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Best Hot Hatch Under 5K – Octavia 1.8T RS MK1?

You want a cheap, exciting second car that you won’t be using every day. You want something fun, practical, low on running costs, reliable, easy to tune and that won’t cost the earth to fix if something catastrophic fails. In other words, you want the best hot hatch under 5K but which to choose?

Octavia 1.8T RS?

Is the Octavia the hidden gem? To tick all these boxes the Octavia 1.8T RS is hard to look past. EVO magazine gives it a 4 star rating in “The Knowledge” and MK1 Octavia RSs are available from around 2.5K in the UK. But what cars is it up against and how does it compare?

The Competiton

MK5 Golf GTI/Octavia RS MK2

For sure the MK5 GTI platform has the MK1 Octavia beat in two main areas. Interior is on a different level & handling is better. On the flip side the TFSI engine is arguably less reliable and costs a lot more to fix if something catastrophic happens, ie a new engine being required.

Purchase price is more and do we really care about the interior on a second fun car?

For a day-to-day hot hatch, sure the MK5 platform is the way to go. For a cheap, exciting second car that’s going to be tuned? I don’ think so.

Civic EP3 Type-R

Engines are great. If they’ve been looked after. Which is essential because most will be driven hard. If a new engine is needed we are looking at big money because the K20 is so popular.

Gearbox. Nothing to see here. Strong. Reliable.

Chassis is supposed to be decent, but steering isn’t great.

3 door chassis, not the most practical.

Huge aftermarket support but it’s always going to be more expensive tuning a normally aspirated engine versus an engine that was boosted from the factory.

Prices are on the up but sometimes cars come up for 2.5K.

A fun second car? Yeah, the EP3 Type-R fits.

Is it going to be exciting as an Octavia 1.8T RS that’s tuned? I think probably not.

Clio 182/Clio 197

Loads around and supposed to be the best hot hatch ever made. Amazing to drive but not that fast.

Practicality, again, 3 door shell. Not a ton of space and hard space to access.

Reliability. Engines are supposed to be strong but again another motor that will have been seeing the redline so needs to have been looked after. Engine not as cheap as the 1.8T to replace. And for sure getting more power from the F4 is going to cost a ton for not a lot.

Gearboxes can be fragile with stock power, so putting more power through it is probably asking for trouble.

For chassis only, sure, great car, best here. If you want any of the other things like tunability, reliability and practicality all the other cars beat the Clio Sport.

Coming Back to the Octavia 1.8T RS

Interior, is this really a factor in choosing the best hot hatch under 5K? How important is the interior of a fun car? For me, as long as it’s not horrible it’s fine and none of the cars in this list have a horrible interior.

Tunability. I think the 1.8T motor is as good as the TFSI. K20 is awesome also, if you have got a bigger budget than 5K. But we haven’t got more than 5K so 1.8T wins.

Reliability. The K20 is the winner here, the 1.8T is second.

Running Costs. Assuming nothing goes wrong catastrophically. The K20 is going to be the cheapest. If something catastrophic does happen, which given the type of cars we are looking at and given the price of the cars is a real possibility, the 1.8T has got to be the “safe” choice.

Practicality. The MK5/MK6 GTI and Octavia RS MK2 win. Feel much bigger inside than the Mk1 Octavia and bigger than the Civic and Clio. MK5 GTI wins with the Octavia MK1 second.

Fun. Octavia 1.8T RSs can crop up for 2.5K which leaves 2.5K for mods. 300bhp is achievable if you do the work yourself. We are not going to get 300 brake from the other cars in this list for 5k all in, if for no other reason than the purchase price of the others being higher. A 300 brake Octavia RS is a very fun and exciting car.

Yes, the handling of the MK1 Octavia is not as good as the other cars in this list but 300 brake probably more than makes up for the failings in the cornering department.

Best Hot Hatch Under 5K – The Scores

Clio 182/197Civic EP3 Type-ROctavia 1.8T RSGTI MK5/Octavia RS MK2
Purchase Price4122
Fun (When modded with 5K budget)4131
Excitement (When modded)1243
Tuneability (5K Total Budget)1243
Running Costs (Catastrophic Problems)3141

Best Hot Hatch Under 5K – Summary

Scoring all the four cars and the big surprise is the Clio 182/197 almost coming out of top. The amazing chassis overcomes a lot of potential negatives as does the lower purchase price.

The EP3 comes out bottom mainly because the K20 can be pricey to replace, and the steering is numb. Plus its naturally aspirated, yes the K20 loves a turbo but it’s not possible for a total budget under 5K.

It’s surprising that the MK5 GTI/Octavia MK2 comes out below the Clio. Again, the Clio’s chassis counts for a lot and the cost of fixing big problems with the Clio is less (and probably less likely to happen) than with the TFSI motor.

The gap between the MK5 GTI and the Octavia 1.8T is also surprisingly big. Looking at the two cars you’d say the MK5 platform is a much better car and for a daily driver it is. But we are looking for a car we won’t be driving every day and a car that is not going to cost the world to modify or cost the world to fix if things go pop. And this is where the 1.8T scores. Couple in the fact that it is probably a more reliable engine than the TFSI and that puts the Octavia RS ahead.

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This page was last modified Sep 9, 2023 @ 9:49 am

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