The best hot hatchback needs to excel in several areas if it's to be the 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. Handling prowess and power delivery are key here.
Ride quality is also important. A firm ride is inevitable on something so sporty, but the suspension must be able to deal with the worst that British roads can throw at it.
Hot hatchbacks are likely to be used every day of the week, so they also need to possess a practical, comfortable interior and have reasonable running costs.
The best (and worst) hot hatchbacks
10. Audi S1
The S1 may be based on Audi’s little A1 shopper, but a 228bhp engine has been shoehorned under its bonnet and a four-wheel-drive system replaces the usual front-wheel-drive set-up. All that power in such a small package means the S1 is seriously rapid in a straight line. In fact, it’ll outrun a Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The four-wheel drive helps the S1 stay glued to the road in fast corners and the interior is up there with larger luxury models. The ride is a bit firm and the steering a bit lacklustre, though.
9. Audi RS3
Audi has been locked in a power battle with Mercedes-Benz in recent years, but this revised RS3, which borrows the 394bhp five-cylinder engine from its TT RS sports car, puts the hot hatch firmly in the top spot for outright acceleration. You’ll need a well-padded wallet to buy and own an RS3, though. If you’re after something more playful and cheaper, check out the BMW M140i and Ford Focus RS.
The regular Ford Focus is already a very competent family hatchback, so it makes sense that the go-faster version, the Focus ST, would be a great all-rounder as well. You can have it in either 182bhp or 247bhp forms, but whichever option you choose you'll get engaging handling and a great driving position. The interior could do with being a little classier, but it's still a solid option in this market.
Our pick: ST-2
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