We love hot hatchbacks at Autocar, and there's nothing which compares to finding a good hot hatch at the right price. Here are our top five contenders.
1 - Honda Civic Type R (2001-2005)
So, hot hatch checklist. Unburstable engine? Check. Fine chassis? Check. Sexed-up body? Check. Whatever your criteria, a Civic Type R has it all.
At its heart is a virile 197bhp 2.0-litre VTEC unit that revs to 8350rpm and is capable of propelling this lightweight rocket from zero to 60mph in just 6.6sec and on to a top speed of 146mph.
Corners are even more fun. The Civic Type R can be thrown in to a bend with abandon and recovered with ease. A titanium-covered gearlever protruding from the dashboard controls a close-ratio six-speed ’box and red Recaro sports seats hold you firmly in place.
The build quality (from Swindon) and reliability record are second to none. Parts and modifications are readily available, too. Many will have been used hard so check condition carefully. Prices start at £2k.
2 - Alfa Romeo 147 GTA (2002-2005)
If you like your hot hatches fast and peppered with Latin passion, look no further than the desirable 147 GTA.
Its superb 247bhp 3.2-litre V6 is hot enough to propel this compact Alfa to 60mph in 6.0sec. Top speed is 153mph.
Power goes through a slick six-speed gearbox to the front wheels. Inevitably, there is torque steer (and the lack of a diff means the traction control works overtime) but the GTA has sharp steering and corners are entertaining.
Inside are hand-stitched sports seats and drilled pedals, and even if it all seems made out of paper, it doesn’t really matter: it’s all part of this car’s charm.It’s rare and you should check condition carefully but £5k will buy a good one.
3 - Fiat Stilo Abarth (2001-2007)
The regular Stilo is dull but this spirited Abarth version is worth seeking out. A 170bhp 2.4-litre five-cylinder unit gives respectable performance: 0-60mph in 8.2sec and a 134mph top speed.
Early cars have a clunky Selespeed automatic transmission but a five-speed manual was available from 2004. Grip is good, thanks to its meaty tyres, and the handling crisp, even if its torsion beam rear axle lets it happily cock a rear wheel mid-way through a corner.
You might even find one of the limited-edition Schumacher versions, with revised (and improved) suspension, neat bodykit and alloy pedals.