10 hot hatchbacks for under £10,000
Recently we’ve seen a lot of hot hatchbacks fall to really decent prices despite having insane performance, so I’ve ordered these cars from slowest to fastest from 0 – 60 to reduce bias. Don’t forget that we’re in the UK so prices in other countries may differ.
10. Alfa Romeo Brera 3.2L V6
My favourite looking but slowest hatchback on this list is the Brera JTS, putting out 256bhp which means 0 – 60 in 6.8 secs. When released it was generally agreed that it was a very pretty car both inside and out. However, the handling was heavily criticised, so Alfa took the car to Prodrive to make 500 limited edition examples with upgraded suspension for the handling, a Prodrive exhaust as well as 19” wheels and some sportier trim. If you’re looking for hot hatch vibes, then definitely try and go for one of these as it’s a sportier offering all around, and the interior looks gorgeous. This prime Italian beef starts at around the £6000 mark and for £10k you’re looking at a 2007 to 2009 Prodrive edition with 60 to 80,000, miles on it. Depending on condition, in terms of reliability the Brera does have a £3000 timing chain service required at 100,000 miles and the gearboxes are known to be troublesome too if not looked after. Outside of that, watch out for rust on the front subframe and knocks from the suspension, particularly on the front, but it’s an Alfa so you buy it for the passion, not the reliability.
9. VW Golf GTI
A highly respected name within the car world with its 2L turbocharged inline-four putting out 207bhp, the lowest of any car on this list, but still gets to 60mph in 6.7 seconds. This is the first generation to bring out the R as opposed to the R32, but it’s out of our price range so the GTI provides the next best thing. Reviews from owners and journalists note really good handling and build quality mixed with comfort, but also mentioned is the fact that the power delivery is pretty poor. You see a lot of details from previous generation GTIs dragged onto this one, like the alloys, red trim lines and of course the tartan seats, and it comes in both manual or DST automatic depending on your preference. They start at around £5500 with high mileage and for £10k will get you a 2009 model with under 40,000 miles on it. I would recommend going for a manual 3-door, as it’s slightly cheaper than a 5-door equivalent with better fuel economy, emissions and reliability.
6. Mini hatch John Cooper Works
This has a 1.6L turbocharged inline-four engine, putting out 208bhp, which does 0 to 60mph in 6.3 seconds. The idea behind the JCW is that it replicates the Challenge race car in road car form but in reality it’s a Cooper S with slightly more power and some other sportier features like the Brembo brakes, stiffer sports suspension and a bunch of electronic monitoring systems from BMW. You also get more aggressive looks, but the key thing to note about these is the year you buy is massively important. Models made before 2011 had the far less reliable N14 engine, which was renowned for its dreaded timing chain failure. From 2011 onwards you got the N18, which has proven to be far better. I would highly recommend you aim for an N18 which will cost you slightly more as the old end fourteens are available for a minimum of around £3000, while £10k gets you the N18 block with around 60,000 miles. If you do get an N18 JCW, you’re very much in for a treat, as the car is really good looking on both the exterior and has a lot of potential modifications if you’re that way inclined, and you often see them running well on track days.
7. 3rd Gen Ford Focus ST
It has a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four from the Mondeo putting out 246bhp and 0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds, matching the Mini but edging ahead due to the higher bhp. Compared to the previous generation it was given a more aggressive body design with that large air intake on the front, and bigger rear wing to match, wider sills and central exhaust exit at the rear. It comes in ST1, ST2 and ST3 trim levels and the ST3 is affordable within the £10,000 budget, which is probably worth it as you get a nice set of leather Recaro seats, rather than the cloth ones you in the ST1. There was a difference between the US and EU market so if you’re from the US you might not get the same as we do here in the UK. The one thing that lets it down is the fact that it has an inline-four engine. The Mk2 ST had a stunning inline-five which definitely sounds better and goes pretty nicely too. The cheapest examples are listed for around £7500 and £10k will get you a 2014 ST3 with around 70k on the clock. On reliability these are susceptible to problems caused by low speed pre-ignition so try to find an owner that knows what that is, has used the right oil and petrol and driven their car accordingly. There are a few other known issues with coolant leaks and some electronic issues as well, but owners generally note it’s a reasonably reliable car.
6. Renault Megane RS
Based on the 3rd Gen Megane with its 2.0L turbocharged inline four, which puts out 246bhp and does 0 to 60 in 5.9 seconds, the car is wholly aimed at providing a hot hatch experience. It has a six-speed manual box, Brembo brakes, stiffer suspension and a sporty interior with Recaro bucket seats. It’s also aggressive looking on the exterior with the front splitter and rear diffuser, as well as having wider wheel arches and sills. If you managed to get a Cup variant you also get a lighter car with a stiffer chassis and track focused suspension plus an LSD for good measure. A useful piece of kit overall although maybe slightly less comfortable as a daily driver. These are listed for around £7k and £10,000 will get you a 250 Cup chassis with around 80,000 miles or a normal RS with around 50,000 miles on the clock. Despite not being renowned for reliability, the engine has proven itself to be relatively strong, as long as the cam belt and water pump have been changed on time. However, there are known oil leaks, a clicking sound from the flywheel and the gearbox can also show wear through noise. Do your due diligence and find when it’s been serviced properly and you’ll likely have a good motor on your hands.
