BACK IN the 1980s, the hot hatchback was the king of the road. Hot hatches were cars to aspire to, offering accessible performance in a practical package.
Their popularity waned in the 90s, with an increase in accidents, thefts and insurance premiums, but they’re back with a vengeance in the 21st century.
Today, the hot hatch is a staple of the new-car market in the UK, with a huge range of models for buyers to add to their shopping lists, from brands including Honda, Ford, Toyota, Audi, Mercedes, Renault and VW. They offer a one-stop solution for motorists with family responsibilities but a strong desire to still enjoy the school run and work commute.
Here we pick our recommended hot hatches for 2022. We’ve chosen vehicles to suit different budgets, from the affordable Hyundai i20 N to the premium Mercedes-AMG A 45 S, but they all have one thing in common: the ability to put a smile on your face.
Best hot hatchbacks at a glance
|Hot hatch||Price from||Powertrain||0-62mph||Top speed||Economy|
|Audi RS 3||£53,830||2.5-litre 5cyl turbo, 395bhp, 369lb ft, seven-speed twin-clutch auto, four-wheel drive||3.8 seconds||155mph||31.4mpg|
|Cupra Born||£33,735||58kWh battery and electric motor, 201bhp, 229lb ft, single speed auto, rear-wheel drive||7.3 seconds||99mph||Range: 263 miles|
|Honda Civic Type R||£33,000 (est)||2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 320bhp (est), 300lb ft (est), six-speed manual, front-wheel drive||5.8 seconds (est)||170mph (est)||37mpg (est)|
|Hyundai i20 N||£25,220||1.6-litre 4cyl turbo, 201bhp, 203lb ft, six-speed manual, front-wheel drive||6.2 seconds||143mph||40.4mpg|
|Mercedes-AMG A 45 S||£57,885||2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 421bhp, 369lb ft, eight-speed twin-clutch auto, four-wheel drive||3.9 seconds||168mph||31.0mpg|
|Toyota GR Yaris||£30,020||1.6-litre 3cyl turbo, 257bhp, 266lb ft, six-speed manual, four-wheel drive||5.5 seconds||143mph||34.3mpg|
|Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport||£38,760||2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 296bhp, 295lb ft, seven-speed twin-clutch auto, front-wheel drive||5.6 seconds||155mph||38.5mpg|
1. Audi RS 3
With its five-cylinder engine, the RS 3’s exhaust note sounds like that of the famous Audi Quattro rally car, while four-wheel drive means traction is immense.
It needs it to get all that power to the road, while the fast-shifting twin-clutch gearbox keeps the fabulous engine on song.
The chassis is sharp enough to make the most of that power, too. There’s even a driving mode that allows drifting – on track only of course.
2. Cupra Born
Electrification is coming, and this new hatch from SEAT’s performance offshoot Cupra gives a taste of what an electric hot hatch could be like.
It’s quick rather than blindingly fast – it shares the same basic underpinnings as the Volkswagen ID.3 – but there are plenty of sporty touches inside and out, and a bespoke chassis set-up designed to deliver a fun drive.
3. Honda Civic Type R
Another arrival in 2022 is the all-new Civic Type R, which will be based on the 11th-generation hatchback.
While the regular hatchback will be all-new, the scorching Type R will carry over a lot of tech from the last generation, which is no bad thing at all because the old version (which is no longer available on Honda’s website) is an absolute hoot to drive, and blisteringly quick around a track.
This could potentially be the best-handling front-wheel-drive hot hatch on the market this year.
4. Hyundai i20 N
Rally success has rubbed off on Hyundai, which now has a fleet of N-badged performance models to its name. The i20 N is a traditional front-wheel-drive hot hatch with a manual gearbox, and is a rival to the brilliant Ford Fiesta ST.
The i20 N is a true Fiesta ST-beater, we reckon, as it’s just brilliant to hustle quickly while being a marginally more rounded package than the ST, with excellent tech and comfort. We love the Porsche-style throttle blips when changing down gears, too, which do the job of heel-and-toeing for those who find it tricky to master. Hugely entertaining.
5. Mercedes-AMG A 45 S
The AMG A 45 takes the hot hatch formula to the extreme. With more than 400bhp and a sub-four-second 0-62mph time, it can lay waste to many supercars, while four-wheel drive keeps the car glued to the road.
Even more extreme is the price, which is knocking on the door of £60k. But it does exude style, and comes with premium cabin materials and refinement. Combined with with the extraordinary performance, you get what you pay for.
6. Toyota GR Yaris
The GR Yaris is the fruit of a collaboration between Toyota and the team that runs its rally cars. It has an unique three-door body, four-wheel drive and a manual gearbox connected to a punchy three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.
The result is one of the best-handling and sprightliest road cars at any price point, let alone in the realms of the hot hatch. It’s a serious piece of kit, and Jeremy Clarkson’s favourite car of 2021.
7. Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport
The grandfather of the hot hatchback class is still going strong. As ever, it doesn’t have the biggest power figures, fastest acceleration or sharpest handling, but as an all-round prospect, the Golf GTI still delivers.
The Clubsport version is the one to get, with an extra 54bhp, bigger brakes and different styling. It’s still a very usable everyday car, though, with strong refinement, five seats and a decent boot.
- If you liked our article on the best hot hatches to buy in 2022, you might want to check out our news story about the Cupra Born
- Also check out what Clarkson said about the previous Golf GTI Clubsport
- And if you like hot hatches, check out this video review of 2018 Ford Fiesta ST
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