Someone mentioned Suzuki? I have to honestly say that the current Suzuki Swift Sports is a mighty fine supermini. The first time I drove it I was slightly taken aback by the slightly rubbery steering feel and the slightly high up sitting position. But the more and more I went back to the same corner with the Suzy things became much clearer. This little hatchback is really good. This was a car that reminded me of the time when hot hatches were small dainty cars with responsive and revvy engines coupled with handling to boot.
Classic hatchbacks that come to mind are the original Mk1 and Mk2 VW Golfs (surprise, surprise), the 4th Generation Honda Civic EF, the CRX EF (in some ways), the original Swift GTI and the Fiat 130TC. A notable new mention would be the BMW Mini Cooper S. Some of these cars were 'hot' long before some of you started to walk and they are in some ways the quintessential hot hatches. They were light, nimble small cars that had slightly powerful engines stuffed under their bonnets. Note that I said light, nimble and small. Cars like the Mk 4 and Mk5 Golf GTIs became a 30 something year old guy suffering from middle age spread around the tummy but due to some weight lifting and bulk, had the bhp and torque to still throw a punch; somewhat. Ergo the Swift Sport reminded me of the good ol' days.
One of the important facts of a hot or slightly warm hatch is affordability. The Swift Sport epitomizes this fact and when you add the all important point of handling, it's a done deal. This is the only small Front Wheel Drive (FWD) hatchback that I tried which would allow its tail to wag upon trail braking into a corner or the fact that when you lift off mid corner the nose would tuck in and its rear would follow through. It was unnerving at first because most of the FWD cars that I had driven lately seemed happy to understeer early on if you entered a corner a little too fast. I then realized that this was a car where anyone didn't need to spend tons of money on tuning the suspension to chuck the car about. While the steering was slightly rubbery and springy, always wanting to straighten out, it was precise, quick and had feedback & feel, making any corner an opportunity for the driver to go for it. The only other affordable car that will handle like this is the Proton Satria Neo, but you'd suffer from a serious lack of headroom and the overall lack of quality if you bought one. Unless you were a hobbit and have never seen or felt better grades of plastic before.
If you wanted a car that you felt you could trust while attacking the apex of a corner, you'd want a Swift Sport. Due to the short wheelbase and the tire at each corner of the chassis you would feel that when you point the little car into a corner and before you know it, you're at the apex and powering through it. But if you're the kind of person who's not used to the car, I'd suggest taking time to learn the handling before going Banzai. If you didn't, you might shock yourself when it does what it does best, which is take a slightly drifting attitude at high speeds. Forget gadgets like launch control, traction control or even mind control. This car is pure, old school fun.
The drawback to owning this car is the fact that the 1.6liter 125bhp engine is merely adequate due to the 1100kg curb weight and a 0 to 100km/h time takes about 9seconds. Give it another 25bhp you'll be grinning like crazy 100% of the time instead of 90% of the time when you're driving this car. The other drawback is that it has a small boot. But how many times a year do you use it to carry things? Or do you even go on drive-to holidays? So if you're looking for a decent warm to hot little car, buy the Suzy even though it has been around for awhile now. Do not buy Nissan Latios or Hyundai Vernas. Because if you do, you're just buying transport, and not fun.
However, if you decide to save some money and buy the basic 1.5liter or 1.3 liter models of the Swift, the handling is pretty much the same but understeer sets in early and the tail refuses to wag about like the Sport. Maybe its safer for novice drivers too. I suppose the understeer is due to smaller tires (185/60/15 over 195/50/16) on rims one size smaller and narrower (15inches over 16inches). Shock absorber setting also differ but I do not think by much. The plus side is that the steering somehow feels less rubbery, without the slightly more aggressive self centering effect probably due to less rubber on the road. It is still a fun car to drive nonetheless.