Hot ones

34 min read

If you want to buy a brand new, combustion-engined hot hatch right now, the 18 cars you see here are your options. But which among them are most deserving of your attention? Small, medium and large, front- and four-wheel drive, warm, spicy and flaming hot, we rank them all to help you decide


THE HOT HATCH WAS ONCE A CORNERSTONE OF the performance car world, and a significant slice of the automotive market as a whole. Practically every mainstream manufacturer had at least one raised-in-power, lowered-in-suspension, bespoilered-in-bumper development of a regular hatchback – and often there’d be many, covering various sizes and door counts.

Today the representatives of the entire UK hot hatch market fit into half the length of the pitlane here at Bedford Autodrome. In its current form the hot hatch is not so much an endangered species as one confirmed for extinction, for manifold reasons. Leaving the impending combustion-engine sales cut-off aside, there are other factors at play: the need for manufacturers to reduce fleet-average emissions; packaging, production and engine development costs making profit margins for smaller cars more challenging than ever; and development and manufacturing funds needing to be reallocated to EVs.

The hatchback market itself, hot or otherwise, is shrinking, too. Once an enormously strong-selling model, the Ford Fiesta is still cumulatively ranked as the UK’s best-selling car of all time, but in 2021 it dropped out of the annual top ten. Consumer tastes have switched to taller vehicles, and the Fiesta-based Puma crossover now tops the charts. Fiesta production ended in July 2023 and the Focus will follow suit in 2025, as Ford concentrates on higher-margin models to finance the transition to EVs.

High time (and one of the last times there’ll be) to assemble the remaining combustion-engined hot hatches on sale in the UK for a get-together, to examine the state of play and rank the remainers in order to see which are still worth your cash today, or might become a classic tomorrow.

We’ve included hybrids too, but not, on this occasion, pure-electric models such as the Abarth 500e and MG4. That’s a test for another day, when more EV contenders are ready. VW has previewed its likely direction with the ID GTI concept, Alpine likewise with the A290 hot hatch (see page 24) and Hyundai imminently launches the Ioniq 5 N, which showed plenty of promise in our first drive in evo 317.

For now, Volkswagen’s main

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