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Best hot hatches

The definitive ranking of the best and worst hot hatches on sale in the UK

This is the definitive ranking of the best and worst new hot hatches on sale in the UK.

How can we make such a bold claim? Because this list isn’t just based on our opinion. We’ve compiled and analysed more than 15,000 new car reviews from 35 of the UK’s top motoring titles to produce our Expert Rating Index.

Why rely on one person’s opinion when you can have all of the top reviews gathered together in one place?

Hot hatches are a UK and European institution. From the pioneering early Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTi through to the latest 400hp all-wheel drive monsters, hot hatches have always delivered enormous performance from humble origins.

Nearly all hot hatches are petrol powered, although this will change over the next few years as the car industry makes the switch to electric power. Often they are bigger engines, taken from larger cars and shoehorned into a smaller one, and usually accompanied by upgraded by suspension and styling tweaks. Occasionally, however, you get a car like the Toyota GR Yaris that’s so substantially modified from the original that you wonder why they bothered to keep the name that associates it with an economicial-yet-boring hyrid model.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Summary Few cars excite at the mention of their name...

Honda Civic Type R

Like its predecessor, the latest Honda Civic Type R has been earmarked as one of the best hot hatches around, despite its hefty price tag.

Hyundai i20 N

Singled out at the Ford Fiesta ST's closest rival to date, the Hyundai i20 N is a very talented small hot hatch that is serious fun to drive.

Abarth 500e

The all-electric Abarth 500e is a nimble performance-enhanced city car with sporty looks and character, but its petrol siblings are faster.

MG 4 XPower

The high-performance MG 4 XPower has received a mixed bag of review scores, with praise for its pace and criticism for its driving dynamics.

Cupra Leon

The Cupra Leon is a hotter-hatch version of the SEAT Leon. It borrows heavily from the VW Golf GTI, but doesn't quite hit the same level.

Ford Focus ST

The Ford Focus ST is a true hot hatch – or estate – with potent engines and sporty handling, but rivals offer more for less money.

Volkswagen Golf R

With more power for a higher price, the Volkswagen Golf R is the German brand's fastest hatchback yet, but rivals are more involving.

Toyota GR Yaris

The Toyota GR Yaris has received universal praise from UK reviews for its performance and handling, and has won a host of awards.

Mercedes-AMG A 45

The Mercedes-AMG A 45 holds the accolade of being the most powerful hot hatch currently in production, but its price tag is as eye-watering as its pace.

Volkswagen Polo GTI

The Volkswagen Polo GTI is a very well-built and mild-mannered small hot hatch that reviewers agree lacks the raw fun of its rivals.

Hyundai i30 N

The Hyundai i30 N offers plentiful performance in a practical package, making it a serious alternative to better-known hot family hatches.

Audi RS 3

The Audi RS 3 is rapid hyper-hatch and sports saloon model, highlighted for its impressive performance as much as its expensive price.

Mercedes-AMG A 35

The Mercedes-AMG A 35 has received good reviews from the UK media, with praise for its performance and interior, but criticism for a lack of driver engagement.

Volkswagen Up GTI

The Volkswagen Up GTI is a fun bite-sized hot hatch which has recieved acclaim as a value-for-money package, but no infotainment is included.

Mini hatch John Cooper Works

The Mini hatch John Cooper Works has the pace to keep up with larger hot hatches, but its price is rather steep for a car of this size.

Suzuki Swift Sport

The Suzuki Swift Sport is fun and well-equipped but reviewers take issue with its price, while other hot hatch rivals are more impressive.

Abarth 595

The Abarth 595 is a car you buy with heart rather than head, with practical shortcomings and a high price, but it's great fun to drive.

Abarth 695

The Abarth 695 hot hatch range has been praised for its punchy performance, but criticised for its outdated interior and price.

Ford Fiesta ST (2013 to 2017)

Other hot hatches may have offered a better interior, but when it came to driving thrills, the Ford Fiesta ST was a unanimous reviewer favourite.

Ford Focus ST (2012 to 2018)

The third-generation Ford Focus ST wasn't the most agile hot hatch around, but its performance and practicality made it an appealing package.

Renault Mégane RS (2018 to 2022)

The Renault Mégane RS (2018 – 2022) received very good media reviews, with the 300hp models generally scoring better than the 280hp model.

Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta ST received many outstanding media reviews, and its ownership costs are surprisingly good for a hot hatch as well.

Honda Civic Type R (2017 to 2022)

The Honda Civic Type R received outstanding media reviews and was almost universally regarded as one of the best hot hatches on the market.

Mini JCW GP (2019 to 2020)

The limited-edition Mini John Cooper Works GP was a very fast hot hatch with a high-quality interior but hindered by a slow gearbox.

The hot hatch has evolved over the last 40 years or so since the original Peugeot 205 GTi and Volkswagen Golf GTI models. Today, it takes more than just a bigger engine and better brakes to produce a decent hot hatch – the cars on offer are comprehensively upgraded from their humble siblings in every possible way.

That, of course, includes price. There are several models here that can quickly add up to more than £50K with only a few optional extras, which puts them in the same price bracket as some serious sports cars.

The current generation of hot hatches represent the last of their breed. With the UK car market shifting towards an electric future in just a few years, you won’t see the likes of a screaming petrol-powered hot hatchback in new car showrooms for much longer. So if you’ve always been pining after a hot hatch and are looking for a new car, this could be your last chance…

Best car rankings

The Car Expert has the ultimate ranking of the best and worst new cars on sale, based on car reviews from 30 of the top UK motoring websites.