A few years ago you would have needed the best part of £20,000 to ride in a new super hatch, but as we’ve all been sipping on a pint and treating ourselves to bangers and mash down the pub, the price of the high-end super hatch has been falling like a stone.
We were amazed at what your money can buy you these days and you will be too…
Renaultsport Megane 225
There are a few variants of the hot Megane, the cheapest one being the Renaultsport 225, of which there are Cup, F1 and Trophy versions. The Cup is basically the de-spec’d entry level version of the 225 with limited mod cons (to save weight), but it has the tweaked Cup chassis that was introduced on the limited edition Trophy, while the F1 was yet another limited edition to celebrate Renault’s F1 championships in 2005. There are lots of small differences so check out www.renaultsport.co.uk.
K-Tec Racing are the people to call for tweaking these cars; they do a stage 1 tuning kit that includes an airbox, panel filter and a remap that should see power increased to a healthy 260bhp, all for around £400! There’s loads of potential in the Megane, all you need to do is go and unlock it.
LOOK OUT FOR…
We advise paying a bit more cash for a good clean example with lots of main dealer history. Make sure the cambelt has been changed, the clutch isn’t slipping and that the turbo isn’t smoking.
0-62: 6.5 secs
Power: 225 bhp
Top Speed: 147 mph
New Price: £19,500
Price Now From: £3,000
Mini Cooper S
The BMW Mini isn’t just a super hatch, it’s a desirable one too, and the girls love ’em because they’re cute (like Midge). Mini One prices start at around £1,700, but for a couple of grand more you’ll get a fully loaded S model, and that little ‘S’ stands for big fun as the 1.6-litre lump has a supercharger bolted to it!
They love a bit of tuning and for a round £600 you’ll get 200+bhp out of them with a few simple mods that include changing the supercharger pulley, getting a remap, and slapping on a performance filter. Get involved.
LOOK OUT FOR…
Early models with syncro transmissions as these can be an expensive fix, later models (2005 onwards) use the more reliable Getrag transmission. Apart from that and the odd dodgy electric window, they’re pretty much bombproof!
0-62: 7.4 secs
Power: 163 bhp
Top Speed: 135 mph
Price Now From: £3,750
Civic Type R EP3
Arguably the biggest bargain, you really can pick up an EP3 Type R for less than the price of a decent mountain bike. These cars are fun, reliable, fast and fit. Underneath that body lies one of the greatest engines to ever come out of Japan and, considering the company it keeps, that’s high praise indeed.
Downsides? Well, it being naturally aspirated, to get big power gains – as with the rest of these super hatches – isn’t a cheap process. The experts at TDi-North recommend sorting the breathing first, so a decent replacement filter and an exhaust are a must.
After that, things get serious: the next stage is replacing the management for a Hondata K100, which is going to cost around a grand (fitted) and you’ll only see a 10bhp hike in power. However, the real gains come from the driveability – it’ll transform your car. Give them a shout.
LOOK OUT FOR…
Some early models suffered with steering rack and 2nd gear synchro problems, and though the latter was fixed by Honda, not all models would have got the recall. Also keep your eyes peeled
for uneven front tyre wear.
0-62: 6.6 secs
Power: 200 bhp
Top Speed: 146 mph
New Price: £16,995
Price Now From:£2,850
Depreciation is our friend, dear reader! When the S3 was launched back in 1999 its price tag read £28,000 –but today you can pick up a really tidy 2001 model for around £3k… and that’s a belter of a bargain. You get the heaps of leather, electric everything, 4WD and, of course, that mega desirable S3 badge.
Rocking the same 1.8-litre turbo lump as the TT and the Mk.4 Golf GTi, they aren’t short of a few power upgrades either. In fact I’m struggling to find a reason why I shouldn’t just go and buy one right fricking now.
LOOK OUT FOR…
If you’ve got the money go for the latest spec possible. The facelift model came in at the end of 2000. Check for rust along the roof rails and along the lower door trims.
0-62: 6.8 secs
Power: 210 bhp
Top Speed: 151 mph
New Price: £28,000
Price Now From:.£3,000