You’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking for outright performance, distinguishing driver engagement, striking hardcore character, real-world usability, bang-for-your-buck value or just a bit of variety, you’ll find it in this year’s market for souped-up superminis.
You’ll probably be looking for all of the above, though – because why wouldn’t you?
But part of you might be thinking that unless you spend every penny of the notional £30,000 we allow for this exercise on either as much power as you can lay your hands on or on something with driven rear wheels, you’ll be cheating yourself. Not so. In fact, buying the very best affordable driver’s car for you may well be impossible without first recognising the need for more sophisticated thinking.
Not necessarily accepting compromised performance credentials, though. On 0-62mph acceleration, for example, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR, Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy and Mini John Cooper Works need acknowledge only the Caterham Seven 270R and Honda Civic Type R as their superiors. These are pocket rockets in the truest sense: they’re all quick.
All four superminis also have two rows of seats and proper hatchback rear ends with split folding rear chairs, making them much more usable than the rear-drive brigade. Meanwhile, only by buying one of these superminis will you end up in a car capable of bettering a real-world 40mpg one moment before glugging down the 98RON and pinning your ears back the next.
But before we get onto what these four do, a quick note about what they are. The Clio Trophy is the only car here with five doors and, by dint of that, the most practical. The Mini is the least practical, primarily because it has the smallest boot, but it has more brand allure and design appeal than the rest put together.