Fast thrills on the cheap: 10 of NZ's best hot hatches for $20k
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Hot hatches are fantastic fun; balancing nippy performance and corner-craving handling with practicality and affordability.
For many, a hot hatch will be their first foray into performance cars. And for $20,000 the world is your oyster. Here's 10 of our best pics for the money, as listed on Driven.
Let's start with a popular Kiwi classic; the second-gen Suzuki Swift Sport. This is one of the most popular hot hatches on sale in New Zealand, appreciated perhaps more for its low cost of entry and reputation for reliability than its out-and-out hot hatch-ness.
The first and second-gen Swift Sports both look quite similar, but are actually quite different little cars. When the latter debuted in 2011 the naturally aspirated 1.6 got a kick of power, a 6-speed manual and 7-speed paddle-shift automatic were introduced, and the footprint grew. It also gained in the safety stakes, and got a much more modern interior.
This pearl white 2014 Swift Sport in Auckland has a mere 46,360km on the clock and comes equipped with a manual. Click here to check it out, or if you want to blow the budget apart a current-gen Swift Sport can be had for just over $20k.
Sitting on the opposite end of the hot hatch spectrum to the Swift is the 130i M Sport. Apart from sporting one of the most illustrious badges in all of motoring, what makes the 1 Series hatch distinct to almost any other hatch — period — is that it sends its power exclusively to the rear wheels. This rear-driven awesomeness has sadly been shed on the model's upcoming replacement, but the second-hand market for first-gen models is nevertheless thriving.
While that 3.0-litre straight six sounds equally exciting from an enthusiast perspective, it's worth performing due diligence and being realistic with servicing costs before committing to if if you're on a budget.
Anyway, this silver number in Auckland looks smart on BMW's chunky 5-spoke wheels and, most importantly, comes equipped with a rare and coveted 6-speed manual. Click here to check it out.
No list of hot hatch contenders is complete without the appearance of a Volkswagen Golf GTI.
For a while it looked like the nameplate had lost its performance lustre, but that changed for the good with the introduction of the fabulous Mk5 Golf GTI in the mid-noughties. And after being incredibly well received, the Mk6 GTI that came afterwards simply built upon those improvements.
Apart from a more rounded figure and a lick more power, the Mk6 also traded the Mk5's dry-clutch 6-speed DSG for a slicker wet-clutch DSG. This white example is listed in Auckland, has just over 40,00km on the clock, and is priced at a reasonable $15,950. Click here to check it out.
4. 2010 Audi S3
Of course if you want something a little more unique than the Golf, you could go for its more premium twin; the Audi S3.
Apart from being dressed with nicer badges and a more high-quality cabin, this 2010 S3 comes stacked with equipment. Heated seats, electronic brake distribution, satnav, and a 10-speaker sound system are among its features.
The other bonus to the S3 over a GTI is that it's got Quattro 4-wheel drive, which — combined with the S-Tronic 6-speed — will leave plenty of more fancied cars in the dust. Click here to check it out.
They're a little bit out of budget, but early editions of the outgoing Ford Focus ST are well worth sampling. Sharp styling and a nice set of Recaro buckets set the tone for a cracking 184kW/340Nm engine (with 20Nm more on overboost) and cheeky handling dynamics.
It might be 'just a Ford', but with numbers like that it's capable of kerb-stomping an equivalent Golf GTI. This NZ-new 2014 Focus ST has 70,000kms on the odometer, a 6-speed manual transmission, and is listed in Auckland for $24,24,450. Click here to check it out.
No, it's not one of the most hyped Hondas to ever wear the Type R badge. But, the European designed and built FN2 Civic Type R hatch is nevertheless still a compelling performance purchase.
It still comes with an iteration of Honda's famed DOHC VTEC K20 engine (albeit one that's less potent than that fitted to the K20A in the FD2 Type R sedan), and it's still known to be a hardy, bulletproof car.
It's less powerful than the FD2, but it's also prettier and much cheaper to buy. Early models from 2007 and 2008 can be had for less than $15,000, with face-lift models like this 2010 slips underneath the $20,000 budget. Click here to check it out.
The Peugeot 308 might not be the first car that comes to mind when it comes to hot hatch fun (particularly when it comes to the lardy 2007–2013 generation pictured here), but there are some big positives to the compromise.
For a start, this NZ-new 2011 example listed in Auckland is most likely the most comfortable, best riding car on this list. The 308 is also renowned for decent headroom and boot space, while still being largely dynamically sound.
And what's more, they're hard to beat for value, as this clean low-km $13,990 hatch can attest. Click here to check it out.
Here's a bit of a wildcard. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is a bit long in the tooth (especially true for its Fiat Punto-based underpinnings). And yet, in its Sportiva and Veloce trims it's a hatch that manages to feel like a proper performance Alfa Romeo. And, it's gorgeous.
Next to some of the other cars on this list, its turbocharged 1.4-litre engine doesn't sound like much. But, it's surprisingly potent in a straight line and tasty on the ear. And while Alfa Romeos don't necessarily have a reputation for reliability, those shortcomings mean that a 2014 model like this Auckland model with 76,000km on the clock can be had for under 20 grand. Click here to check it out.
Does torque steering hilarity sound like a bit of you?
If that's the case, then the Mazda3 MPS and its Japanese import cousin — the Mazda Axela Mazdaspeed — are probably up your alleyway. Both offer big spooly-boi turbo power from a 2.3-litre 191kW/380Nm engine, mated to a package that can be had on the cheap.
For $20,000 you can either take your pick of the first-generation models on the market or grab a second-gen model like this 74,000km example for $17,890. Click here to check it out.
Last but not least is probably the most potent, track-orientated car on this list.
For longer than most cars, the Renault Megane RS of the mid to late teens was a Nurburgring front-wheel drive record holder. And for good reason, with its exceptional chassis and the prioritization of grip and balance over comfort and practicality. Not to mention the potent 195kW of power and 360Nm made by its 2.0-litre turbo four.
This particular Auckland example is a goodie. It's an RS 265 model, has just 73,000kms, and is priced at $18,975. Click here to check it out.