The aggressively-styled Honda Civic Type R has become something of a cult hero among enthusiast drivers, and that’s mainly down to its screaming, high-revving engine. That said, the faithful, grippy chassis and sharp, direct steering have played their part too – in other words, this is a hot hatch that just loves to be driven hard. A firm ride, fussy interior and cramped rear seats mean it’s less adept at the day-to-day stuff, but if you can live with that, you’ll reap the benefits. Type R reliability is legendary, too,
We found: 2007 Type R GT, 77,000 miles, £5000
3. Mini Cooper S
With the Mini in such high demand, it might come as something of a surprise to find that you can buy a decent Cooper S for within our budget. But you can, and a great little car it is, too. What it lacks in practicality – the boot is small and rear seats cramped – it makes up for in charisma and style, being fashionably retro both inside and out. With a punchy engine up front and a taut chassis making for great handling, it’s immensely enjoyable to drive. Watch out for stretched timing chains and make sure oil changes have been carried out regularly.
We found: 2007 Cooper S, 68,000 miles, £4995
The Mk5 brought the resurgence of the Golf GTI, and is one of the best all-rounders out there, its chassis managing to combine solidity and grip with just enough liveliness to be fun and its steering perfectly weighted. Yet it’s also comfortable and quiet, spacious and economical, handsome and well finished – a car, in other words, that does it all, and very nearly the perfect hot hatch. Others are faster or more exciting, but very few quite combine all these traits into such a complete package. Engines can consume lots of oil, so keep checking the level, and automatic gearboxes can be troublesome.
We found: 2005 GTI 3dr, 92,000 miles, £4900
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