The best hot hatches

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6 of the best small hot hatches for under £5000
Hot hatches are an important stepping-stone for many car enthusiasts. If you’re looking at buying your first, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of getting a good one. Matthew Hayward, Staff Writer for evo, says thankfully, with a budget of around £5,000, there are some absolute corkers within reach. Here are his recommendations for six of the best you can pick up today. 
Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki Swift Sport (2006-2010)
eBay loves: Great sounding engine, good reliability
Watch out for: General wear and tear, warning lights
First up is the Suzuki Swift Sport, which combines bulletproof Japanese reliability with old-school hot hatch feel. Its chassis is nimble and sporty while retaining a surprising amount of ride comfort. There’s decent feedback through the steering, and the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre twin cam 16-valve engine loves to be revved. The Swift’s 123bhp is delivered at 6800rpm, which means it really has to be driven hard before it truly comes alive. Thanks to a relatively low weight, 0-62mph comes up in a respectable 8.9secs. On the whole, a fantastic little package.

Renault Sport Twingo
Renault Sport Twingo 133
eBay loves: Precise handling, compact dimensions
Watch out for: Very hard ride, noisy on the motorway
Next to the Swift, the Renault Twingo 133 boasts superior control and an amazing amount of grip. The optional Cup chassis, worth searching out if you plan on taking it on track, makes it one of the most precise B-road weapons you can buy, full stop. This does make it uncompromisingly firm on rougher UK roads though, so be sure to drive one on a good selection of roads before you make a decision. It is frankly too hard for some. Renault’s little 1.6-litre engine produces 131bhp, pushing the Twingo from 0-62mph in 8.7secs.

Fiat Panda 100HP
Fiat Panda 100HP
eBay loves: Cheap running costs, fun handling
Watch out for: Suspension bushes and arms can wear quickly
Although it’s the lowest powered car in this list, the Fiat Panda 100HP is by no means the least fun. Okay, the 1.4-litre 99bhp engine takes 9.5secs to push the Panda to 62mph. Hardly fast, but it feels brisk enough and the beefed-up suspension, brakes and tyres make it easy to maintain speed. The uprated brakes are strong, but as maintaining momentum is the key to making speedy progress, you hardly ever need to use them. Running costs are acceptably low, and £5,000 is easily enough to buy a well cared for example. The Panda is fundamentally reliable, but pay close attention to the suspension, which requires frequent checks and alignment to keep it all 100 per cent.

Mini Cooper S JCW
Mini Cooper S JCW
eBay loves: Supercharger whine, cute looks
Watch out for: Starting to get old, needs regular maintenance
A £5,000 budget won’t quite stretch to the turbocharged (R56-generation) Mini JCW, but you do have your choice of pretty much any of the supercharged models. Not including the extreme Works GP of course. Although not as quick or efficient as the newer models, the Mini Cooper S JCW model is brimming with character, and that supercharger whine is truly addictive! John Cooper Works fettled models produce between 197bhp and 210bhp depending on age. Thanks to the use of an Eaton supercharger, there’s instant torque response – with no turbo lag to speak of. With the quickest cars doing 0-62mph in 6.8secs, this is one seriously quick little hot hatch. 

Renault Sport Clio 182 Cup/Trophy
Renault Sport Clio 182 Cup/Trophy
eBay loves: Unbelievable handling, low depreciation
Watch out for: Shock absorbers need regular maintenance
If you’re willing to spend your money on something a little older, the ultra-limited run Clio 182 Trophy is a good bet. Quite possibly the best hot hatch ever built according to many motoring writers, the Trophy is a true collectors item. Differences over a standard 182 Cup model include a set of motorsport derived shock absorbers, unique Speedline alloy wheels and a set of stickers. Prices for the Trophy start from around £4,500, although the standard Clio 182 Cup is arguably the true bargain with prices starting from just £2,500 – that leaves a lot of cash for petrol and track days.

Skoda Fabia vRS
Skoda Fabia vRS
eBay loves: Frugal performance, huge torque
Watch out for: Clutches can wear quickly
‘Diesel’ isn’t often a word uttered in the same sentence as ‘hot hatch’, but Skoda managed it with the Skoda 130bhp Fabia vRS. The big 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine is all about torque, with huge pulling power in any gear thanks to the meaty 228lb ft. The chassis is certainly not class leading, thanks to a considerable amount of weight over the front wheels, but it’s reasonably entertaining. The benefit of 40-plus mpg is a big bonus too. It’s important to check service history carefully to verify the mileage, as the diesel models can cover huge distances with ease. 
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