7 Brilliant Hot Hatchbacks You Can Buy For Less Than A New Ford Focus RS


Credit: Josh Miller

When I said GT cars didn’t have to come expensive, you could be on your way to tell me that I don’t feature enough cars that were cheap(ish) from the start. The 406 Coupe wasn’t expensive in terms of GT cars, but it was expensive when is was new. What some of us want is a small, easy to park, front wheel drive box that’s fun to drive and has the practically you need on a day-to-day basis.

Hot hatchbacks. Best part of all, these ones start from just £1,750.

£1,750 – £2,750 – An hatchback à niveau d’entrée. (entry level hot hatchback)
The Renault Clio 172/182.

If you could live with one of the many hot hatchbacks, you could be buying one of these. A small French car with a choice of a 172 or 182 bhp.

Sure, it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, and like the majority of things that have been built in France, it will fall apart.

If you are interested in buying this cheap entry into the world of hot hatchbacks, it would have been thrashed hard by somebody at some point. When a Clio is thrashed hard, you can find accident damage. It’s easily diagnosed by the finish of seams and joints on the panels. If it differs, then a panel would have been replaced.

If it’s a really tempting offer, this 54 reg Arctic Blue 182 with 80,000 miles on the clock may just be the one on your drive.

£2,250 – £5,000 – A car to beat all of them. The Mazda MX-5.

*ahem* At least I can say it again.

£2,250 – £4,250 – A brilliant hot hatchback with a redline of 8,500. The EP3 Type-R.

Of course, this generation being one of the world’s dullest hatchbacks, the Honda Civic felt like it needed to be livened up a little bit. An engine like this would have been mad, but they did it anyway. Just look at the result.

It’s got everything you want in something like this. Independent rear suspension, a K-series engine with an insane redline of nearly 9,000rpm which kicks out an insane exhaust note. It’s good value too.

General reliability? It’s a Honda. A main thing to look out for though, the transmission does take a beating for the synchromesh during a full-bore acceleration in second. It’s not an expensive fix – we rung a parts dealer and found you could get a set of more long lasting synchros for £295. Not a lot, but it’s hassle you really don’t want.

It’s a brilliant car. Want it? This black 87,000 mile example might just be the one you’re looking for.

£3,250 – £7,750 – The cheap Audi 4-wheel drive jump. The Audi S3.

Of course, I included this one for obvious reasons. One, it’s German, so it’s going to work. It’s also turbocharged, which us youngsters like and most adults would take on a track day, and most importantly – when it snows – you likely won’t slide into a ditch.

With this generation of S3, prices range from a rather cheerfully cheap £3,250, all the way to low mileage tuned one. A good one might be more. But it’s still a lovely car, it’s still stylish and is faster going backwards than most people who drive in Hong Kong going forwards.

As I mentioned previously, the main thing to look out for when buying this generation of S3 is summed up in one word. Electrics. That multifunction display can have dead pixels, and that’s what you’d call cheap. Like every part made by Germans has ever been that way.

If you really are tempted by this as cheap way to get into the Audi S-sector,  you can buy this late model S3 for £3,500. 

£7,750 – £12,000. The Alfa Romeo 147 GTA.

Of course, I did originally plan to put a GTV in the used GTs, but the problem was, the GTV was more of a coupe than an actual GT car. The trunk was microscopic. The 147 GTA though? I love a Busso V6, and this 147 is a hot one.

I can’t help but notice how pretty this car really is. There’s only 260 left on UK roads (stat from howmanyleft.com) and it’s just such a whole bucketful of V6. Just look at the aluminium pedals, the stitched leather…

As is anything with Italians, you do need to fork over £1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in insurance, parts and labour. Of course, the 147 is just a continuation of a case in point. The clutch is the first thing on a drive – if it feels particularly heavy, the clutch may be on it’s way out. We consulted an Alfa spares website, and found you could get one for about £165. Sadly, this one has a “tablet stuck in the dashboard” cliche.

For a bucket of brilliant magnificence? Please buy this one. Just… please.

£12,000 – £15,000 – One of the many hot hatchbacks to take on the MK1 Golf GTi. The Ford Escort 1.6 Turbo.

Of course, If you wanted to be young and old at the same time, which sounds weird – you could settle for a car that nobody really thought about. If you had parents who lived through the 1980s, I’d think they wouldn’t know what I’m on about.

A hot Escort with what is a turbo is often a brilliant way to look at life. It’s a good rival for a legend of the hot hatch of the same period, the Golf GTi. So why didn’t this catch on, I wonder?

For anything that is made in the 80s, the RS Turbo always suffers from one thing. Rust – something you don’t want. This one is clean though.

Still tempted? You could get cheaper, but you do need to shell out a premium for a good one. Like this 87,000 mile example.

 £15,000 – £25,000 – A heroic Volvo engine in a family man’s Ford. The 2nd generation Focus RS.

Of course, who would mount 300 brake horsepower in a front wheel drive car?

Well, Ford did.  And it kind of worked…

That engine, along with a special front diff, actually works out rather well. And a result, you have a very powerful front wheel drive family car.

Of course, this isn’t from the ad.

A main thing to look out for when buying such a high-powered car like this are the tyres. If there are receipts suggesting a frequent change, then get a new set every 5,000 miles. Also, check to see if intake plenum hasn’t failed yet. These cars suffered from exploding manifolds, and can cost around £575 to replace…

Tempted? You can get this one in blue 😉

£25,000+ – Ending with one of the most brilliant hot hatchbacks. The Renault Clio V6.

Well, I started French, and I will end French. The same generation Clio – this time with 2 less seats, and a mid-mounted V6 in it. I could go on forever about how mad this car is.

I mean, sure it had the worst turning circle in the world. I’d probably needed to go around Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium just to get it around. It’s probably that appalling, but you can’t help yourself.

A main thing to look out for especially with these rare hot hatchbacks, is that while the V6 in the Renault is generally reliable, every single mechanical part has a short interval. If it’s been skipped several times, avoid.

If you could dig deep, you can find a rare colour – in this case, Mars Red. Only 18 Mars Red Clio V6s made it to the UK, and they do start at £25,000, and can easily go up into the £30,000 mark. This one is at £30,495. 

The same price as a new Focus RS.  Which one would YOU rather have?

Now it’s your turn.

What other suggestions of cheap hot hatchbacks would you recommend?

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