Best hot hatches 2021

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...


Author Avatar
by
What Car? team

Best hot hatches

A great hot hatch needs to excel in several areas if it's to be 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 they also 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

Volkswagen Up GTI

What Car? Target Price from

£15,808

RRP from £16,390 to £16,790

See new car dealsSave up to £597 with What Car?

The Up GTI's chirpy little three-cylinder engine serves up just enough performance to be interesting, while its precise, meaty steering allow you to make the most of the grip on offer. Sure, there are plenty of hot hatches that are sharper and more involving, but not at the Up's bargain price.

Read new car review

Pros

  • Gutsy turbocharged engine
  • Precise steering and grippy chassis
  • One of the cheapest hot hatchbacks you can buy

Cons

  • Lumpy ride around town
  • No real infotainment system
  • Low Euro NCAP rating
9

Ford Focus ST

What Car? Target Price from

£29,131

RRP from £30,255 to £34,735

See new car dealsSave up to £1,266 with What Car?

You get strong performance, grin-inducing handling and decent ride comfort with the Focus ST. What's more, it's spacious enough to serve as a family car and the interior is well equipped. Unfortunately, it’s priced in contention with the Honda Civic Type R and, as good as the Focus is, it can't hold a candle to that car’s breadth of talents.

Read new car review

Pros

  • Grippy and reasonably fun to drive
  • Great driving position
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Pricier than some more powerful rivals including the Civic Type R
  • Interior is a bit low rent
  • Steering is inconsistently weighted
8

BMW M135i

What Car? Target Price from

£35,888

RRP from £37,700 to £40,790

See new car dealsSave up to £1,949 with What Car?

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 a lot of fun, the ride is surprisingly comfortable and it has a very classy interior.

Read new car review

Pros

  • Plenty of pace
  • Classy interior
  • Excellent infotainment

Cons

  • Rivals are more fun and engaging
  • You'll want to add options
  • Rear head room not great
7

Renault Megane RS Trophy

What Car? Target Price from

£30,466

RRP from £33,585 to £51,480

See new car dealsSave up to £5,213 with What Car?

The Megane RS isn't the fastest of hot hatches, but boy is it agile in the corners, thanks to standard rear-wheel steering. It's also a quiet cruiser by the standards of the class, but it's no longer the bargain it once was now that it's available only in range-topping Trophy form.

Read new car review

Pros

  • Agile handling (particularly with Trophy chassis)
  • Cheaper than many 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
6

Mercedes-AMG A45

What Car? Target Price from

£48,507

RRP from £51,235 to £57,235

See new car dealsSave up to £2,877 with What Car?

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 from finishing higher.

Read new car review

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

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Few fast hatchbacks are as easy to live with as the Golf GTI, and that is why it remains a very desirable option. It's easily a better all-rounder than the Focus ST and Megane RS, but the very best hot hatches outgun it for thrills and speed.

Read new car review

Pros

  • Relatively strong performance
  • Tidy cornering
  • Quiet and comfy for a hot hatch

Cons

  • Some rivals offer more thrills
  • Quite pricey for the performance offered
  • Woeful infotainment system
4

Hyundai i30N

Hyundai has gone from zero to hero with the i30N, because this is its first ever hot hatch, yet it betters the efforts of plenty of manufacturers who've been building them for decades. It will really put a smile on your face and is great value.

Read new car review

Pros

  • Precise handling
  • Responsive engine
  • Well priced and equipped

Cons

  • Not as fast as some rivals
  • Bland interior
  • Tight rear knee room
3

Ford Fiesta ST

What Car? Target Price from

£20,926

RRP from £21,955 to £23,305

See new car dealsSave up to £1,093 with What Car?

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, and all for a low price, making it easier to forgive the bouncy ride.

Read new car review

Pros

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

Cons

  • Bouncy ride
  • Rivals have better reliability
  • Steering could be better
2

Honda Civic Type R

What Car? Target Price from

£34,415

RRP from £34,415 to £34,415

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.

Read new car review

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
1

Toyota GR Yaris

What Car? Target Price from

£30,020

RRP from £30,020 to £33,520

Our number one is a truly special machine that feels tailor-made for tackling a British B-road. With its small proportions, clever four-wheel drive system and firecracker of an engine, its performance is incredibly accessible, yet it's also fast enough to frighten thoroughbred sports cars. For pure driving thrills, hot hatches don’t get any better than the GR Yaris.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read new car review

Pros

  • An absolute riot in the bends
  • Scintillating straight-line performance
  • Competitive finance deals

Cons

  • Limited rear seat space
  • Bland interior
  • Poor rear visibility

And the hot hatches to avoid...

Abarth 595
Abarth 595 2020

The 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 Hatchback 2020 Front 3/4 tracking

If you're looking for a swift and practical family car, the Octavia vRS might appeal, but it doesn't excite in the bends, which is a serious problem for a hot hatch. Read our review

Spinner