If you’re looking for an engaging and fun car to drive, but practical considerations mean you can’t have the fancy two-seat sports car you really lust after, then a hot hatch is often the next port of call but what are the best hot hatchbacks on sale?
If you only have access to one car and have to ferry kids around, do the weekly shopping or take the dog to the vet, there’s little else around that will satisfy the driving enthusiast as well as a need for a practical workhorse in the way a hot hatch does. Or maybe you just want something that’s fun, and simply can’t afford a Porsche Cayman.
But a decent hot hatchback offers a lot more than a simple compromise. While some hot models can be too hardcore for everyday use, the majority offer drivers a genuine dual proposition. They’re practical family or commuter transport, and when the opportunity arises they’re great fun to thrash down a B-road too.
It's often said that the first-gen Volkswagen Golf GTI was the first proper hot hatch, although if you ask a pedant they're likely to have another answer for you. The crucial thing to know is that the GTI name lives on in the current Golf range, and it's still one of the top hot hatches around.
BMW, Suzuki, SEAT and even Skoda make it onto our list as well, with their own brilliant models in the hot hatch category. Each has its own niche within this sector, too: there's the BMW M135i at the top of the scale, with its upmarket image and extreme performance, and the Suzuki Swift Sport at the other end with its more traditional formula of a light weight and a peppy four-cylinder engine.
These models get more powerful engines, improved suspension and better brakes than the small hatchbacks they are based on, and that means they are brilliant fun to drive on the road - and on a track day, too. You could quite easily drive to the track with a boot full of gear, do a hot lap or two and then head on to a nearby campsite to end the day.
They’re often the top-spec models in their respective ranges, so you get loads of standard equipment as well. Sat-nav, sports seats and larger alloy wheels are commonly fitted as standard.
Unfortunately, it's not all good news. The stiffer suspension can sometimes result in a hard ride, and the powerful engines do have an impact on fuel economy. Still, if you can live with those issues you can't beat the hot hatch as a genuine all-rounder.
Click on the links below, or use the navigation panel on the top left of this page, to see our list of the top 10 best hot hatchbacks...