However, in recent years times have changed in the hot hatch world, with premium manufacturers, like Mercedes and BMW, getting in on the act to offer sporty versions of their compact models, for example the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and the BMW 128ti. And in doing so, it significantly raised the performance and luxury expectations in the hot hatchback market. Now, such cars can provide a nail-biting level of performance not far off a high-end sports car, and some even do so in 4-wheel drive. Naturally, that comes with an increase in pricing and overall running costs. Whilst certainly impressive (and a lot of fun), the hot hatchback raced ahead to create something of a void in the market.

Enter the junior hot hatch, which provides city liveability and unassuming performance, rather than supercar baiting figures. Also known as a warm hatch, they usually have lower running costs and smaller engines compared to their more powerful siblings, and yet they’re still designed to serve up driver thrills with greater agility and playfulness. What’s more, the range of models available caters across the board, serving up everything from more sensible options to those that pack a bit more punch.

What’s a hot hatchback?

As you may have gathered, a hot hatch is a high-performance version of a regular family hatchback car. Basically, manufacturers take one of their popular models, such as a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Golf, and give it a hefty dose of upgrades, increasing its acceleration, top speed, and all-round performance. The end results are racy little numbers like the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Golf R.

So, what’s a junior hot hatchback? Well, as the name suggests, it’s like a middle sibling, straddling the line between a hatchback and a hot hatch. It’s still a performance-based model, but a junior hot hatch typically has less performance power than a ‘true’ hot hatchback. And because of that, they’re often more affordable and accessible, with cheaper running costs and insurance.

Best 5 junior hot hatches on the market

Without further ado, here’s our top five junior hot hatchbacks. We’ve selected the best of the bunch available right now.

  1. Ford Fiesta ST-Line Edition
  2. Suzuki Swift Sport
  3. Volkswagen Up GTI
  4. Honda Jazz Sport
  5. Abarth 595

1. FORD FIESTA ST-LINE EDITION

The Ford Fiesta ST is an energetic hot hatchback with accurate steering and an impressive 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds. Then there’s the Ford Fiesta ST-Line Edition, which we think is the best junior hot hatch on the market. It’s still a sporty model, but (comparatively) it dials it down a touch, with a relatively powerful engine balanced with lower running costs. You have the choice of a 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, producing 99bhp, 123bhp, or 138bhp, or you can opt for a 94bhp 1.5-litre TDCI diesel engine. In addition, it’s also available as a mild hybrid for those looking to further reduce their fuel consumption. The ST-Line Edition manages a respectable 0-60mph in 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 118mph, providing a comfortable ride for your day-to-day basics and well-balanced performance power for a fun and enjoyable drive. It also comes well-equipped and enjoys the dynamic looks that help make the Fiesta such a popular car on British roads.

Best Features
  • Lots of fun to drive
  • Well-equipped
  • Well balanced

Used price from: £12,000

Fuel economy: 35mpg

Power: 99bhp/123bhp/138bhp

0-62mph in: 9.1 seconds

Top speed: 118mph

2. SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT

Whilst on the pricier side for a warm hatchback when bought new, the Suzuki Swift Sport is nonetheless an excellent vehicle for those wanting a fun car to drive and a good mixture of performance and practicality. Now available as a self-charging hybrid, newer models also come with a host of advanced safety kit and driver assistance features, such as lane collision warning and blind spot monitoring. The new sport has a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that offers an impressive return of 50.1mpg and it’ll do 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds, with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a top speed of 130mph. For those after a cheaper junior hot hatch, you can find some fantastic Suzuki Swift Sport deals on the used car market, with 2012-2016 models offering a 1.6-litre engine for an equally impressive 44mpg and a 0-60mph in just 8.4 seconds. Compact, nimble, and light, the Suzuki Swift Sport also feels faster than its numbers suggest, enjoying responsive steering and a good field of vision thanks to large windows.

Best Features
  • Light and nimble
  • Responsive steering
  • Fun to drive

Used price from: £2,000

Fuel economy: 44mpg/50.1mpg

Power: 136bhp

0-62mph in: 9.1 seconds

Top speed: 130mph

3. Volkswagen Up GTI

The Volkswagen Up GTI only has a 1.0-litre 115PS turbocharged 113bhp engine, but its dinky dimensions and lightweight result in a punchy car that’s really enjoyable to drive on the road. It’ll do 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds and has a top speed of 121.8mph. Best of all, it offers 58.9mpg too, although with real-world driving you can likely expect that figure to be around the 50mpg mark. Nonetheless, that’s still an excellent return – perfect for anyone after lower running costs and still a bit of bite behind the wheel. And did we mention that bite is amplified? That’s right, the engine also features a sound symposer that echoes the intake noise to add to the car’s soundtrack, which in turn adds to the sense of fun and playfulness.

Best Features
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Enjoyable to drive
  • Low running costs

Used price from: £12,000

Fuel economy: 58.9mpg

Power: 113bhp

0-62mph in: 8.8 seconds

Top speed: 121.8mph

4. Honda Jazz Sport

Utilising a 6-speed manual gearbox and a 128bhp 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, the Honda Jazz Sport offers an entertaining drive with a 0-62mph of 8.7 seconds, along with a top speed of 118mph and efficient fuel economy at 47.9mpg. On top of that, this car makes a place for itself thanks to superior levels of practicality and interior space. Take the boot, it offers 354 litres of room, extending to a massive 897 litres with the rear seats folded down. And for a small car, it has a spacious cabin that feels a lot bigger than its outward dimensions suggest, offering an excellent amount of leg and head room even in the rear seats. Other junior hot hatchbacks on this list might offer more unadulterated fun, but the Honda Jazz Sport provides a superb balance between driveability and practicality.

Best Features
  • Spacious cabin
  • Very practical
  • Well balanced

Used price from: £2,000

Fuel economy: 47.9mpg

Power: 128bhp

0-62mph in: 8.7 seconds

Top speed: 118mph

5. Abarth 595

Based on the iconic Fiat 500 and originally badged as the Abarth 500, the Abarth 595 focuses more on fun than practicality. Sure, its boot is fairly small and the interior space in the rear seats is somewhat lacking. However, this warm hatch will hit 0-62mph in a mere 7.6 seconds, with a top speed of 130mph. It’s the quickest and one of the fastest junior hot hatches on this list, enjoying a punchy 145bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine in 4 stages of tune (standard form, Turismo, Competizione, and 695 Biposto). Add to the mix go-kart like handling, a Sport button for heavier steering, and a smart Torque Transfer Control system to improve traction, and you have a formula for ear-to-ear grinning fun. It looks stylish, its sporty exhaust provides a suitably pleasing soundtrack, and it’s even available as a convertible for extra appeal.

Best Features
  • Excellent fun
  • Go-kart like handling
  • Stylish looks

Used price from: £6,500

Fuel economy: 48mpg

Power: 145bhp

0-62mph in: 7.6 seconds

Top speed: 130mph

And that rounds out our top 5 junior hot hatches. If you’re after a bit more power in your daily drive and a ‘true’ hot hatch, something along the lines of a Hyundai i30 N or a Toyota GR Yaris, then be sure to check out our Youtube video on the Top 5 Hot Hatchbacks and see the cars in action.

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