Best hot hatches 2020

What's the best hot hatch money can buy? Here we count down our current top 10 – and reveal the models that are best avoided...


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What Car? team

A great hot hatch needs to excel in several areas if it's to be the crowned the cream of the crop.

First, it must be able to get your pulse racing on a twisty back road; if it can’t get you from corner to corner without the edges of your mouth turning up, it has fallen at the first hurdle. So, handling prowess and power delivery are key.

However, hot hatches are likely to be used every day of the week, so also they need to possess a practical, comfortable interior, have reasonable running costs and not be so firm that you quickly tire of them.

Below, we count down our current top 10 – and reveal the models to avoid. And don't forget, if any of them take your fancy, our New Car Buying service could potentially save you thousands.

10

Audi RS3

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£44,538

RRP from £46,310 to £50,310

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The RS3 may not be the sharpest hot hatch to drive, but it's incredibly fast, thanks to a 394bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that's also used in the TT RS sports car. Four-wheel drive ensures it has incredible all-weather traction, and its interior is the most opulent of any hot hatch. 

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Pros

  • Incredible all-weather pace
  • High-quality interior
  • Good practicality

Cons

  • Less involving than main rivals
  • Expensive to buy and run
  • Hesitant gearbox
9

Volkswagen Polo GTI

Few manufacturers have as much hot hatch pedigree as Volkswagen, and this hepped-up version of the Polo is well worth considering if you're after something fast and relatively compact that's easy to live with every day. Just bear in mind that some of its more demanding rivals are ultimately more exciting.

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Pros

  • Very comfortable by hot hatch standards
  • Great driving position
  • Better infotainment system than rivals’
  • 1

Cons

  • Fiesta ST is more agile and fun
  • Pricey to buy
  • Hesitant DSG automatic gearbox
  • 1
8

Mercedes-AMG A35

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£36,892

RRP from £38,360 to £44,795

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If the bonkers A45 is too much for you, AMG's entry-level hot hatch, the A35, is a pretty tasty choice that provides a lot of performance for a lot less cash. A grippy chassis and flashy interior add to its appeal. 

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Pros

  • Rapid acceleration
  • Great traction, even in inclement conditions
  • Reasonably comfortable

Cons

  • Rivals are more rewarding
  • Engine sounds a bit tuneless
  • Too much road noise
7

BMW M135i

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£35,596

RRP from £37,470 to £40,470

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With a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive, the M135i is more conventional than its six-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive predecessor, the M140i. However, it's still huge fun, the ride is surprisingly comfortable and it has a very classy interior.

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Pros

  • Sharp and enjoyable handling
  • Well-judged ride
  • Excellent infotainment

Cons

  • Engine could sound fruitier
  • Digital dials less configurable than rivals’
  • Gearbox can be hesitant
6

Mercedes-AMG A45

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£48,655

RRP from £50,595 to £56,595

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The A45's figures are mightily impressive: 415bhp (in range-topping S form) and 0-62mph in 3.9sec, despite relying on a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. What's more, it's not just ballistically fast in a straight line, but agile and entertaining through the twisty bits. Only its huge price stops it finishing higher.

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Pros

  • Savage acceleration
  • Immense grip
  • Quick-shifting automatic gearbox

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • So-so interior quality
  • Some less capable rivals are even more fun
5

Ford Focus ST

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£29,351

RRP from £30,250 to £34,710

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A much cheaper option than the A45 is the Focus ST, which offers grin-inducing handling, strong performance and a pretty good ride. It's also spacious enough to serve as a family car and the interior is well equipped. 

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Pros

  • Strong engine
  • Great driving position
  • Grippy and balanced

Cons

  • Pricier than a Civic Type R, Megane RS and i30N
  • Rivals have classier interiors
  • Steering could be better
4

Renault Mégane RS

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£32,995

RRP from £32,995 to £36,995

The Mégane RS isn't the fastest of hot hatches, but boy is it fun in the corners, with agility boosted by standard rear-wheel steering. It's also a quiet cruiser by the standards of the class and cheaper than most rivals in our recommended Cup trim.

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Pros

  • Agile handling (particularly with Cup chassis)
  • Cheaper than most rivals
  • Quiet cruiser by hot hatch standards

Cons

  • Straight-line performance is nothing special
  • Not the most practical hot hatch
  • Driving position isn't perfect
3

Hyundai i30N

Hyundai has gone from zero to hero with the i30N, bettering established rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST with its first serious attempt at building a hot hatch. There are two versions: the regular car and the more hardcore Performance model. However, we reckon you'll have more fun on the road in the former.

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Pros

  • Precise handling
  • Responsive engine
  • Well priced and equipped

Cons

  • Not as fast as some rivals
  • Bland interior
  • Tight rear knee room
2

Fiesta ST

With a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine under its bonnet, the latest Fiesta ST isn't short of punch; in fact, it puts out 197bhp, meaning you can cover the 0-62mph sprint in just 6.5sec. It also offers superb handling and a great driving position, but still falls just short of the number one spot.

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Pros

  • Fun to drive with loads of grip
  • Cracking engine
  • Great driving position

Cons

  • Bouncy ride
  • No option for automatic emergency braking
  • Steering could be better
1

Honda Civic Type R

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£31,626

RRP from £32,820 to £32,820

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The Civic Type R has never been a wallflower, but all the outlandish-looking bodywork on the latest version has a practical purpose, helping to keep this turbocharged 2.0-litre-engined car glued to the ground. It offers awesome performance and precise handling, yet it’s also a practical and comfortable everyday car. That’s why it’s our reigning Hot Hatch of the Year.

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Pros

  • Thrilling, capable handling
  • Awesome performance
  • More comfortable and practical than most rivals

Cons

  • Terrible infotainment system is only saved by standard fit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Lots of road noise
  • There are cheaper options

And the hot hatches to avoid...

Abarth 595
Abarth 595 2020

This go-faster version of the Fiat 500 is startlingly quick and wonderfully stylish. Unfortunately, this isn't backed by composure in corners and the bouncy ride can become extremely wearing. Read our review

Skoda Octavia vRS
Skoda Octavia vRS 2019 front tracking

While you won't be disappointed by the way the Octavia vRS accelerates, it's feeling its age in other areas, in particular in the way it handles. Unless you need the vast space it offers, there are plenty of better choices. Read our review

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