The best affordable naughties hot hatches
Here are my top 5 picks for the best hot hatchbacks made in the early-mid 2000s
Let me start by admitting that I do have a slight obsession with hatchbacks, especially hot hatchbacks, then again who doesn't? This is a list of my personal favourites and obviously not every hot hatchback from the early-mid 2000s will be on the list. To qualify for the list they must have been built pre-2007 and post-2000, cost less than $15,000 AUD and obviously a hatchback.
5. Renaultsport Clio 182 Cup
Sam Sheehan's Clio 182. Read more about his ownership history at: https://www.autocar.co.uk/used-garage/renaultsport-clio-182
I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a real soft spot for this car. My favourite feature would have to be the rear twin centre exhaust system. Built between 2004 and 2006 these cars put out a punchy 134 kW (182 hp) which, subsequently is where it gets it's name from. These funky French hatchbacks manage to climb to 100 in a healthy 7.2 seconds. If I were to buy one it would most definitely have to be in racing blue like Sam's. I can't say much else about this car except that it is a cool naughties hot hatch.
4. Audi S3
What's not to love in an all-wheel drive hatchback that does 0-100 in just 6.6 seconds. These cars are special. They have a certain recipe that make them that way. These cars share their drivetrain with the gen 1 Audi TT which is a car my grandma previously owned. I can tell you personally that the way the turbo kicked in was something special only belonging to those turbo cars of the past. There is also something special about the way the leather smells in the early 2000s Audi's. Overall I believe they were a cool car when released, and possibly even cooler now as cars start to lack the character they had previously.
3. Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
6 cylinder 3.2 L Busso in a front-wheel drive hatchback. Do I need to say more? Clarkson described this as being a complete lunatic. 0-100 in 6.3 seconds it beats the Audi S3 by 0.3 of a second and has 184 kW (250 hp) which is only 19 more than the Audi S3. Honestly I believe this car does all the talking as it is just so unique. Sadly on the contrary suffer from the classic Alfa Romeo reliability issues and will be a somewhat affordable car to buy but not so much to keep on the road. When reviewed on Top Gear all 3 presenters said they would buy this over the cheaper Ford Focus RS and more practical VW Golf MKIV R32. Oh, did I mention it's an Alfa Romeo?
2. Volkswagen Golf MKV R32
Between this and the Alfa Romeo, there is not much of a gap. The main difference being the Golf has Volkswagen's 4motion all-wheel drive system utilising a similar Haldex system to that of the one found in the Audi S3. Rocketing to 100 in just 6.2 seconds it is the fastest car on this list by 0.1 over the Alfa Romeo. It is perhaps the ultimate combination of practicality and sports car as this VR6 powered beast produces the same 184 kW (250 hp) as the Alfa. As it is a Golf after all it was offered in either 3-door or 5-door which emphasises the practicality of the car. Personally I would have to pick up a 3-door example in the blue shown above.
1. Mini Cooper S
My very own '04 Mini Cooper S
I do not think there is another hot hatch on this planet that I would rather own. Call me biased I will probably agree, however, when you hear that supercharger producing 125 kW (170 hp) winding its way up to a 7000 rpm redline you cannot call me stupid. First off, this car was designed by arguably the most successful car designer on this planet, Frank Stephenson. Although not the fastest to 100 at 7.2 seconds I believe it is the most retro-styled and characterful car on this list by a long shot. When I tell you that every time I drive this car I smile I would not be lying one bit. Just sitting in it looking at the interior makes you smile, they have this very cool large centre gauge which can be a speedo, nav unit or set of extra gauges depending on the way it was optioned from the factory. Even the way it handles around corners is special, they fitted extra stiff suspension allowing a dead flat cornering capability. My pick would be exactly how mine is specced with the black on grey paint in the post July 2004 facelift.
Honorable Mention - Ford Fiesta XR4
2 words... Racing. Stripes. Nothing makes a hot hatch appeal to the right audience as much as racing stripes do. This little fiesta although slowest and least powerful hot hatch on this list, there is no denying that this little fiesta is a cool looking car worthy of a hot hatch title. Tipping the scales just over 1000 kg this hot hatch is definitely a drivers car. Powering this car is a 2.0 L 110 kW (147 hp) inline 4 climbing the car up to 100 in 8.5 seconds. Although over a second slower than the Mini Cooper S I believe this is just another excuse to drive with a lead foot around town!
These cars among others at the time helped bridge the gap between the more sparsely equipped 1990s cars to the more technologically advanced 2010s cars. I believe that is the beauty of these cars, they were produced in a sweet spot that maximised both driver engagment whilst blending in creature comforts more commonly found in todays cars.
Share your own experiences and opinions in the comments below on early-mid 2000s hot hatches because I know there are many others that deserve more recognition.