Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
Fiat Stilo Abarth
Citroën C4 Coupé VTS
Peugeot 306 GTi-6
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.
Prices start at £1200 and you’ll find good ones around the £2k mark.
4 - Citroën C4 Coupé VTS (2004-2010)
The C4 Coupé is chic and stylish, with an angular rump and a curvy front. The VTS version has the speed to match its looks, too. With a 180bhp 2.0-litre engine, it dispatches 0-62mph in 8.0sec and has a top speed of 140mph. It tackles corners with aplomb and even rides well.
There are hints of the avant-garde about the interior, with an interesting digital dashboard and a multi-function steering wheel whose outer rim rotates around a stationary centre hub. The C4 Coupé is also well equipped and the seats are sporting and supportive.
Prices for decent ones start at around £2k. Look out, too, for one of the 400 ‘By Loeb’ models, with white alloy wheels, red and black leather seats and drilled pedals.
5 - Peugeot 306 GTi-6 (1996-2001)
The 205 GTi might be the headline grabber but the larger 306 knows how to have a good time, too.
This agile hatch has poise and pace. A 167bhp 2.0-litre engine enables 0-60mph in 7.8sec and a top speed of 135mph. Meanwhile, a slick six-speed manual gearbox gives the car its moniker and adds to the driver enjoyment.
But it is the car’s sweet chassis and its ability to be cornered enjoyably up to and beyond its high levels of grip that really impress. It is deft, nimble, well balanced and eminently chuckable, with a hint of lift-off oversteer just to add some spice. To top it all, it also rides well.
Best to pick one up now via one of the owners’ forums. Expect to pay £2k for a tidy example, or seek out one of the 500 even lighter stripped-out Rallye versions.
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