They'll be fast for sure - but they'll also serve as everyday hatchback hold-alls. Here we pick the best of the pack1 Volkswagen Golf GTi
The original here also happens to be the best. With the first-generation Golf GTi, Volkswagen invented the hot hatchback – a breed of fast, fiery small cars that are affordable and easy to live with. After a decade or more during which VW’s GTis went distinctly off the pace, the re-launch of the car in 2004 saw a dramatic return to form.
That car, the GTi Mk5 was everything we wanted of a GTi – quick, fun, classy but every bit as practical and easy to own as every other Golf. And the latest version, the Mk6 carries the banner onward. Not only is it genuinely thrilling to drive, it can also serve as a calm, sophisticated long-distance hauler, whenever you need it to be. Outside, the GTi wheels and body addenda further define the Golf’s handsome profile, while the cabin is as high-quality and sober as you’ll find.
Finally, the car’s popularity second-hand means that it loses value from new more slowly than most. So while the asking price may look high, over time it makes a good-value proposition. Verdict *****
To read the full motors.co.uk road test of the Golf GTi - and watch the video - click here
2 Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup
If you prefer cars to be full-on, no compromise, then this Clio’s for you. While its shape is a riot of folds and skirts befitting the baby racer that it is, it’s all about how it drives. Put simply, it’s a belter. From the off, the car just wants to go and it’ll rev with gusto from any speed in whichever gear, while it’s hurl itself into corners, staying flat and hanging on at unlikely speeds. This is down to its race tuned suspension, which offers a stiff (though not unbearable) ride.
As its name suggests, it pushes out nigh-on 200bhp, nearly as much as the Golf GTi making it – if measured in £s per
bhp – a bargain. The car is basic: the dash is the same as you’ll find in the cheapest Clios, to adjust the door mirrors, you must waggle a pair of levers and the rear seats are a slim, thinly padded bench with just two seat belts. But, far from looking low-rent, this just adds to the little car’s charm. Verdict ****
To read the full motors.co.uk road test of the Renaultsport Clio - and watch the video - click here
3 Mini Cooper S
There are those who’d think twice before paying this much for a Mini. It’s expensive but even a few minutes behind the Cooper S’s wheel will have you grinning. Yep, it is that much fun. It packs everything that’s good about every Mini – classless retro looks, snug high-quality cabin, darty steering and supple ride – and adds a big helping of power. The 173bhp from its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol motor makes it quick rather than crazy but it is at least a car you can drive with a conscience because, driven sensibly it will return up to 45mpg overall, while its carbon dioxide emissions are fair at 149g/km. But if you want the quickest of Minis, go for the John Cooper Works edition, which packs 208bhp.
The price quoted above is just for starters – shop freely from the long, long extras list and your Mini will cost the wrong side of £20k. Rest easy with the thought, though, that these little cars lose value more slowly than most, keeping the total outlay within bounds. Verdict ****