You can't help loving a pocket rocket, can you?
In fact, a well-executed one is often just about the best way to have as much fun as it's possible to have on a public road without being in any danger of upsetting the local constabulary, or you bank balance.
While the ability to travel reasonably briskly in a straight line is of some importance here, it's keen handling and an effervescent character that really mark out the best pocket rocket – as well as its ability to provide the most amount of laughter for the smallest amount of money.
So if you want a car that will spectacularly over-deliver on driver entertainment for minimum outlay, the pocket rockets included in this list are the ones we'd go for.
With the release of an updated Fiesta ST, Ford maintains its grip on the top step of our pocket rocket top 10. A subtle visual makeover and some enhanced tech help add some extra showroom sparkle, but the Blue Oval has wisely not messed with the car's compelling mix of affordable handling thrills, surprisingly big-hitting performance and everyday usability.
In pre-facelift the ST triumphed at the 2018 Britain's Best Affordable Driver's Car shootout, plus it also only narrowly missed out on a full five-star road test rating. It's been a pretty good innings for the Fiesta ST so far, then, and there's nothing in this nip-and-tuck that does anything to dull the fast Ford's immense appeal.
That said, the old quirks remain. The three-pot motor, for instance, is plenty punchy enough and commendably smooth, but lacks some of that high-range feisty character youd expect from a hot hatch engine. The cabin is also typically plain and plasticky, while the ride on harsh B-roads can be excitably firm.
On the right roads and in the right conditions, though, there aren't many other cars that offer such compelling pace and handling zest for as little money as the Fiesta ST. It's a brilliant driver's car.
Hyundai has suddenly become very hard to overlook as a purveyor of affordable performance cars, and the i20 N rally-inspired supermini is the main reason why. This car is a simpler and more direct attempt at a classic hot hatchback than the bigger i30 N is. Being smaller and lighter helps, of course. But it also uses a conventional limited-slip differential in place of an active one, a punchy but not domineering 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual gearbox in place of any clever dual-clutch gearbox, and good passive dampers rather than adaptive ones.
The results are really very effective indeed. This car has the carefully honed, extra-purposeful character of a genuine rally-stage exile. Its body control, high-speed precision and composure and steering precision are all of an order you rarely find in a car this size, and its ground-covering pace is greater than you'd expect of a car with only 201bhp to put to use.