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Best used hot hatches for less than £20,000

A budget of £20,000 could buy you a sensible family car, or you could inject some excitement into your life with one of these 10 used hot hatches...

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by
Oliver Young
Published14 December 2023

In the exciting world of hot hatches, a budget of £20,000 is enough to get you into some seriously cool used performance machines. For less than the cost of a sensible Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf you could buy a hot hatch that’s only a few years old, produces two-and-a-half times as much power and can accelerate from 0-62mph in half the time.

Best used hot hatches for less than £20,000

So, settle back and enjoy our list of the top 10 best used hot hatches currently available. Some are stealthy and sophisticated speed demons, others are more hardcore track day weapons, and a few are inexpensive and just plain fun. It’s a varied list, but that just means there’s something to suit all tastes.

And, if you want to know which is our favourite straight away, it's the wonderful Ford Fiesta ST.

Strengths

  • Engaging handling
  • Quick steering
  • Slick gearbox

Weaknesses

  • Awkward driving position
  • Ride can be uncomfortable
  • Old-fashioned infotainment

This previous-generation Ford Fiesta ST captures the essence of what makes this class so great. At its heart, it's a driver's car. The punchy 1.6-litre turbocharged engine puts out a healthy 178bhp (rising to 197bhp for periods of overboost) giving it strong performance, while its handling is an impressive balance of confidence-inspiring grip and smile-inducing fun. 

It's also practical, fuel-efficient and affordable. It's so good we even prefer it to the current 2018-onwards Ford Fiesta ST, although if you do fancy something newer and have a little more to spend that's also a bit of a bargain. 

We found: 2017 Ford Fiesta ST-3, 36,000 miles, £12,000

Read our full used Ford Fiesta ST review

Search for a used Ford Fiesta ST for sale

Find a used one for sale here

Strengths

  • Superb agility
  • Strong performance
  • Decently affordable relative to its main rivals

Weaknesses

  • Firm ride
  • Rear space and boot not the largest

The Renault Mégane RS gets a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine packing 276bhp in standard form, and 296bhp in Trophy guise. Even with the base amount of power, it has plenty of pace. More importantly, it's tremendous fun and effortlessly capable when you're in the mood for a spirited drive.

While the excellent previous generation Mégane RS is available for well within our budget, this latest version is just on the cusp, so you may have to shop around. 

We found: 2018 Renault Mégane RS 280, 56,000 miles, £20,000

Read our full used Renault Mégane RS review

Search for a used Renault Mégane RS for sale

Strengths

  • Terrific performance
  • Lively handling
  • Confidence-inspiring reliability

Weaknesses

  • Ride can get unsettled over some surfaces
  • Steering could be more communicative
  • Although it's great value, there are cheaper hot hatches out there

The M135i is a former hot hatch category winner in our Used Car of the Year Awards and the revised M140i model is even better value. Most other hot hatches come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but the M140i has a stonking 335bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six, making it the fastest car in this list by some margin. You also can revel in the playful nature of the rear-wheel-drive chassis, so it's a real blast to drive. 

What’s more, you can get it in five-door form, making for a practical family car.

We found: 2018 BMW M140i 5dr, 60,000 miles, £18,500

Read our full used BMW M140i review

Search for a used BMW M140i for sale

Strengths

  • Great handling
  • Strong performance
  • Refined

Weaknesses

  • Some rivals offer a fierier drive
  • A little expensive relative to rivals

The Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI is the car that does everything, and the one that every other brand tries to emulate yet never quite manages to.

One moment it's a classy hatchback that quietly, comfortably and efficiently deals with the daily grind, the next it’s a rapid point-to-point sports car that few twice-as-expensive models can keep up with. That's partly down to the 227bhp 2.0-litre engine fitted to GTIs equipped with the Performance Pack, but the excellent chassis dynamics play their part, too.

It's a crushingly competent hot hatch.

We found: 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 5dr, 61,000 miles, £17,500

Read our full used Volkswagen Golf GTI review

Search for a used Volkswagen Golf GTI for sale

Strengths

  • Sweet and precise handling
  • Responsive engine
  • Comfortable ride for a hot hatch
  • Well equipped

Weaknesses

  • Interior is bland
  • Performance version doesn’t have the pace of rivals
  • Boot is smaller than a Golf GTI or Civic Type R

Hyundai hit it out of the park with i30N, and it's clear from how this car looks, drives and sounds that the manufacturer was serious about kicking up a storm in the segment. 

