Top ten hot hatches for 2010

Practicality, versatility and low emissions are steadily rising to the top of buyers needs in the UK, but there’s always space for something a bit different, and fiery hot hatches provide a thrills very few other cars can give.

So, for your perusal, we’ve rounded up our top ten high-performance hot hatches on the market today (with the exception of one) for your pleasure.

Seat Leon Cupra R

The Seat Leon Cupra R exploded onto the scene – quite literally if the first images by Seat are anything to go by – with the tag of most powerful Seat ever in the UK looming large over it.

However, with an aggressive, almost angry-looking front end and 200bhp packed into the 2.0-litre powerplant, the Leon has all the credentials to live up to its name.

0-62mph takes 6.4 seconds, and the Cupra R can accelerate all the way up to 153mph if you can find anywhere that allows it.

Black highlights, 18" alloy wheels and bucket-style sports seats inside only add to the fearsome effect of the Leon Cupra R.

Throw in Seat’s typical eye-catching bright paint job and all the hot-hatch boxes are ticked. The Seat Leon is an excellent car in its own right, but the Cupra R lifts it effortlessly into hot hatch territory.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Cloverleaf

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Cloverleaf has bit less bark than the Seat Leon Cupra R despite a hefty 235bhp coming from the 1750 TBi engine.

It’s still good for 62mph from standing in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 150mph, however, and anything it lacks under the bonnet it makes up for in its emotive heritage and style.

The iconic Cloverleaf badge has appeared on all of the best Alfa Romeo race cars throughout history, and the badge adds a touch of character to an already attractive car.

The Cloverleaf has the performance and power to mix with the rest of the hot hatch contenders, but adds solid driving dynamics to make it a capable everyday car as well.

It doesn’t come cheap, at £24,495, but it is a chance to own a modern slice of Alfa’s remarkable 100 year history.

Ford Focus RS

With a new Ford Focus on the horizon, Ford celebrated by launching a remarkable 345bhp Ford Focus RS500. Unfortunately, that model is completely sold out, but the Ford Focus RS is still going strong.

Blowing the rival Seat Leon Cupra R and Alfa Giulietta Cloverleaf out of the water, the Ford Focus RS delivers 300bhp from the 2.5-litre Duratec engine.

The Ford Focus RS is no slouch as the power translates to a speedy 163mph top speed and a 0-62mph sprint time of 5.9 seconds.

Ford has also worked hard on traction and steering precision, something Ford RS models have strived to build on in 40 years of performance car production.

The second generation is a fantastic car from £27,895 – just imagine what the next one will be like.

Clio Gordini 200

Renault’s supermini hatchback has been given 2.0-litre, 197bhp engine courtesy of RenaultSport, the manufacturer’s racing arm.

The result is a car that is more fun than you can shake £20,000 – its price – at. The comfort, handling and sheer driving pleasure of the RenaultSport 200 is all present and correct in the Gordini version.

As with many hot hatches, the Clio Gordini delves into Renault’s motorsport history for inspiration. It is based on the Renault 8 Gordini, and proudly sports the famous racing stripes synonymous with the name.

There’s three exterior colours, some diamond-effect 17" alloys and black inserts, as well as a plush leather interior on the Gordini to give it a hot hatch feel.

If you’re after a small, three-door supermini with a pinch of performance and a lot of fun, the Clio Gordini is the hot hatch for you.

Citroen DS3 Racing

We’re still reeling from the launch of this stunning orange and black hot hatch based on the DS3 supermini.

Apart from the name, there isn’t much retro about the DS3 Racing, with a new style and a hint at Citroen’s successful World Rally Championship cars.

Under the bonnet, the 200bhp engine delivering 202 lb ft of torque can hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds while top speed is 146mph.

It’s also kitted out with plenty of accessories from the world of motorsport, including carbon figre rear diffuser, front bumper and side rubbing strips.

Inside, carbon fibre has been used on the centre console, steering wheel and door inserts. Cosmetically, you can choose between a black and orange stunner or a more reserved white and grey model.

Prices for the DS3 Racing start at £23,100.

Seat Ibiza Cupra Bocanegra

The Seat Ibiza Cupra Bocanegra is essentially an Ibiza Cupra with 17" alloy wheels, some sporty additions such as a spoiler and chunkier wheel arches, and a bit of black gloss splashed around.

It also includes engine upgrades, but it sits at the bottom of the hot hatch market at 180bhp from the 1.4 TSI engine.

Where the Ibiza Bocanegra Cupra comes into its own is on the road, where its stunning 1970s-inspired looks will turn heads and the handling is responsive.

It’s more softly sprung to cope with UK roads to provide an all round more comfortable ride than the Ibiza Cupra.

The Bocanegra adds £700 to the price of the Ibiza Cupra, and as befits the lower power, it comes in at much cheaper than many true hot hatches at just £17,245.

RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup

Renault has tuned up its Megane three-door coupe with a host of sports tuning, and the result is the 250bhp RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup.

Under the bonnet, a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine supplies the power and torque – all 251 lb ft of it – and acceleration from 0-62mph is 6.1 seconds.

However, the Cup is made for the track, with a lower ride helping it to corner with ease.

It’s incredibly fun to drive and provides thrills and spills along the way. With Normal and Sport driving modes, there’s plenty for all driving conditions as well.

The RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup has design cues taken from Renault’s motor racing teams, so there is enough sports styling to please hot hatch fans.

Priced at around £17,000 for an entry level model, putting it below the Ford Focus RS in terms of price.

Mazda3 MPS

Mazda isn’t the first manufacturer to come to mind when you think hot hatch, but the Ford Focus RS-chasing Mazda3 MPS has been updated, and is an intriguing option.

Power stands at 256bhp from the 2.3-litre turbocharged engine, putting it in Seat Leon Cupra territory.

The Mazda3 is discernable under the air vents and spoilers, but the Mazda3 MPS provides a drive much more in keeping with its hot hatch rivals.

A 0-62mph sprint time of just over six seconds is testament to Mazda shedding weight with the latest version, and the ride and handling is significantly improved.

It will set you back around £21,000 for an entry-level model.

RenaultSport Twingo 123

The Renault Twingo RenaultSport is the baby of the hot hatch category. It is also the cheapest at around £11,500.

As expected, the 1.6-litre engine only offers 132mph and 118lb ft of torque, and the corresponding performance figures come in at 0-62mph in over seven seconds and a top speed over 120mph.

It will however, be much cheaper to run because of lower CO2 emissions and higher fuel economy. So if a more eco-friendly hot hatch is your bag, the Twingo 123 could be the car for you.

Vauxhall Astra VXR

This is more speculation, but the release of the Vauxhall GTC Paris concept signals a return to the hot hatch category for Vauxhall.

The Paris concept is widely expected to enter the market under the VXR name, but even if it doesn’t, it will still be a strong competitor in the segment.

It’ll boast a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with direct petrol injection and Start/Stop technology with a six-speed manual gearbox.

It looks great, and has plenty of sporty touches such as the bucket seats in the front, so expect a strong contender when it finally emerges as a production model.