Small cars can be big on performance

If you feel the need for speed when you get behind the wheel, but don’t want or need a large car, there are plenty of fast little cars which you should consider when it comes time to upgrade which combine the power you want with the handling and reliability we know and love from some of our favourite brands.

1. Ford Fiesta ST

If you know your cars, you’ll be familiar with the ST range. Building on the success of the Focus ST, Ford have downsized slightly to bring us the Fiesta ST. At £17,985, it’s one of the more affordable small fast cars on the market, and it’s taking the industry by storm. A punchy 180bhp and a 0-62 of a smidge under 7 seconds mean this is one nippy little car. It’s on a par with the Renault you’ll see later in our top 5 when it comes to fuel consumption, at 47.9mpg. Responsive steering and a turbo with a real kick makes this an absolute delight to drive.

2. Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport

It’s lowered, it’s streamlined and it’s raring to go just like its older brother, the Peugeot 205 GTi. However, times have moved on, and the 208 is a little more safety conscious, and a lot better built. What’s the difference between this and a regular GTI? It’s lower, wider and has upgraded its dampers, springs and wheel alignment. It also gets the Torsten differential which the RCZ has had so much praise for. It’s in the middle of our price range, at £22,900, but offers 205bhp and a 0-62mph of six and a half seconds. You’ll get an impressive 52.3mpg from a tank, and while it’s not a 205, it’s a very good contender.

3. Audi S1

Back in 2012, Audi sent a limited run of just 19 S1s to the UK. They were left-hand drive, priced at £40k, and not expected to sell. Much to their surprise, they sold out straight away, and Audi were forced to have a rethink. Maybe a scaled down, front wheel drive model with the beloved 1.4 TFSI engine would do? But that wouldn’t be very Audi, so the Quattro system came in and stayed. This proved that great things can come in small packages, and this package trumps plenty of others. With 228bhp and a 0-62 of 5.8 seconds, you can be sure that this packs a punch. Fuel economy is great as well with 40.4mpg. You will be paying for the privilege though, with a price tag of £25,600.

4. Mini JCW (John Cooper Works)

Who doesn’t love a Mini? It looks good, it drives well, and you’ll always have a smile on your face once you get behind the wheel. The Mini has had a place in our hearts for decades, and the JCW is the one to go for if performance driving is what you want. Tuned for speed, you’ll get a stonking 231bhp, and a 0-62mph of 6.1 seconds. Fuel economy is okay, giving you 49.6mpg. Take it as it comes, or opt for a whole raft of optional extras, but be careful. With a base price of £24,520, just a few of these added extras could send your bill sky high.

5. Renault Sport Clio 220 Trophy

We’re onto the fourth generation of the Clio, which burst onto the scene in 1991. All Renaults have the same family appearance these days, and Renault have done their best to show they’ve moved with the times with bold style and high-tech interiors. The Trophy line of Renault Sport vehicles means you’re paying nearly £3000 more than you would for a standard Renault Sport Clio (you’re looking at around £22,425), but for your money, you get an extra 20bhp, taking you to 220bhp, 18-inch wheels, a 0-62mph of 6.6 seconds and lowered suspension. You also get the divisive paddle shift gearbox, which it seems drivers either love or hate. At 47.9mpg, it’s on a par with the Fiesta ST, which is a great alternative if you decide the Renault isn’t for you.

If you’re on the market for a hot hatch which is just as at home on the school run as it is on an early morning zoom down country lanes, we don’t think you can go far wrong with any of these small fast cars. Enjoy agility, firm suspension and something which will fit easily into your garage – get yourself a fast little car.