Best used hot hatchbacks 2021
Our picks for the best used hot hatchbacks in the UK for 2021
You could argue that a hot hatchback is the ultimate car for an enthusiast - and a used hot hatch is surely even better, as the value for money factor jumps up a few more notches.
Hot hatchbacks are based on normal family cars with hatchback bodystyles, yet with their powerful engines and tuned suspension, they're often better to drive than similarly-priced sports cars - and quicker, too.
Hot hatches all have a similar formula, with a punchy engine and practicality good enough for everyday use. However, they do differ quite a bit when you get down to the details - there are front, four and rear-wheel drive options, all of which appear in our list of used best buys here.
There are more four-cylinder hot hatchbacks than other types, but you can find a lot of variety, plus some even have six cylinders. Turbochargers have become common, and while some of the greatest hot hatches of the past did without them, the modern crop uses turbo power to achieve some pretty incredible performance.
Every single car you'll find below will delight drivers, but has enough practicality to be used as a family car. Read on to find our favourite used hot hatchbacks for 2021.
The best used hot hatchbacks
- Ford Fiesta ST
- Honda Civic Type R
- Volkswagen Golf R
- Hyundai i30 N
- BMW M135i/M140i
- Peugeot 208 GTi by PeugeotSport
- Ford Focus ST
- SEAT Leon Cupra
Ford Fiesta ST
The previous-generation Fiesta ST is one of our favourite hot hatchbacks of all time. It does everything well – it looks good, is practical, handles superbly, and has enough power to worry far more expensive sports cars on the right stretch of road.
It’s powered by a 180bhp 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine – although Ford’s ‘overboost’ function can temporarily increase this to 197bhp under full throttle. The engine is connected to a snappy six-speed manual gearbox that means a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 139mph.
If you’re not satisfied with the level of performance from the standard Fiesta ST, look for one with the Mountune upgrade pack. Or you can always take a standard car to the tuning firm who, with a couple of bolt-on accessories, can increase the output to 212bhp – dropping the hatchback’s 0-62mph time to around six seconds. What’s more, Mountune’s entry-level upgrades are sanctioned by Ford, so the ST retains its warranty cover. Even though this might have expired by now, it’s a good sign for reliability.
The most appealing part of ST ownership, though, is its sublime chassis. The standard Fiesta is great to drive, and the ST builds on these foundations with new dampers, 15mm lower suspension, bigger brakes, a quicker steering rack and a clever torque-vectoring system which helps reduce understeer when cornering.
This means the Fiesta ST grips keenly and turns in sharply, which gives you the confidence to carry speed through corners. Ford hasn’t made the suspension too low, so it’ll still handle potholes and speed bumps with ease, although the ride is on the firm side.
However, the Fiesta ST isn’t a difficult car to live with every day. The Recaro sports seats are comfortable and supportive, and there’s a generous 290-litre boot. But it’s the fun factor on offer here for the cash that makes it a great used buy.
See the latest used Ford Fiesta ST prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R has been a hot hatch icon since its nineties debut, though it wasn't until the 2000s EP3 model that Brits could buy them through dealerships. Every single version has been a gem in its own right, but the latest model is an incredible performance car for family car money.
Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces over 300bhp, which is on a par with rivals such as the VW Golf R, yet it feels much more ferocious than any other hot hatch, and the chassis is easily able to handle the power - it's one of the most enjoyable cars to drive, no matter the class.
It's highly practical, with a big boot, plenty of equipment and lots of passenger space. Yet when you switch the dampers from comfort to sport, it stiffens up significantly and turns into a true driver's car.
See the latest used Honda Civic Type R prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
Volkswagen Golf R
The Volkswagen Golf R is the do-it-all performance car that will suit drivers who love stamping on the throttle and disappearing off into the sunset. Acceleration is absolutely rampant from 0-60mph and beyond, thanks to the powerful engine and four-wheel drive layout that brings huge amounts of traction.
