Best hot hatches 2022

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

Best hot hatches 2022

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 through corners 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 measure of practicality, 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. If any of them take your fancy, simply click on the relevant link to find out more or see how much you could save by using our free New Car Buying service.

10

Ford Focus ST

While the Focus ST isn't as fun to drive as the Renault Megane RS, it's well priced and equipped. Plus, it's just as practical as the regular Ford Focus, making it perfect for performance-hungry families. Just make sure you avoid the diesel version.

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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
9

Hyundai i30 N

Hyundai went from zero to hero with the i30 N, because it had never previously built a hot hatch, yet managed to better the efforts of plenty of manufacturers who've been churning them out for decades. The i30 N will really put a smile on your face and comes with lots of standard kit, although it is a little underpowered compared with newer alternatives.

Pros

  • Precise handling
  • Responsive engine
  • Well priced and equipped

Cons

  • Not as fast as some rivals
  • Bland interior
  • Tight rear knee room
8

Audi S3

The S3 may not deliver the ultimate driving thrills of some rivals, but it counters with impressive point-to-point pace and a more upmarket interior. True, the closely related Volkswagen Golf R is an even better all-rounder, but the S3 isn't far behind – and it has the obvious allure of a premium badge.

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Pros

  • Very fast and capable
  • Easy to live with
  • Slow predicted depreciation

Cons

  • Not the most engaging hot hatch
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • BMW M135i has a classier interior
7

Volkswagen Golf GTI

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

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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
6

Renault Megane RS

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.

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
5

Hyundai i20 N

This follow-up to the i30 N proves that car was no fluke, because it's much more entertaining than the rival Volkswagen Polo GTI. If you drive the i20 N aggressively, it won’t bite, and if you’re precise, its works with you to generate pace. It gets squirrelly under hard braking, though, and the engine could be more responsive.

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Pros

  • Ford Fiesta ST-rivalling performance
  • Easygoing neutral handling plus lots of grip
  • Reliable, long warranty and relatively cheap to run

Cons

  • Less playful handling than the Ford Fiesta ST
  • Accelerator response is disappointing
  • Sluggish infotainment system
4

Volkswagen Golf R

Like its predecessor, the latest Golf R combines immense grip with a comfortable ride, but unlike that car it also offers a playful handling balance. Indeed, if it had a smarter interior and a less frustrating infotainment system, it might well have earned our full five-star rating.

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Pros

  • Savagely fast
  • More fun than the Audi S3 and BMW M135i
  • Comfortable ride, especially with optional adaptive suspension

Cons

  • Won’t thrill you like the very best hot hatches
  • Lacklustre interior and infotainment for a car of this price
  • Relatively expensive to buy and run
3

Ford Fiesta ST

With a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine under its bonnet, the 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. But, crucially, it's also huge fun in the corners and available for a bargain price, making it easier to forgive the bouncy ride.

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Pros

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

Cons

  • A firm, bouncy ride
  • Rivals have better reliability
  • Steering could be better
2

Audi RS3 Sportback

Spend a bit of time behind the wheel of the RS3, and you’ll find yourself wondering why you should ever have to compromise between performance and usability. It’s remarkably civilised at moderate speeds, yet with a prod of the accelerator, you can catapult from 0-62mph in 3.8sec while basking in the glorious sound of its five-cylinder engine.

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Pros

  • Bonkers acceleration
  • Sounds fantastic
  • Remarkably comfortable with adaptive suspension fitted

Cons

  • Expensive to buy
  • Some rivals are even more agile through the corners
  • Limited interior options for UK buyers
1

Mercedes-AMG A45

Is there a bigger compliment you can pay a hot hatch than setting an early morning alarm just to go for a drive? Well, that’s what you'll find yourself doing with the highly addictive A45 S Plus. It's quicker in a straight line than many sports cars, with a wonderfully linear power delivery. And it only gets more fun on winding roads, because there's almost zero body lean and it's more than happy to send a greater proportion of drive to the rear wheels to aid adjustability.

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Pros

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

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • RS3 is more comfortable and quieter

And the hot hatches to avoid...

Abarth 595

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

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