With 271bhp in Performance form, it's quick enough to thrill, while its exhaust is raucous enough to make you grin from ear to ear – without making your neighbours frown, of course. It's fun on a twisty road and practical, too.

While not every example on the used market is less than £20,000, some are within a grand or two, so get haggling.  

We found: 2018 Hyundai i30N Performance, 60,000 miles, £19,000

Read our full used Hyundai i30N review

Search for a used Hyundai i30N for sale

Strengths

  • Very quick
  • Comfortable and refined
  • High-quality interior

Weaknesses

  • Relatively expensive to buy
  • Some rivals are more fun to drive
  • Mixed reliability – Golf as a whole

The Volkswagen Golf R is the chalk to the Civic Type R’s cheese, with very understated looks and absolutely no histrionics. 

Beneath the surface lurks a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a four-wheel-drive system, as used in the Audi S3. Like the S3, the Golf R has little trouble getting all that power down off the line, but it has lighter steering so it feels a bit more nimble. It's devastatingly quick, and that performance is very easy to access safely.

We found: 2018 Volkswagen Golf R 5dr, 49,000 miles, £19,995

Read our full used Volkswagen Golf R review

Search for a used Volkswagen Golf R for sale

Strengths

  • Wonderful engine
  • Agile handling
  • Plenty of performance

Weaknesses

  • Very firm ride
  • Steering not as sharp as some rivals
  • Interior rather cheap

If you don’t mind the huge spoiler, aggressive bumpers and flared wheel arches of the Civic Type R, you’ll be rewarded with one of the lairiest hot hatches around.

It’s the second most powerful car on this list, with an innovative 2.0-litre VTEC engine that's turbocharged to produce 306bhp. This Type R version of the ninth-generation Civic is almost unflappable on a track, and it has an R+ mode for when you want to turn the fun up to 11.

You'll have to shop around to find one on our £20,000 budget, but it'll be worth it. 

We found: 2017 Honda Civic Type R GT, 60,500 miles, £20,000

Read our full used Honda Civic Type R review

Search for a used Honda Civic Type R for sale

Strengths

  • Perky engine
  • Less than 1000kg in weight
  • Plenty of equipment

Weaknesses

  • Tiny petrol tank
  • Front seat comfort over long distances
  • High boot load lip

The dinky Suzuki Swift Sport is another cheeky small car with an eager engine, beefed-up sports suspension and grippy tyres.

It weighs less than a tonne, so despite having only a 138bhp 1.4-litre engine, it can scamper from 0-62mph in 8.1sec. You won’t find a high-quality interior, but there are figure-hugging sports seats and all the equipment you'll need.

All in all, the Swift Sport offers fun driving dynamics and exceptional value – not to mention mild-hybrid technology in post-2020 cars. 

We found: 2022 Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4 Boosterjet, 2000 miles, £15,995

Read our full used Suzuki Swift Sport review

Search for a used Suzuki Swift Sport for sale

Strengths

  • Fun to drive
  • Low running costs

Weaknesses

  • Not as practical as some rivals
  • Some cheap materials inside

The current Mini hatchback has always been a rip-roaring success, and the hot Cooper S version is a wonderfully dynamic car.

Its cheeky character, stylish interior and nippy handling make it one of the most loveable and fun hot hatches on our list. Plus, the Cooper's 2.0-litre petrol engine gives you 192bhp to play with, which pushes it from 0 to 60mph in just 6.8sec and on to a top speed of 146mph.

It's a true pocket rocket.

We found: 2019 Mini Hatchback 2.0 Cooper S 3dr, 42,600 miles, £18,500

Read our full used Mini Hatch review

Search for a used Mini Cooper S for sale

Strengths

  • Terrific performance
  • Four-wheel-drive dependability
  • High-quality interior

Weaknesses

  • Rivals are more exciting to drive
  • Can be a little cramped in the back
  • Running costs could be high

For the more discerning hot-hatch buyer who doesn’t wish to be too flashy about the performance of his or her car, there’s the Audi S3.

Aside from a few S3 badges and the four tail pipes, there's not much to differentiate it from the regular A3. Behind the unassuming exterior hides a 296bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, as well as four-wheel drive, so the S3 has prodigious traction for the 'traffic light grand prix', if that's your thing.

We found: 2017 Audi S3 TFSI Quattro 5dr, 59,000 miles, £18,995

Read our full used Audi S3 review

Search for a used Audi S3 for sale