Since Volkswagen released the Golf GTI in 1976, hot hatches have grown in popularity with many manufacturers now having a hot hatchback in their fleet. In the first quarter of 2020, there were a total of 16,262 registered in the UK showing there is significant demand from UK buyers to have a practical yet fun motor. The segment has flourished over the last few years, with the established brands you associate with hot hatches having to compete with newcomers, such as Hyundai.
Hot hatches come in lots of different forms with some prioritising performance while others focus on practicality. There are now enough models on the market to make the buying decision difficult for even the greatest car enthusiasts. We’ve assessed what’s out there and listed some of the best hot hatches in 2021 in several different categories, from the best-selling to the most economical.
Whilst practicality is important when buying a hot hatch, the primary reason most will be buying one is for its speed and fun-factor. With most of the cars in this category having a limited top-speed of 155mph, the fastest hot hatches on the market are the Honda Civic Type-R which can reach highs of 169mph and the Mercedes-AMG A45 S which can reach 168mph if you push it to its limits, although that’s not much use unless you take it out on a track.
When looking purely at performance figures, the Mercedes AMG A45 S is the standout car with its 2.0 litre four-pot engine generating 415bhp and 369 lbs/ft of torque. Due to the immense amount of power and the four-wheel-drive system providing ultimate grip, the car can get to 60mph in an eye-watering 3.9 seconds - that’s only 0.4 seconds slower than a Ferrari Portofino which has a 3.9 litre V8 engine and 591bhp. However, the A45 S won’t be within everybody’s budget, with the RRP starting from £56,570.
If your budget won’t stretch to an A45 S, you could instead opt for the Mercedes-AMG A35, which is almost £20,000 cheaper than the range topping model and retails from £38,360. Whilst it’s not quite as quick, you can still reach 60mph in 4.7 seconds thanks to the 300bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and 4-MATIC four-wheel drive system.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mini Cooper S still managed to sell 3,435 units in Q1 and Q2 making it the best-selling hot hatch in 2020.
Whilst not being the best in any of the categories we analysed, the Mini Cooper S has an attractive retail price starting at £20,095, which is only bettered by the Volkswagen up! GTI. Despite the low-price tag, the Cooper S has strong performance figures with the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine generating 189bhp and reaching 60mph in 6.7 seconds, with all the power being pushed through the front wheels.
The car is available in a variety of trims and there is a choice between a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox depending on your preference. The different driving modes allow you to opt for a comfier ride or harder, more responsive drive depending on your journey.
Below are the best-selling hot hatches in the UK in the first two quarters of 2020:
|No.||Make & model||Q1 registrations||Q2 registrations|
|1||Mini Cooper S||1,072||2,363|
|2||Ford Fiesta ST||459||968|
|4||Seat Leon Cupra 290||238||821|
|5||Volkswagen Golf R||154||859|
Whilst it may not be at the top of the priority list when buying a hot hatch, the economy of a car may be important when it’s being used day-in-day-out. The higher the miles per gallon your car can achieve, the less often you’ll have to spend on filling it up with fuel.
The car that came out top of the list in this category was the Volkswagen up! GTI, which boasts a combined MPG of 58.9mpg. Despite only having a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that generates 113bhp, the car can reach 0-60 in 8.8 seconds due to weighing just 1400kg. What’s more, the car’s retail price starts at £15,275, making it the cheapest hot hatch on the market in the UK.
As well as the running costs and retail price being low, the car’s insurance group of 17E also makes it the cheapest to insure. In contrast, the Audi RS3 is in the highest insurance group at 46E, which is the same as a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Coupe.
Below are the hot hatches with the best combined MPG figures:
|No.||Make & model||MPG combined|
|1||Volkswagen up! GTI||58.9|
|2||Toyota Corolla GR||53.3|
|3||Mini Cooper S||45.6|
|4||Ford Fiesta ST||40.4|
|5||Volkswagen Polo GTI||39.8|
The attraction of a hot hatchback is that you get the fun-factor, whilst not compromising on practicality. If you wish one day, you could go on a track day and take the kids to school the next, all in the same vehicle.
When analysing practicality, the Skoda Octavia vRS is top of the class, with a boot space of 590-litres with the seats up and 1580-litres with them down. Despite being the roomiest hot hatch on the market, the Octavia’s performance figures remain impressive, with the petrol 245 Challenge model generating 242bhp and 273 lbs/ft torque. The car’s 4 cylinder 2.0-litre engine can reach 60mph in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Also, despite it being the most spacious on the market, the car is a similar weight to a Volkswagen Golf R and 130kg lighter than a Mercedes-AMG A45S.
If you don’t fancy a Skoda Octavia vRS, here are the other hot hatches that offer the best boot space:
|No.||Make & model||Boot space (l)||Boot space - seats down (l)|
|1||Skoda Octavia vRS||590||1,580|
|2||Peugeot 308 GTI||501||1,309|
|3||Renault Megane R.S||434||1,247|
|4||Honda Civic Type R||420||786|
|5||Hyundai i30 N||381||1,287|