Top 10 best hot hatchbacks 2022

Open gallery Close News by Autocar 13 mins read 21 November 2022 Follow @@autocar Share

When it comes to the balance of performance, cost and daily usability, no other type of performance car does it better than the not-so-humble, full-sized hot hatchback.

The idea of taking a regular family hatchback and turning it into a performance car is now time-honoured and remains popular with enthusiast buyers in the UK especially.

Volkswagen assumed ownership of the concept with the Mk1 Golf GTI of 1976, although students of the segment will tell you that the hot hatchback niche was founded earlier by either Simca or Autobianchi. Whoever went there first, most manufacturers now have one of these fundamentally enjoyable cars in their line-up.

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Yet the hot hatchback as we now it is under threat, with increasingly draconian emissions regulations making these fast family cars increasingly unattractive to manufacturers. That said, there’s still life in the hot hatch yet, and here are our top 10 picks.

1. Toyota GR Yaris

The top-ranking entry on this list may stretch the definition of a ‘full-sized’ hot hatchback that you’ve only just read, but you can believe it when you read that Toyota’s incredible new rally-bred Yaris deserves top billing here in any case. It may not offer quite the space and usability of the rest of the cars on this list, but it yields little if anything to anything to most of them (or the odd supercar, truth be told) on real-world point-to-point pace or driver reward. Since it’s also priced more like a full-sized hot hatchback option than a ‘pocket rocket’ hot supermini and also punches well beyond its weight in terms of outright performance, it makes sense to include it here instead of elsewhere.

This car had a fascinating development, having been first intended as a rally homologation car but then falling victim to a WRC rule change that could have killed the project stone dead. That it made production anyway says much about Toyota boss Akio Toyoda’s commitment to change the perception of the brand for which he is responsible, by bringing exciting new driver’s cars into its model range at multiple levels.

The GR Yaris is just one of those cars. It has a 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 257bhp, and a four-wheel drive system (with optional mechanical torque-vectoring diffs if you want them) that makes the car capable of 0-62mph in just 5.5sec. It also has a chassis and suspension developed with input from Toyota Gazoo Racing’s WRC team that is perfectly tuned for fast B-road driving in just about any weather.

With communicative controls, surefooted cornering balance, and an uncanny dynamic composure that eggs you on to greater speeds and more amusement wherever and whenever you can get it, the GR Yaris is a very rare and special affordable performance car of a kind that has fallen out of fashion somewhat, but we’re delighted it see it rekindled so successfully.

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2. Honda Civic Type R

The outgoing version of the hot Honda hatchback was one of our favourite pocket rockets, so expectations for this all-new Civic Type R were high – and on first impressions it doesn’t disappoint. In many respects that’s because it’s not quite as box fresh as you’d expect. Like the 11th generation Civic it’s based on, the exterior and interior are new, but the platform is an ‘optimised’ version of its predecessor’s, and that includes the oily bits too.


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Under the bonnet, the familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre motor gets a lighter flywheel, revised intake and freer-flowing exhaust that help lift power from 316 to 325bhp, while the six-speed manual gearbox has a tweaked gate for even slicker shifting. The dual-axis front suspension and multi-link rear axle are very similar but the car’s track in now 15mm wider, which works in partnership with the 15% stiffer bodyshell to combine even sharper handling with greater compliance – this Civic feels like a more grown-up proposition than the old car, even if the BTCC-style rear wing still suggests it’s a bit of a hooligan.

As you’d expect, it’s still a quick car, with 0-62mph done and dusted in 5.4 seconds and 170mph just about within reach. Yet it delivers this performance with real sophistication and civility. There’s no torque steer unruliness and the chassis combines tenacious grip and cast iron control with a rare adjustability that allows you tease and tweak your line through a corner by either lifting off the throttle or trailing the brakes. It’s still a car that gets your heart racing and synapses snapping, but it’s also one that doesn’t make the commute a chore or motorway trips a test of endurance.

So why doesn’t it top this list? Well, for starters Honda has hiked the Type-R’s prices, and significantly so. The previous version started at around £33,000, while you’ll need (are you sitting down?) £46,995 for this one. And even if that figure doesn’t put you off you’ll struggle to find one, as Honda has revealed UK imports will be in the hundreds rather than thousands.

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