There are plenty of Golf Rs for sale second hand so it's easy to find a good one, and the Golf is an inherently practical car, with a big boot and lots of room inside. There's all the kit you could want and a great touchscreen display as well.
The Golf isn't an incredible driver's car like some of the others on this list, but it's still extremely capable in bends and makes a great family car.
See the latest used Volkswagen Golf R prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
Hyundai i30 N
The Hyundai i30 N's badge is probably why it's one of the bargain hot hatches of the moment. Hyundai never had a history of great performance cars, so why should its first hot hatch be any good? Well, it had no right to be - yet it defied convention and is an absolute riot to drive.
It's stiffly sprung, so it's not all that comfortable on country roads, but its adjustable chassis, powerful engine and entertaining exhaust note means it's great fun. It's still an i30 at heart, so it's got the right amount of practicality too.
It's strength on the used market is that it hasn't held its value as well as the Golfs and Fords on this list, so it's a bargain to buy. Don't overlook it - once you've taken a test drive, you'll understand.
See the latest used Hyundai i30 N prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
The BMW M135i and M140i are very similar - the latter is the facelifted model, so got a handful of improvements. It's not worth buying a tatty M140i over a nice M135i though as they both bring the same unique twist to the hot hatch class.
That twist is that they have a brawny, six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, so they feel much more grown-up than other cars on this list. The engine is super-smooth, sounds brilliant and provides superb performance.
The BMW is a delight to drive, and while it's not quite as practical as some of the others on this list, it's more upmarket inside. There's a luxurious cabin with lots of kit and the BMW is comfortable on long trips, so it makes a great everyday car if you don't have a big family.
See the latest used BMW M135i/140i prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
Peugeot 208 GTi by PeugeotSport
The Ford Fiesta ST may be our favourite small hot hatch but the Peugeot 208 GTi by PeugeotSport is arguably more fun to drive. It's not quite as practical but it's still fantastic value, as it doesn't have the racy looks of the Ford but delivers incredible amounts of fun for the money.
The Peugeot's chassis is the highlight, as it's adjustable and nimble while still being composed on rutted and rough country roads. The engine is a firecracker too, and is really fun to use.
The small steering wheel takes some getting used-to, but if you can overlook that then the 208 is a real gem of a small hot hatch with loads of character.
See the latest used Peugeot 208 GTi prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
Ford Focus ST
The Fiesta ST might not appeal to everyone - after all, there's not a whole lot of space in the back seats or boot. If you love the Fiesta ST but need more space, then the Ford Focus ST could be the one for you.
It has the same fun-filled character as the Fiesta, but has a brawnier engine and a greater range of ability. It's quick enough to entertain, but like the Fiesta, the bends are where the fun is - the Focus is a delight to sling into a series of corners thanks to its grippy chassis that begs to be pushed harder.
The Focus is available in several forms, too - there's a punchy diesel model for those doing lots of motorway miles, and an estate version for those needing even more room. These versions are the car's USP and could be a great reason to buy. Look carefully and you'll discover that there are plenty of good-quality, reasonably-priced examples available second hand.
See the latest used Ford Focus prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
SEAT Leon Cupra
The VW Golf R isn't for everyone so if you like the idea but don't like the looks, the SEAT Leon Cupra is a decent choice. It uses the same engine as the Golf, so it has a powerful four-cylinder petrol - though it's slightly less powerful. You can't tell the difference from behind the wheel, though, as it feels more than powerful enough.
Power goes to the front wheels only in hatch form, though the ST estate model has four-wheel drive like the Golf R. Grip is still excellent and we reckon the Leon Cupra is actually more fun more of the time than the Golf. It has sharper steering and slightly better body control, though it's also a little stiffer than the VW.
The Leon Cupra is a great second-hand buy because examples available now are reaching the end of their period of steep depreciation, so there are some bargains out there that won't lose much money when you come to sell on in a few years' time.
See the latest used SEAT Leon prices on our sister site BuyaCar...