Big, brutish and dramatically thirsty just about sums up the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine which dominates the character of the Ford Focus ST. If you can live with its poor fuel economy, it makes the hot Focus a fantastically muscular thing to drive, hauling it around corners with a brusque growl. Plus, a factory-approved Mountune tuning package allows a safe boost in power, should you wish to pay for it. Inside, you get big, comfy seats and a comfortable ride, making this a great hot hatch to munch miles in. Avoid heavily modified examples and listen out for knocking front suspension.
We found: 2007 ST-3, 80,000 miles, £5000
Proving that you don’t need big power and expensive, complicated mechanicals to make a genuinely fun hot hatch is the Suzuki Swift Sport. Its power figure of 123bhp sounds diminutive, and it won’t win many traffic light drag races, but it loves to be revved, and allied to a light body and a responsive chassis, it makes for a car that’s bound to put a smile on your face. Check the gearbox changes smoothly and doesn’t make any unusual noises, and bear in mind that the tyres are an unusual size so can be hard to find.
If it’s the most practical hot hatch in town that you’re looking for, you’ve found it. The Skoda Octavia vRS boasts unrivalled boot space – you can even have it as an estate for a little more cash – and marries that to a responsive 2.0-litre turbo petrol powertrain, with the option of Volkswagen’s excellent dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Steering is rather remote and the suspension a touch on the firm side, but if you need a hot hatch for a growing family, there are few better. High oil consumption and erratic automatic gearboxes are common faults.
We found: 2008 vRS, 80,000 miles, £4800
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