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Used Car of the Year Awards contenders: hot hatches
You’ll have to wait until 30 September for the winner of the 2021 What Car? Used Car of the Year to be announced, but you can get a preview of the top contenders here...
Less than £12,000
Suzuki Swift Sport
You get a lot of standard goodies with this lively little Swift Sport, and, thanks to its low weight, it can be remarkably fun to chuck it about at normal speeds. Used prices are highly appealing, too.
Mini Cooper S
Expensive new, but let depreciation take its course and you can find this Mini for a much more reasonable financial outlay. Then you can enjoy the premium interior and high-end infotainment system knowing you've paid a fraction of the cost of a new Cooper S - a car which, let's be honest, doesn't look drastically different.
Ford Fiesta ST
Aside from a lively ride, there's not a lot to dislike with a Fiesta ST. For the money, few cars of the thrills of this little fast Ford from its punchy engine, slick gearbox and quick steering, it really can put a bigger smile on your face than many cars that cost twice the price.
Less than £18,000
With 335bhp on tap for its huge 3.0-litre engine, the M140i must be the greatest power-per-pound spent combination going at the moment. Some might worry about it being a high-power rear-wheel drive car, but the truth is that grip levels are very high, even in the wet. It also marks a watershed moment because the latest M135i is a sanitised 2.0-litre four-cylinder car with four-wheel drive. Shame.
Seat Leon Cupra
The Leon Cupra is a very effective straight-line weapon with plenty of power to get you from point A to point B. It's good to drive, and it's highly safe and predictable, plus there's a highly practical estate version should you need it.
Honda Civic Type R
People describe the latest Civic Type R as being pretty wild looking, but all the spoilers and wings in fact started here on this older version. It can be a bit raw for some on the road, but get it on to a racing circuit and it is a rapid track machine.
Less than £25,000
Honda Civic Type R
The latest Civic Type R is by far the best version of it yet. Not only is it quick and highly capable in the corners, but the adjustable suspension means you can tailor the driving experience to the road you're on, finally allowing the Type R to be razor-sharp when you want it to be in the bends, yet comfortable when cruising on the motorway.
Ford Focus RS
Firm, uncompromising and definitely loud: the Focus RS is a touch old-fashioned as performance hatches go, but for some, it's all the better for that. Prodigious traction from its four-wheel drive system helps to get the healthy 345bhp down on to the ground and gets this RS to 62mph in less than five seconds.
While not quite as powerful as the Civic Type R, the i30 N is still fantastic to drive in its own right and has a very responsive engine. You can also tailor the car to a greater degree because you can set up and save your preferred settings for the engine, steering, suspension and accelerator response.
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