So you like hot hatches

The hot hatch has increased in popularity almost exponentially over the years. These are some of the most practical cars in this guide; lots of storage space, relatively comfortable 4 person seating, FWD for inclement weather, and affordable to boot. RWD will continue to be the preferred drivetrain choice for many enthusiasts but these cars will still have you smiling broadly.

Honda Civic

Hold your scoffs; the lowly Civic has dominated for good reason. A light, four wheel independent suspension import with a potent engine and more aftermarket support than you can shake a stick at? Sign me up. The hatchbacks in particular have held up well in the styling department and the Type R have proved their performance worth. Look at the 5th and 6th generations for best combination between looks, cost, and availability.

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VW GTI/Rabbit (mk1 and mk2):

The VW Golf/Rabbit wasn’t the first hot hatch but it was certainly responsible for a large increase in popularity. Under 2000 lbs, some great engine upgrades available, cheap, and reliable. Look for a 16v head from a GTI for best horsepower gains and the aftermarket is full of good suspension upgrades. VW enthusiasts like the pickups and diesels, the Cabriolets are also a great time with a stiffened floor pan. Really, any GTI is worthy of this list but the early ones have undeniable style.

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VW Scirocco:

The Scirocco was the Rabbit’s big brother, very nicely styled by Giugiaro. Mk1s with the round headlights look great, and the 16v version can be quite potent. Look for one of these to stand out from the VW crowd a bit. They’re rarer than the Rabbits but still affordable.

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Saab 900:

Swedish cars are just a bit different but you get a build quality to rival Mercedes. The Classic 900 has a recognizable profile, a great drivetrain, and can be made to handle quite well. Look for the SPG models, widely considered to be the best examples. A few simple electrical tricks and you can turn your boost up as high as you’d like.

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Saab 99:

The C900’s predecessor, the 99 shares a chassis but in a much more vintage package. Rallied extensively, they show their aircraft influence very well.

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Saab 96:

This car may be the definition of Swedish quirk. Nothing is quite like it, with a heavy emphasis on safety and usability. Early Saabs are rare but have dedicated owners. If you’re after one of these you’ll certainly want to get involved with the owner’s groups throughout the US.

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Mini Cooper:

It may be impossible to dislike the original Mini Cooper. The tiny economy car took the world by storm and is one of the best selling vehicles of all time. The Mini was made up until 2000 by a number of different companies and are still raced commonly in Europe.

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Ford Focus (1st Generation):

Though this car doesn’t fit the classic and vintage theme of much of this list, it has proven performance and great handling. You might get bored of the stock looks and performance but the modification happy platform lends itself well to some tuning. If you’re looking for a good auto- or rally-cross contender this might be a good option.

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