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History of Hot Hatches in ten cars

  1. 1973 Simca 1100TI

    Meet the world’s first hot hatch - it has a 1.3-litre engine, breathes through two Weber carburettors and makes 82 horsepower. Not much by modern standards, but when it landed in 1973 its sub 12-second 0-60mph time and 105mph top speed was trouser-tightening stuff.

    It also involved all the fripperies of future attempts to spice up a family hatch - reinforced clutch, stiffer shocks, bigger brakes and special paint (called ‘Sumatra Red’, fact fans).

    Alas, the 1100TI never made it to England, and it may look a bit depressing, but this, dear internet, was genesis…

  2. 1976 Renault 5 Gordini

    This little Renault’s launch date pipped the Golf GTI’s by a few months, so it just slips in as the icon’s predecessor. It got a 1.4-litre engine - mounted well behind the front wheels for better balance - making 92bhp, which could hit 60mph in 9.7 seconds and topped out at 104.7 mph. It also had other hot essentials like front and rear spoilers and BIG SHOUTY RACING STRIPES.

    Called the Gordini in Britain and the Alpine everywhere else, it had the potential to be a full-blown legend. If it weren’t for the success of the Golf, people would talk about this car in the same way as the Mk1 GTI.

  3. 1976 Golf GTI Mk1

    Introduced in 1976, the Mk1 GTI is often considered the spiritual father of hot hatchery. And while it wasn’t the first, it was one of the earliest, polished fast hatchbacks. Lightweight construction meant it could outrun Ferrari 308s on country lanes, and a 0-60mph time of 9seconds meant it wasn’t far behind at the lights. And you could get a chest of drawers in the boot.

  4. 1984 Peugeot 205 GTI

    After launching in 1984, the little Pug quickly built a fine reputation for its free-revving 1.6-litre four-pot engine and tendency for lift-off oversteer. Like the Golf GTI, 104 horsepower seems piffling by modern standards, but a 900 kg kerbweight meant it was mighty quick in its day.

  5. 1991 Lanica Delta Integrale

    After the insanity of Group B rallying, the following - and altogether more conservative - Group A regs limited cars to 2.0-litre engines, 300 horsepower, and the need to be built from a far greater percentage of, y’know, road car…

    Which is why Lancia integrated the Delta into its rallying program, changing the hot hatch landscape once again. In road trim it made 207 horsepower, it got to 60mph in 5.7 seconds and topped out at. Sadly, the Integrale was only available in left-hand-drive only and this stopped it being a big seller in Britain.

  6. 1997 Daihatsu Cuore TR-XX Avanzato R

    Meanwhile in Japan, a unique translation for hot hatch was developing. As well as building quick versions of normal-sized hatches, several manufacturers turned their attention to their ‘kei’ cars - baby-engined minicars designed to comply with stringent tax and insurance regs. When the TR-XX was released, there was a 660cc displacement limit, and 3.3-meter by 1.4-meter size limit. Which is worth remembering when you take into account it’s 63bhp output. But anyone that’s played Gran Turismo will know that the combination turbocharged engine, permanent four-wheel drive, and sub-Elise kerb weight made it a hilariously addictive, if not out and out fast.

  7. 2002 Ford Focus RS

    Souped up models from the Blue Oval have always been loitering around the British performance market, and the Focus has played a huge part. Ford dropped the RS name after the Escort but with the poor sales of Racing Pumas the moniker was resurrected and a new lineage of fast Fords began.

    Ford were so determined to make it faster than the slightly less hot ST170 they handed it over to their rally team. They changed 70 per cent of the parts resulting in a car with a turbocharged four-pot engine not far off WRC specs. It could hit 60mph in 6.3 seconds, a top whack of 144mph, and obscene amounts of torque steer.

  8. 2008 Renault Megane R26.R

    As the swan song for the second gen Megane, the R26.R needed to go with a bang, which explains why the Renaultsport 230 Renault F1 Team R26.R was 123 kg lighter than the normal RS, had 227 horsepower, a full cage, six-point harness and plastic windows. Not so much a hot hatch, but a boiling one.

  9. 2013 Audi A1 Quattro

    The Germans have a reputation for making very good, very dull cars. But, every so often they losen their grip on sanity. A recent example being this 250 horsepower, four-wheel drive supermini that can hit 62mph in 5.7 seconds and go on to 152 mph.

    Thing is, it’s a little… pricey. £40,000, to be precise. And even if you could stomach the money, you can’t have it - only 333 examples were made and just 19 are coming to Britain.

  10. 2013 Renault Clio RS 200

    There are several Clios that deserve a mention here - the RenaultSport 172, the bonkers V6, and the Clio Williams. But it’s the most recent incarnation that gets the final mention.

    It’s a controversial step in the hot hatch’s development because you can only get it with four doors and a paddle-shift ‘box. There’s still 197bhp, 177lb ft of torque, 0-62 mph comes in 6.7 seconds, and it tops out at 143 mph. But has the spec limitation narrowed the appeal? Over to you, TopGear.commers.

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