an ever-sharper drive, and looks in superb condition for 15 years of use. A JDM special might not be the obvious choice in a class like this, and will surely require more specialist care, but then this is PH – rare groove is exactly what we’re here for.
Honda Civic Type R (FK2), 2015, 56k, £20,000
When the Impreza STI five-door was new, nobody dreamed of putting more than 300hp through the front wheels. But then the second generation Focus RS proved what was possible (in slightly uncouth fashion) and the hot hatch hasn’t looked back since. Nowadays 300hp+ and just a driven front axle is the norm, and nothing has proved how capable a car so equipped can be than the turbocharged Civic Type Rs. When this FK2 was launched in 2015, a driving experience as wild as the looks was expected; what arrived was a hot hatch of rare composure and ability, like a touring car for the road in its unflinching focus – and with awesome traction for 310hp. It’s an approach that’s served Honda very well, culminating in the latest, greatest FL5 Type R. Only this 2015, one-owner, totally standard car will cost rather less than £46,995…
Audi RS3, 2012, 64k, £20,999
There’s nothing wrong with four cylinders when it comes to a hot hatch parade, even when we’re talking about super hatches. It’s the default number of cylinders for this grade of car, after all. But that’s not to say we don’t crave a little more than a raspy four-pot, and when it comes to evocative noises, there’s not much with five doors and a hatchback that can trump the RS3. The 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo means we can forgive the RS3 its reputation for being a bit prosaic in the chassis department, because with that five-cylinder warble bouncing off your eardrums you won’t have much to complain about. It looks the part, too. Discrete in the time-honoured Audi fashion, with the sort of enhancements that you’ll spot only if you’re ‘in the know’. Fair enough, this car’s Misano Red makes it a bit more in your face, but it’s still a handsome thing and with just 64,000 miles, barely run in.
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