Pocket rockets for £10k | Six of the Best

The best things really do come in small packages – here's the proof

By PH Staff / Sunday, 30 April 2023 / Loading comments

Mini Cooper S, 2005, 95k, £3,990

Somewhat scary to think the first Mini Cooper S of the 21st century is now more than two decades old, especially given their prevalence – and, dare we say, timelessness. Moreover, the supercharged R53 is now being recognised as one of the better pocket rockets of the early 2000s, brimming with a scallywag sense of humour and a memorable engine – and prices reflect that. The best of the best is anything up to £12k nowadays, but good ones remain available for much less. This 2005 facelifted example promises a full service history and an MOT until next year to go with its funky colour, great wheels and Chili Pack, which – if our research is right – brought with it a limited-slip diff from early 2005 on. Handy. Even with some well-documented flaws, surely a whole lot of fun for £4k.

Peugeot 106 GTI, 1998, 72k, £10,990

All the cars here were originally meant to be £5k. Bargain basement hot hatches for tough times and all that. But when a Peugeot 106 GTI this good presents itself, the rules can go hang – it had to go in. That the 106 is now worth as much as it is should surprise nobody, as the spiritual successor to the 205 GTI – another Peugeot icon – that’s also enjoyed its own stratospheric appreciation of late. Alongside the 306 equivalent, the 106 represented Peugeot at its very best in the late 1990s; oh sure, a Saxo VTS was the same car and a little bit cheaper, but it didn’t look quite so pitch perfect as the pretty little Peugeot. The GTI was the one you wanted, 120hp of fast French fun that’s never really been bettered since. Which is why a cherished, low mileage, one-owner car is now £10k. Might just be worth it, too. 

Skoda Fabia vRS TDI, 2004, 109k, £4,495

A very different take on the red hot hatch, the Skoda Fabia vRS TDI has acquired something approaching cult hero status in the 20 years since its launch. Even back in the early 2000s, it wasn’t a handler: old Polo underpinnings and the chunky PD diesel lump up front saw to that. Fun and frolics weren’t really the name of the game when it came to the vRS. Instead, you got a monstrous mid-range, neatly spruced-up styling and 50mpg without trying. Today the durability and tuneability of the original car (attributes lacking from the second-gen vRS) keep them in demand, especially the end-of-the-line SE model. They’re often for sale at more than the later, more powerful, petrol vRS. This £4.5k 2004 car looks smart for its 100,000 miles, wheels unkerbed and interior not bad at all. Decent polish and it’ll be good as new…

Renaultsport Twingo 133, 2011, 65k, £6,495

Though only a decade or so ago, that Renault once sold a Twingo 133, Clio 200 and Megane 265 as part of an all-conquering hot hatch lineup now feels like another lifetime. For the discerning hot hatch buyer, there was no point even entertaining the possibility of a rival car; the Renaultsports were the class of the field, from teeny-tiny Twingo to Nurburgring curshing Megane. They all begged to be driven hard and revelled in the treatment; plenty of hot hatches are good at the former, not so many at the latter. It means being selective when picking up a used one, because they all need good care to stay at their best, but the rewards are more than worth it. The Twingo was always rare, and especially so in Gordini guise; the white wheels here definitely give the 133 a junior rally car vibe. Ought to drive like one, too.

Suzuki Swift Sport, 2015, 77k, £5,995

A more mature alternative to the Twingo, though no less recommendable because of it. Perhaps it’s the less illustrious name or the more rounded character, but it often feels that the second-generation Swift Sport – worth getting over the first for the sixth gear alone – doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves. It looked smart, drove brilliantly and was great value, packing in loads of equipment (and entertainment) for little more than £14k. Perhaps it wasn’t the same wild child the Twingo was, but that softer edge meant the Swift was suitable for any journey you could throw at it. There’s a good selection of used ones out there, and the spec choice is very easy: choose the colour you like, and three or five doors. Not much else to it. This three-door looks great in white like all the best Japanese fast cars, and has just been serviced and MOT’d. Yours for £5,995.

Fiat Panda 100HP, 2008, 126k, £3,499

Perhaps an Abarth 500 could have gone here, but that felt a bit predictable. And the Punto seemed a bit big for this tiny tearaway collective. So Panda 100HP it was, a welcome reminder that great fast(ish) Fiats existed before 2008. The formula for creating the 100HP wasn’t complicated, but so often the best hot hatches are the simple ones. A bigger engine went in (the 1.4-litre 16-valve from the Punto), as did a six-speed gearbox, disc brakes were fitted all round and the suspension was stiffened up. An old-school overhaul and an old-school result, all revvy and rascally fun that was desperate for the next turn. A different character to the later turbo cars, undoubtedly, though a loveable one nonetheless. Affordable ones remain despite 100HPs becoming rarer and more prized: this one has new dampers, four recent Goodyear Eagle F1s and fresh front brakes. £3,500 well spent.   

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