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Best Hot Hatch 2024

The last petrol-powered Honda Civic Type R blends superlative driving characteristics with a new level of maturity and sophistication

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The hot hatch is a UK institution, with generations of pocket rockets that cram genuine sports car performance into a shopping trolley hatchback body.

It’s also a category of cars that has so far resisted the shift to electrification much longer than other categories, although that dam broke last year and the floodwaters are starting to find their way through.

The hot hatch market has changed dramatically over the decades, with fewer budget hotches providing cheap thrills and minimal frills. Instead, we have a growing number of more expensive, more outlandish, more *everything* models from premium brands. 

Our awards recognise both the best new models to have been launched over the last 12 months, but also the best overall cars in each category – because newer doesn’t always mean better.

Best new hot hatch: Honda Civic Type R (90%)

If this is going to be the last petrol-powered Honda Civic Type R, then what a send-off! Many people didn’t think it was possible for Honda to improve on the previous model, but the latest Type R has raised the bar even higher. That’s reflected in its stellar Expert Rating score of 90%.

The new Honda Civic Type R manages to maintain the superlative driving characteristics we’ve come to know and love from anything wearing the famous red Type R badge, but adds a new level of maturity and sophistication that is shared with the entire Civic range. Mind you, with a starting price of about £50K, it would want to be pretty good…

Class champion, petrol/diesel: Toyota GR Yaris (91%)

Toyota GR Yaris (2020 onwards) - Expert Rating

What sort of car could impress motoring journalists even more than the new Civic Type R? Well, you’re looking at it. The Toyota GR Yaris isn’t your typical Yaris hatchback – it started development as a rally homologation model and sports the world’s most powerful three-cylinder engine, a one-litre unit pushing out 260hp via all four wheels.

This powerful performance combined with agile handling has lead to universal acclaim from the British motoring media. The key issue facing UK buyers is availability – you will have to act quickly whenever there are new models in stock.

Class champion, electric: Cupra Born (77%)

Cupra Born | Expert Rating

We fully realise that plenty of people won’t consider the Cupra Born to be a hot hatch, and not just because it’s electric. It lacks the raw, entertaining edge of an old-school Peugeot 205 GTi or modern Ford Fiesta ST – or the warp-speed performance of a Meredes-AMG A 45 or Audi RS 3. But maybe it’s perceptions of what a hot hatch should be that need to change.

As an electric vehicle, the Born can’t expect to generate the aural buzz of a snarling four-cylinder petrol engine. But it takes the regular Volkswagen ID.3 underpinnings and elevates them to a higher level of performance and driving enjoyment. It’s no coincidence that the Born was originally intended to be a SEAT model, but was transferred to the Spanish brand’s performance offshoot instead as it was a more appropriate home for an electric hot hatch.

The Car Expert Awards 2024

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