If the Honda Civic Type R is a bit too pricey, here are some awesome alternatives.
We were really excited when Honda decided to bring the first Civic Type R stateside. Not only would this be the first Type R ever sold in the US, it also undercut both the Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS on price. To be fair, those cars both have AWD, while the Civic is only FWD. The Type R has an attractive base price of $34,775, but insane dealer markups quickly drove the price out of the range of common sense. For those on a more sensible budget, we have a few cheaper alternatives that cost less than $30,000 for your consideration.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI may not be the most unique choice on this list, but it still has to be be here because of its well-rounded excellence. The Golf GTI starts at just under $25,000 for the base S trim, and the nicer Sport trim is also available for under $30,000. The SE does push the price just over the $30,000 mark, but we prefer the Sport trim with its plaid cloth seats over the SE's leather chairs. Even after driving the Golf R and Golf GTI nearly back-to-back, we recommended the GTI because it is at least nine tenths of the fun of the Golf R at three quarters of the price. It doesn't matter if you get the DGS or manual, because both are great. Just make sure to get the Sport trim or above with the VAQ differential.
The Mini Cooper isn't just a stylish hatchback, it is also extremely fun to drive. We love the unique customization options that allow Mini owners to make their car different from any other car on the road. For less than $30,000, it is possible to get the faster Cooper S, with room for a few options. Unfortunately, the more powerful John Cooper Works model is slightly over the budget, but the 189 hp engine in the Cooper S is plenty given the car's light curb weight. The Mini may not be as well rounded as some of the other cars on this list, but the interior feels very upscale and the car's small size makes it extremely dynamic.
Not many people talk about the Nissan Juke Nismo in the hot hatchback conversation. It may technically be an SUV, but the Juke Nismo is worthy of being in the hot hatch category. The Nismo version of the car comes with a 188 hp 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The RS version steps it up to 215 hp with a limited-slip differential, but the Recaro seats are very difficult to live with on a daily basis. Even though the Juke is a larger vehicle, it is only slightly more spacious on the inside than the other cars on this list. The Juke Nismo is perfect for people who want a small, family SUV, but don't want to sacrifice fun.
Before Ford finally brought the Focus RS stateside, it gave Americans a taste with the Focus ST. The Focus ST was the first time where American enthusiasts didn't have to look across the pond with envy at the hot Ford models that were only available to Europe. The Focus ST made a good case over the GTI with an exciting 252-hp 2.0-liter engine with a massive 270 lb-ft of torque. Ford even made the bold choice of selling the Focus ST with a manual transmission only. The Focus ST is a bit less expensive than the GTI, but isn't quite as well rounded. The ST has a lot more torque steer, and isn't quite as composed as the Mk7 GTI with the VAQ differential.
Not everyone can afford to have a hot hatchback, whether it be for insurance purposes or otherwise. These people need not fret because even the normal Honda Civic hatchback is an extremely good car. The Civic hatchback starts at under $20,000 and is only available with the more powerful 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with 174 hp. This is the same car that the Type R is based on, but for a much lower price. We'd be perfectly happy with a Civic hatchback with the optional six-speed manual. It looks great, and can still offer as much fun as the other cars on this list (almost anyway).