But what if you want to combine those practical qualities with exciting performance figures and sharp handling characteristics too? Well that’s where the hot hatch market steps in.
Hot hatches are a popular niche in our country, due to the way manufacturers take regular superminis and family hatchbacks and transform them into to fun performance vehicles with sportier looks.
So what are the best hot hatches to buy new in the car market? Here we take a look at the best, most fun, most practical and all-round excellent hot hatches you can buy new right now.
Ford Fiesta ST
The Ford Fiesta is already recognised as one of the most popular cars in the UK and one of the best all-round superminis money can buy. Even better, above all the ‘regular’ Fiesta models there is the ST hot hatchback which offers a lot of thrills for a relatively low price.
A competitor to the likes of the Peugeot 208 GTi and the Renault Clio Renaultsport, the three-door Ford Fiesta ST is noticeably less powerful than both of these hot hatches, but is significantly cheaper also.
It’s no slouch at all, as the Ford Fiesta ST is able to go from zero to 62mph in 6.9 seconds thanks to its 180bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engine. Power is sent through a really smooth six-speed manual gearbox which feels great to use.
The Fiesta ST is as practical as any other three-door Fiesta, meaning the boot is fine for a weekend shopping trip, for instance. The car’s biggest strength is the way it handles and steers, as the Fiesta ST absolutely excels in both regards.
A Ford Fiesta ST is an exciting investment for any fan of hot hatches as it offers everything you’d want from such a car at a competitive price.
Volkswagen Golf R
Sitting top of the Volkswagen Golf hatchback UK range is the excellent Golf R hot hatch. It offers the sort of performance figures that can rival many modern-day sports cars but delivers large hatch practicality.
Spacious and comfortable like other Golf hatchbacks in the line-up, the R hot hatch utilises a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It uses the same engine as the popular Golf GTI hatchback, but in the R the total power output is increased by 79bhp to a whopping 296bhp in total.
This tremendously powerful engine can be linked with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). With the DSG onboard, the VW Golf R hot hatch takes just 4.9 seconds to cover the benchmark 0-62mph sprint.
Not only is it super quick in a straight line, the Golf R hot hatch also boasts loads of grip and impressive cornering ability, thanks in large part to the four-wheel drive set-up that’s standard.
The Volkswagen Golf R is a premium hot hatch with a lot to offer including speed, comfort, exciting handling, decent practicality and superb build quality. What’s not to like?
SEAT Leon Cupra
The SEAT Leon Cupra is the range-topping and most performance-focused version of the latest Leon hatchback sold in the UK market.
Based heavily on the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the SEAT Leon Cupra is well priced for a fast hatchback of its size and power. Its badge is not prestigious as the likes of, say, Volkswagen, but it still delivers great build quality which will please owners.
Under the bonnet, the Leon Cupra uses a tasty 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that can produce 261bhp or 276bhp depending on which exact specification customers of this hot hatch pick. Either way, the SEAT Leon Cupra hatchback’s engine can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual or automatic DSG gearbox.
With the 276bhp output, the Leon Cupra goes from zero to 62mph in a short time of just 5.8 seconds with the manual ‘box, or 5.7 seconds with the DSG.
Delivering sharp handling plus easy-going and precise steering, the SEAT Leon Cupra is a very competent and likeable hot hatch that’s well worth a closer look.
Ford Focus RS
The Focus RS is the result of Ford taking its five-door Focus hatchback and transforming it into a hugely powerful, four-wheel drive performance car.
This Ford hot hatch uses a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, a unit that’s also available with the current Ford Mustang sold in the UK. In the Focus RS, this engine delivers a tasty 345bhp plus 440Nm of torque.
One of the quickest and most spectacular hot hatches in the UK market, the Focus RS takes just 4.7 seconds to go from zero to 62mph, but it isn’t exactly the most expensive in its segment. Far from it in fact.
There’s no doubt then you get an awful lot of car for your money with the Ford Focus RS. It looks exciting, the performance is exciting, the steering is sharp, the handling is hugely impressive and features like the drift mode and other driving settings add more elements of fun. The gearbox, a six-speed manual, is also smooth and feels easy and satisfying to use.
It’s not all about speed or fun either, as the Focus RS, like regular Ford Focus hatchbacks, can offer a decent amount of room within its five-seater cabin and is really user-friendly even with its performance-focused design.
Top of the BMW 1 Series hatchback is the M135i hot hatch. The BMW M135i delivers loads of space, slick handling and premium quality. It also really stands out in the hot hatch segment, and the UK hatchback market in general, by utilising rear-wheel drive.
A rear-wheel drive hatchback is a real rarity so the BMW M135i is a great choice for those petrolheads that like more unique set-ups.
The BMW hot hatch uses an exciting 321bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which can be mated with either a six-speed manual gearbox as standard or a super-slick eight-speed automatic ‘box instead.
With the manual ‘box, the BMW M135i takes just 5.1 seconds to cover the 0-62mph sprint. The BMW hatchback’s big, powerful engine combined with the rear-wheel set-up means it can get very tail happy, especially in wet conditions. How much you’ll favour such characteristics depends on personal preferences, but the BMW M135i is undeniably an eventful car that’s never dull.
It’s also very luxurious within and comes packed with loads of equipment.