Do you prefer the raw 80s hatches or their more refined modern counterparts? Motor journalist Rob Griffin counts down the six best hot hatches of all time.
For petrolheads with more modest budgets, the hot hatch has long been the affordable dream.
Their powerful engines and uprated suspensions have provided adrenaline-fuelled driving excitement for decades.
The term hot hatch first appeared in the 1980s when the trend began for giving rather pedestrian three- and five-door family hatchbacks a grittier edge.
It was an instant hit and these racy machines have been a part of the landscape ever since. We count down six of the best.
The best hot hatches no.6: Suzuki Swift Sport
It might not be the most beautiful car in its class but when it comes to performance and value for money then Suzuki’s Swift Sport is pretty hard to beat. With a 1.6 litre engine – and choice of three- or five-door models – it can hit 60 mph in a respectable 8.7 seconds and has a top speed of 121mph. The cost, depending on the model chosen, is around £13,000 and for that you’ll get loads of standard features, such as keyless entry and climate control.
The best hot hatches no.5: Renault Mégane Renaultsport 265
This is what a modern-day hot hatch is all about. Tough styling married to a punchy 2.0 litre turbo engine, with terrific handling thrown in for good measure. It has a rugged, muscular appeal with performance to back it up as it can carry you from 0-60mph in six seconds, up to a top speed of 158 mph. The Mégane range has been earmarked to enjoy a major facelift soon but you can still get your hands on one of these handsome machines for around £26,000.
The best hot hatches no.4: Ford Fiesta XR2
An often-overlooked member of the hot hatch family. The second generation Fiesta arrived in 1983 and the XR2 version of this car featured a stylish bodykit and a decent 1.6 engine. Okay, it wasn’t the fastest machine on the road but it certainly looked the part and was a lot of fun to drive. There aren’t many available these days although if you look carefully it’s still possible to pick up a decent example for around the £3,000 mark.
The best hot hatches no.3: Volkswagen Golf GTi Mk1
In many people’s eyes this is the original hot hatch. Volkswagen’s beautiful Mk 1 Golf set the benchmark when it arrived at the back end of the 1970s. It enjoyed mass-market appeal and was soon in a battle for supremacy with rivals from the likes of Ford, Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall. There are still some available for a few thousand pounds, although really good examples have been changing hands for an eye-watering £25,000.
The best hot hatches no.2: Ford Focus ST
If you want the edginess of a traditional hot hatch combined with the modern day creature comforts then the Ford Focus ST may fit the bill with its powerful 2.0 litre EcoBoost engine and various state-of-the-art features such as climate control and USB connectivity. There are three versions available - ST, ST-2 or ST-3 – depending on how equipped you want it to be with prices ranging from £22,000 to £26,000.
The best hot hatches no.1: Peugeot 205 GTi
Simply the granddaddy of hot hatches. This car had it all: speed, style and handling – and it looks just as good today as it did back in 1984. Available in both 1.6 and 1.9 versions, the 205 GTi was a smash hit although sales were hit in the early 90s as these fantastic machines were also popular with thieves and joy riders. To relive these glory days will cost you between £2,000 and £20,000 – depending on how much love and attention it has enjoyed.
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