5. 2nd Gen Mazda 3 MPS (or Mazda Speed 3 in the US)
This has a 2.3L turbocharged inline four, which puts out 256bhp and takes the car from 0 to 60 in 5.9 seconds. It had a bunch of small but effective upgrades over the previous generation and while the engine was the same, the ECU was worked on to give you more usable power. The tyres are wider with bigger brakes than the first in model too, and the bonnet scoop actually serves that purpose as it feeds directly into the intercooler. According to reviewers the car is actually underrated on speed too as it was found to do 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds despite Mazda saying 5.9 secs. These list for a minimum £6500, but for £10k you’re looking at a 2011 example with 30,000 miles on the clock. Reliability is good too, however the timing chain can be an issue if not changed on time and turbos can fail with oil contamination. It has a more basic and boring interior than many of the other cars on this list, but considering it is quick for the money and highly tuneable, it’s not a bad trade off.
4. Vauxhall Astra VXR (or Opel OPC if you’re in Europe)
It has a 2.0L turbocharged inline four putting out 276 bhp and take the car from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds. Like the Megane RS cup, it comes with an LSD and Recaro bucket seats, as well as active sports suspension, and of course the obligatory sporty body kits and interior. I would say this model hasn’t cemented itself in the same way that previous generation VXR did, but as time goes by, it’s becoming an increasingly attractive offering with its decent performance figures. They start at around £8000 and for £10 grand you’re looking at a 2012 example with around 30,000 miles on it. However, a lot of owners soon started to have problems with them including gearbox issues, brake failures and simple stuff like bad paint and electricals going wrong, in some cases cars that weren’t serviced had pistons crack, requiring a whole new engine! On the VXR forum there’s a whole section devoted to the exhaust problems, in fact, this may be why the cars haven’t demanded the respect of the previous generation since they simply aren’t dependable enough.
3. 2nd Gen Audi S3
Another 2.0L turbocharged inline-four engine, this one puts out 261bhp and takes the car from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds. It’s the same platform as the Mk6 Golf, so the same as the Golf GTI up the list but it’s got an all-wheel-drive system. It’s practically the sister call to the Mk6 Golf R with the same engine, same all-wheel drive but cheaper thanks to having an even quicker older brother, the RS3. It comes as either the hot hatch, or the hot estate named the Sportback. You can also get it as a manual or DSG auto and the interior is actually quite similar to the Mk6 GTI in terms of features and feel. You can find these for a minimum of around £5000 and for £10k you’re looking at a 2010 example with around 80,000 miles on the clock. Overall, they’re reliable, but there are some known things that can go wrong like coil packs, window regulators, ABS control modules, thermostats and the potential of carbon build-up but they’re all fairly easy fixes.
2. Subaru WRX STi
When the car was switched from a saloon to a hatchback, a lot of people didn’t like it, but the WRX STi is no slouch thanks to its 2.5L turbocharged boxer four, which puts out 295bhp and takes the car from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds flat. One of the reasons why it went hatchback was to keep in line with trends that were taking place in the World Rally Championship at the time. With other manufacturers heading that way and building more nimble cars, the Impreza needed to go that way as well. Compared to the WRX, it’s wider overall and has a bunch of other features specifically built for the STi like the aluminium suspension components and electronic stability control, as well as the LSD which can be controlled to have full lock or be fully open. The cheapest examples of these are pretty much at the £10,000 mark and have anywhere between 60 to 100,000 miles on the clock. Reliability really lets these down though with the biggest problem being the ring land problem causing total engine failure! This is known on both low and high mileage examples as well so it’s a bit of a gamble, I’d almost consider swapping out the 2.5L block for the more reliable 2.0L example if I had one and it blew up.
1. F20 BMW M135i
This tops the list with a 0 to 60 time of just 4.9 seconds with its 3.0L turbocharged inline-six engine, which puts out a massive 315bhp. BMW saw the success of the previous generation 1M and capitalised on this by bringing in the M135i, which is basically a more affordable, less rare model for car enthusiasts without the budget for a top of the line example. The idea was bang for buck as it came in cheaper than the Audi RS3 and A45 AMG, but with a lot of the performance. Still, if you get the M-performance kit, it looks pretty savage with some nice carbon fibre features, plus the interior is pretty plush too. It’s one of the nicest interiors on this list when it comes to luxury and comfort which is saying something as BMW interiors are usually boring. Like the Impreza, these have only just dipped below the £10,000 mark, and you’re looking at relatively high mileage for that kind of money. The car has proven to be reliable, though the ZF automatic gearbox can start to whine which will need a new and very expensive replacement. It is important to know that there were quite a few teething problems when the car was new, which have mostly been sorted out by this point but worth checking on the car that you go for. I’d quite like one of these but I’d maybe wait for it to drop a little further in price.