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The top ten mid-engined hatchbacks

  1. Oh Hyundai, you awful tease. You’ve given us drawings of things we want - things we didn’t even know we wanted - then torn them from our trembling hands and told us we’re not allowed them.

    But luckily, other carmakers have come up with concepts that involve smallness, hatchy boots, and engines in the middle, then actually built them, thus creating hilariously murderous things that’ll pelt you into the horizon. Then, at the first sniff of a corner, up Shih Tzu creak with iOS Maps.

    For this very reason, the mid-engined hatchback genus has given us some copper-bottomed classics. And here are ten of them.

    Now click on, then tell us which of them you’d scrap, and which of them you’d do terrible things to own.


    As you’ll have already heard from Hammond, this is a 252bhp roadgoing version of a one-make racer, and it packs a 3.0-litre V6. Which does a bloody good job of shunting the Clio’s 1400kg mass around - it’ll hit 60mph in 5.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 153mph. A bit understeery. A lot insane.

  3. PEUGEOT 205 TURBO 16

    It may have looked like a 205, but the only thing that the T16 shared with the normal road car was the window frames. It’s mid-engined (obviously), turbocharged, four-wheel drive, and at 400bhp, nearly four times the power of the original Peugeot 205 GTI. Jeremy once described it as ‘a formula one car with mudflaps’ and he was, er, completely wrong. You could buy a road-going version for a start, albeit detuned. But in his defence, it went like one, and on to become the most successful Group B car ever.


    There is only one acceptable Austin Metro, and you’re looking at it. That’s mainly because it’s not really a Metro. It’s a race car. And like the Peugeot 205 T16 from a few seconds ago, it visited us from the Group B dimension. The 6R4 packed permanent four-wheel drive and a 3.0-litre V6 in the boot, which got twin-cam heads modelled on Cosworth’s Formula F1 DFV V8 engine. Which meant, in competition tune, it pushed out 394bhp. For reasons we assume pertain to sustaining human life, the road going Clubman version was detuned to 250bhp.


    Like the Pug and Metro, this was built for homologation, but this time for Group 4 rallying (the precursor to Group B). The turbocharged 1.4-litre four-pot was moved from the front into the middle, and drive was fed to the rear wheels. And while the road going car’s 160bhp doesn’t sound like much, with only 970kg to lug around, the Turbo would hit 62mph in 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. Which isn’t half bad considering Dexy’s Midnight Runners were at Number 1 when it came out.


    OK, so not officially a production car, but it is mid-engined, it is a hatchback, and it is crazy. Created for the pun lols, the Aygo Crazy had a 197bhp VVTi engine from the last MR2, only with a turbocharger, which had a flyweight 1000kg to drag around. Inexplicably, the engineers also tore out the ESP system, power steering, and brake servo. Which made it… worse. Timo Glock doesn’t seem to mind.

  7. VW GOLF W12

    Every year, the planet’s Golf GTI enthusiasts descend on a lake in Austria to polish their cars and show each other their camshafts. And every year VW sends them a little gift to thank them for their loyalty. In 2007, this was it - it had a rear axle from a Gallardo, twin-turbo 6.0-litre 640bhp W12 engine from a Bentley Continental, and rear subframe from an Audi R8. It got to 60mph in 3.5 seconds, went on to 202mph, and we want it very much.


    What do you mean ‘nonsense”? It’s a hatchback. It’s mid-engined. It’s just a bit… silly. Built in 1965 by the drag-racing party people at Hurst, the Hemi Under Glass was designed with the singular task of pulling wheelies. Hurst chose a Plymouth Barracuda because it had a huge rear window so they could show off their shiny engine bits, and they needed to put the engine in the back so - combined with an enormous Hemi V8 - it’d stand on its rear tyres when you gunned it.


    As well as looking like a wedge of funky space cheese, the Murena had three-abreast seating, just like the McLaren F1. Alas, it was slightly different… in every other way. You could chose between a wheezy 1.6-litre four-pot from the Spanish Peugeot 205 GTX, or the slightly less wheezy 2.2-litre four-pot from a Citroen BX 4TC. The latter got it from 0-60mph in, er, 9.2 seconds. The Murena was canned after just three years on the market, and the factory that built it switched to manufacturing the Renault Espace. Which was probably faster.


    Nissan’s always been good at raiding its parts bin and making cars that are not fast, fast. Really fast. For 2004, it built this - a 265bhp, 150mph, sub-four-seconds-to-sixty… Micra. Ray Mallock - the British engineering company that ran Nissan’s circa-1990s BTCC campaigns - put it together, and used a detuned version of a 2.0-litre touring car engine running through a six-speed sequential gearbox. Inside, it got a welded-in roll cage that increased stiffness by 30 per cent and not a lot else. Though Nissan did keep the central locking, electric windows and cup-holders.


    Previewing the approaching bum-engined Twingo, this V6, mid-engined TwinRun is an unusual use of marketing money. It has a 320bhp V6, rear-drive and completes the company’s hat trick of utterly insane Hot Hatches with Engines in the Wrong Place. Read our exclusive, and slightly alarming drive in it here…

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