When it comes to the balance of performance, cost and daily usability, no other type of performance car does it better than the not-so-humble, full-sized hot hatchback.
The idea of taking a regular family hatchback and turning it into a performance car is now time-honoured and remains popular with enthusiast buyers in the UK especially.
Volkswagen assumed ownership of the concept with the Mk1 Golf GTI of 1976, although students of the segment will tell you that the hot hatchback niche was founded earlier by either Simca or Autobianchi. Whoever went there first, most manufacturers now have one of these fundamentally enjoyable cars in their line-up.
The top-ranking entry on this list may stretch the definition of a 'full-sized' hot hatchback that you've only just read, but you can believe it when you read that Toyota's incredible new rally-bred Yaris deserves top billing here in any case. It may not offer quite the space and usability of the rest of the cars on this list, but it yields little if anything to anything to most of them on real-world point-to-point pace or driver reward. Since it's also priced more like a full-sized hot hatchback option than a 'pocket rocket' hot supermini and also punches well beyond its weight in terms of outright performance, it makes sense to include it here instead of elsewhere.
This car had a fascinating development, having been first intended as a rally homologation car but then falling victim to a WRC rule change that could have killed the project stone dead. That it made production anyway says much about Toyota boss Akio Toyoda's commitment to change the perception of the brand for which he is responsible, by bringing exciting new driver's cars into its model range at multiple levels.
The GR Yaris is just one of those cars. It has a 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 257bhp, and a four-wheel drive system with optional mechanical torque-vectoring if you want them that makes the car capable of 0-62mph in just 5.5sec. It also has a chassis and suspension developed with input from Toyota Gazoo Racing's WRC team that is perfectly tuned for fast B-road driving in just about any weather.
With a communicative controls, surefooted cornering balance, and an uncanny dynamic composure that eggs you on to greater speeds and more amusement wherever and whenever you can get it, the GR Yaris is a very rare and special affordable performance car of a kind that has fallen out of fashion somewhat, but we're delighted it see it rekindled so successfully.
The performance car market's best hot front-driver isn’t such a financial stretch when you consider the price of some of the other cars in this list. The Honda Civic Type R is a seriously involving effort from Honda. It gives you grip when you need it, handling adjustability when you go looking for it, plenty of control feedback, as well as a spectacular turbocharged engine and outstanding practicality too.
That combination yields sensational driver appeal that invites you to exploit everything this car has to offer as often as you can get away with. Honda revised the car for 2020, adding a very special Limited Edition fitted with revised suspension mountings and Michelin Cup tyres among other things - but we still prefer the standard Type R.
A less aggressive-looking track-biased car with a greater focus on cabin quality than hardcore dynamism might have been a bigger seller, but it wouldn’t have been half as compelling to drive. Nor would it be one of the most exciting and capable hot hatchbacks that can currently be bought.