How to get thrilling motoring on a budget: Three of the best used hot hatches for £5,000
- Eight year old second-hand hot hatches for the fraction of the price of a new one
- Test trio of Fiat 500 Abarth, Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart and Renault Sport Twingo
New small hot hatches are not cheap: a Ford Fiesta ST costs £18,000, a Mini Cooper S will set you back £19,000 and an Audi S1 is a staggering £25,600!
But there are plenty of second-hand small hatches with sparkling performance figures that you can buy for a fraction of the price.
Here, we've enlisted three eight-year-old hot hatches you can get your hands on for as little as £2,000 today, providing go-kart handling for shopping-kart prices.
They handle like a go-kart: From left to right: Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart, Reanult Sport Twingo, Fiat 500 Abarth
With a new spicy Renault Twingo, the GT, on sale next year, now is a good time to look at what will be the outgoing model as the new arrival is bound to soften prices of older models.
Since laughter is better shared, we thought we’d bring some company along too, in the shape of the familiar and feisty Fiat 500 Abarth and the rather less well known shape of the Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart.
The Mitsubishi may not be as well known as the 500 Abarth, but there’s no denying the amount of clout on offer. Its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine pumps out 147bhp and the horses certainly seem willing to charge out of the stable.
The Fiat 500 Abarth with its 133bhp isn’t far behind, so long as you’ve pressed the Sport button, but it takes a second to get off the line, scrabbling for grip like an excited dog on a tile floor.
The biggest engine of the lot, at 1.6-litres, is in the Renault Twingo but since it’s not turbocharged you need to rev it more to find the 131bhp. Once motoring, and with the revs up, you won’t be complaining.
The Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart is very rare, though that doesn't necessarily mean it will hold its value better than other models
The Colt doesn't win our test, but it has a fantastic engine and the best ride comfort of the models featured in our group test
The Twingo pulls it back on twisty roads. It corners incredibly flat, with fast, accurate steering that allows you to dart about the place like a rat with a sugar rush.
The Fiat isn’t far behind, although you’ll notice the lack of feedback and composure in comparison to the Renault.
The Mitsubishi, despite having the most horsepower by a margin, can’t get it down so well, with rather odd-feeling steering and more body roll. As a consequence it’s the most comfortable in terms of ride, but you probably won’t buy one of these based on their comfort.
You’ll be comfortable enough, though, in any of these three cabins. But if you’re looking for a bit of style then the Fiat has it in rather stylish spaces. It’s a cool cabin and looks more appealing than the other two.
The Fiat has the standout interior - it feels a lot more stylish than the two rivals tested here
Both the Mitsubishi (left) and Renault (right) feel somewhat dull in comparison to the Fiat - both brands have tried to liven things up with splashes of chrome, but it doesn't liven up the fairly dab cabins
They all try the same trick of trying to brighten up dull, dark cabins with bits of metal flash and trim, but neither the Mitsubishi nor the Renault really pull it off very well.
In terms of practical stuff, the Colt has the most space front and rear, surprisingly more than the others, although the Fiat makes up for having the least rear legroom by having the most spacious boot – a strictly relative term you understand.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is the most expensive of the bunch - it also has the crashiest ride and sloppiest gearbox
The Abarth still has big appeal, though. It's the definition of a pocket rocket...but that's not enough to take the crown here
Running costs and future depreciation
While the 500 Abarth is clearly the most stylish vehicle here, it’s also the most expensive. You’ll be looking for £6000 if you want a decent example with sensible mileage.
The Mitsubishi Colt is cheaper, with a budget of about £4000 finding you a solid example with full history.
Cheapest would be the Renault Twingo, with about £3500 buying you a clean, low-mileage example, although if you had less than £3000 you could still find one, albeit with higher miles.
The Fiat will retain more of its value although it must be said it’s hard to say if the rarity of the Colt will work for or against it as the years pass. Whatever, it’s the cheapest to service.
In terms of economy they’re all about the same, being in the 40-43mpg range.
The Renault Sport Twingo is the winner of our test - and it's the cheapest of all three cars
The Renault is the best in the bends. With a fairly moderate level of power on tap in all three cars, how it copes in the corners is what matters most
Cars & motoring verdict
After our test we’d put the Mitsubishi Colt in third. The engine is terrific, and it’s comfy and practical, but there are too many negative points to recommend it as a winner.
The Fiat 500 Abarth gets a lot closer, with style, a lovely engine and a well-known profile. However, the gearbox is a box of mush and it’s not that comfy, while being at the same time fairly expensive.
So our winner is the Renault Twingo Renault Sport because it’s just so much fun to drive.
Renault Sport really know their stuff and you’ll be aware of the heritage when you drive the Twingo, it’s definitely a finer driving experience than the other two. And it’s the cheapest as well. What’s not to like?
FIAT 500 ABARTH VS MITSUBISHI COLT RALLIART VS RENAULT SPORT TWINGO
Fiat 500 Abarth
Specification tested: Fiat 500 1.4 T-Jet Abarth
Engine size: 1.4-litre petrol
List price when new: £13,600
Price today: £5000-£15,000
Torque: 152lb ft
Top speed: 123mph
Fuel economy: 43.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart
Specification tested: Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 T Ralliart 3dr
Engine size: 1.5-litre petrol
List price when new: £12,249
Price today: £3,500-£6500
Torque: 118lb ft
Top speed: 125mph
Fuel economy: 41.5mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 161g/km
Renault Sport Twingo
Specification tested: Renault Twingo 1.6 RenaultSport 133 Cup
Engine size: 1.6-litre petrol
List price when new: £12,220
Price today: £2000-£6500
Torque: 118lb ft
Top speed: 118mph
Fuel economy: 40.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 165g/km
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