Not 2 Grand Cars

Five Of The Best £2k Hot Hatches…

It’s getting hot in here, so take out all your wallets…

Going fast is fun, it’s a fact of life. If it wasn’t, there would be no such thing as a roller coaster. The human brain likes to be shunted from stationary to fast. When it gets said shunt, it releases those delicious endorphins and… um… stuff. We didn’t pay much attention in biology. But that’s not the point. The point is, going fast is great. Or should we say, the bit between still and fast is fun. Think about it. Your body isn’t overwhelming your system with adrenaline when you fly to Spain for you hols, yet you’re going some 500mph. It’s the take-off that gets the juices flowing. That shunt toward the horizon at an unfamiliar rate. Brilliant.

This is where the hot hatch comes in. For years, manufacturers have realised that we care not for top speeds, but we do care about the journey up through the speedometer. It’s the acceleration, the braking, the ability to be flung through corners, that’s what we love. And that’s why hot hatches are utterly brilliant. They represent pure, undiluted driving fun. And in this bleak old world, we need fun. So praise the hot hatch. And furthermore, praise the manufacturers for knocking them out in their thousands. By doing so, used hot hatches end up in the bargain bin pretty quickly, which is great for us. As evidenced by this, our list of belting sub two grand hot hatches. Wallets at the ready…

The MkV Volkswagen Golf GTI…

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We’ve spoken about the Mk5 Golf GTi before, and why wouldn’t we? The Mk5 represented a return to form for the Golf GTi, which is the king of the hot hatch. Before this, we had the Mk4, which was about as appealing as filling your pockets with cat food. Yeah, it was built well, but VW seemed to focus on that too much and as such, the Mk4 lost its GTi-ness. The 1.8 20V Turbo was okay, but the 2.0 was… it was a Golf with a 2.0. It had no excitement or sense of occasion. And a GTi needs that.

When the Mk5 Golf GTi arrived, it was evident off the bat that VW had listened to the global moaning aimed at the Mk4. The Mk5 was brash, it had the red stripes again, it had the tartan interior but more than that, it was and still is an utter thrill to drive. The chassis has been dialled in to near perfection. The steering is direct and responsive and the power from the 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder, all 200bhp, is delivered in a lively and exciting way. This is it, this is how a GTi should be. Just avoid buying one that’s on RaceLand coilovers and Bola B10 alloys. Standard is best.

The Renault Megane 225…

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We’ve yet to write about the Renault Megane Renaultsport 225, mainly because it’s a proper mouthful. But also because it’s only just starting to dip its toe into our cash-strapped waters. But dipping it is, so it’s made the list. And why wouldn’t it? Okay, so it looks like one of the aliens from that old SMASH potato commercial, but get past that and it’s a belting car. Vauxhall has VXR, Ford has ST and Renault has Renaultsport. However, for the French this whole ‘making cars faster’ thing is a slightly bigger deal. Unlike the rival cars, the Renaultsport machines are built in their own factory by a dedicated team. They are standout hot hatches.

There is a diesel version of this car, which we’re ignoring because a diesel hot hatch is too much of an oxymoron to deal with (original Fabia vRS notwithstanding, because it was only diesel). Instead, we’re looking at the 225, which has, um, 225bhp. This comes care of a 2.0 turbocharged four-cylinder, and it sits in a chassis so tight it would make a Yorkshireman look generous. In fact, the chassis is a bit too tight and firm, to be honest, but sod it, we’re looking for hot hatch fun, not spine-saving qualities. Buy one, get over the ‘hake dat ass’ looks and laugh every time you hit the throttle, or a bend. It’s brilliant.

The Peugeot 207GTi…

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Angry people on the internet who still live with their mother despite being 46 will tell you, at the mere mention of the 207GTi, that it’s not a 205 GTi. They will tell you this despite not being able to drive themselves. They will tell you this because they read it on Pistonheads once. And you will roll your eyes so hard your retinas scrape the underside of your brain meat. The 205 GTi was good, make no mistake. But it was not the be all, end all of hot hatches. Is the 207 GTi better? No, but it’s not worse, either. It’s different. It’s a modern, safe (crash a 205 at speed, we dare you), quiet, reliable, turbocharged riot of a car that boasts far more power than the 205 could dream of. 172bhp from blown four-cylinder, in case you’re wondering.

Don’t be Steve who still lives with his mum and takes pride in leaving one-star reviews on Yelp for places he’s never been. Be you, be sensible and judge the 207 GTi on its own merits. We’ve written about it before, which should hopefully help convince you. But if not, trust us when we say that standard, cared for example will be a worthwhile hot hatch. Fun, with a solid chassis and plenty of power, it’s a cheap way to put a smile on your face on the daily commute. Peugeot did well with this, really well.

The R53 MINI Cooper S…

The R53 MINI Cooper S is another car we’ve talked about before, but why wouldn’t we? It’s a small car with an Eaton supercharger bolted to it. If that’s not a winning combination, we don’t know what is? Much like the Peugeot 207GTi, you’ll get people in tweed telling you it’s an affront to the original Mini, Issigonis, Austin, so on and so forth. Give these people a dry slap and move on. Leave them to their points, condensers and beer with soil in it. While we might concede that the 1.6 naturally-aspirated MINI Cooper was a bit of a damp blanket, we won’t back down on the S. Superchargers make everything better.

Drive one and you’ll soon become addicted to the power delivery, and then you’ll be addicted to the way it goes around the bends. Flat, without drama (unless you induce it, you scamp), just lots of grip, steering that seems to be telepathic, well-balanced brakes. It’s a go-kart with extra seats. The trick is to buy a standard one, as the modified ones tend to have been screwed harder than the barmaid at the local Wetherspoons. Buy stock, buy with history, and buy one in which the supercharger still works (they eat the teflon tips on the rotors and loose boost) and you’ll be smiling. And by all means, do modify it to your taste. New pulleys and an intercooler, for example, will be well worth it. But only on a car you know to be in fine fettle. Not one with Monster Energy stickers in every window.

The Honda Civic Type R… 

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JDM fanboys unite! Of course we haven’t forgotten the mighty EP3 Honda Civic Type R. But by including it, it does mean that our list of five hot hatches is missing any type of Ford. Sorry to the Garys of the world. We’ll get you next time. Anyway, the Civic. A car that’s brilliant, but also now so cheap that Police salvage yards are full of them. Shame. Don’t buy one of those. It’s smell like strawberry vape and the CD player will have a Ministry of Sound ‘Chillout Vibes’ compilation wedged in it. There might be some weed under the passenger seat though.

Anyway, brutal stereotypes aside, the EP3 was and still is an outstanding car. The standout development by Honda was the fully independent suspension, which meant the EP3 would, subject being fitted with decent rubber, grip at all times. And then there was the way it drove thanks to the mighty 2.0 Vtec engine. It just begs to be thrashed, and will give you a boost of power when pushed over 6,000rpm letting the cams kick in. The six-speed ‘box is tight and sharp, with the lever protruding from the dash for maximum ‘wheel to knob’ ease. It’s just perfect. As long as you buy a standard one. As with the MINI, modify by all means – the Civic responds well to it – but do it your way, not the way of the ankle-tag wearing previous owner who bought his stolen alloys from Facebook Marketplace.

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