Let’s face it. It’s tough to buy a bad hot hatch. Even the most mediocre of their ilk are guaranteed to put a smile on your face from time to time, but there is a genuine gulf between the also-rans in this class and the very best of the bunch.
So to prevent you from landing yourself behind the wheel of something with the lingering aftertaste of buyer’s remorse, and in no particular order, here’s where we’d be directing our dollars right now.
Munich’s baby punches well above its weight courtesy of a 165kW engine that sends power to the rear wheels. While this might mean that space in the rear seats is a little pinched, it also means great steering, perfect 50:50 front to rear weight distribution and the ability to look down your nose at the rest of the cars here.
It’s quick enough to entertain but thanks to BMW’s EfficientDynamics tech, you won’t cop a bruising at the bowser, returning a fairly saintly 5.9L/100km. Back that up with a 61 percent three-year residual value and this is one you can buy with head as well as heart.
Teasing at the upper limit of our price bracket, the Focus RS is a car you’ll buy for one reason only: because you enjoy driving obnoxiously fast. With all-wheel drive, the blue-collar ballistic missile is never found wanting for grip, but it delivers fun without the fear factor.
It’ll get to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds which not so long ago was the preserve of Italian exotica, and it’ll attract the attention of every Highway Patrol car in your municipality, but if you have the opportunity to take one on track, jump at the chance. Just ensure you have plenty of space before you engage the hilarious drift mode.
Wait, what? A Hyundai? No, we haven’t lost the plot. Hyundai’s coming fully equipped at the hot hatch market with its i30N. The Korean giant has recruited Albert Biermann, the father of BMW’s greatest M cars, to launch its own go-faster division and the i30N is the first fruit of that investment.
We’ve had an early pedal in the prototypes and they promise great things. Both 184kW base guise and 202kW Performance spec are well worth a look. If Hyundai can get Australian pricing right, this one might well upset the establishment.
There’s been a long and distinguished line of Peugeot hot hatches, but even the most ardent fans of the marque will admit that the French company went through a major fallow period from the end of 306 GTI-6 production in 2002 until this model, the 308 GTI appeared.
That’s thirteen years of disappointment that the 308 GTI had to atone for. Thankfully it’s excellent and it keeps on getting better. The latest GTI 270 model is a three-pedal 200kW rip-snorter that’ll have you wondering how Peugeot ever managed to take their eye off the ball. If a Golf GTI is a bit too establishment, here’s your ride.
Honda Civic Type R
With Renaultsport’s Megane 275 bowing out of the reckoning and the new hot Megane a way off, a space has opened in our shortlist for something equally wild and in screeches Honda’s hair-trigger Civic Type-R.
It’s officially the fastest FWD production car around the Nurburgring, but if you don’t give a hoot about bridge to gantry times, you’ll probably be happy with the fact that the 235kW Civic is also the fastest-looking hot hatch you can buy; all spoilers, intakes and slashing swage lines. It certainly isn’t subtle but it’ll win you over with its sheer purity of purpose.
The Golf might be the most sensible by here, but it’s still a stack of fun. The standard 162kW GTI is available in either manual or DSG automatic guises, or you can step up to the GTI Performance that ekes another 7kW out of the engine albeit without the option of three pedals.
You’ll need to get in fairly quick, as a revised Golf 7.5 is on the way, so there may be the odd run-out special on the outgoing Golf 7 GTI. If you want a hot hatch that does everything, your search should begin and end with this one.