Every man/Woman, at some stage in their driving lives, has either owned a hot hatch or desperately wanted to own one – whether a souped up Seat Leon or an understated XR2i, the need for pint-sized speed has been there in all of us.
But where did this obsession with the ultimate boy’s toy begin, and where is it headed? Let’s take a look…
The First Hot Hatch
The first hot hatch burst on to the motoring scene in 1973 when the Simca 110TI took to the roads with its 1.3 litre engine and two Weber carburettors delivering a whole 82 horsepower. This doesn’t seem like much, but it could do 0-60 in less than 12 (twelve!) seconds and had a top speed of 105mph – not bad for what was essentially an early-70s family car.
Not only that, but its stiffened shock absorbers, bigger brake pads, reinforced clutch and bespoke paint job set the template for future hot hatches the world over.
When you hear the words ‘hot hatch’, you immediately think Golf GTI. Released three years after the Simca, and even a few months after the Renault 5 Gordini, the MK1 was by no means the first hot hatch, but it quickly became the most revered.
It could go from 0-60 in nine seconds and it’s lightweight body and huge boot space meant it could whip a Ferrari 308 on Britain’s long and winding roads – and was much more practical when getting the big shop in.
The New Kid On The Block
1984 saw the release of the new kid on the hot hatch block as the Peugeot 205 GTI looked to knock the GTI off its perch: its 1.6-litre engine and 104 horsepower more than enough to fire its 900kg around.
And although a 1.9 litre version was released, it never quite hit the heights of the 1.6, feeling a lot lazier and more torque-heavy than its revvy and eager little brother.
The 90s Hot Hatch
While the Golf GTI and 205 GTI were still being produced well into the 90s (the Golf GTI is obviously still in production today) there were two hot hatches that stood out from the crowd and became a bit of a game-changer in the 90s – the Lancia Delta Integrale and the Subaru Impreza.
The Delta arrived on the scene in 1991 when it changed the landscape again, with its 207 horsepower and knack of getting from 0-60mph in just 5.7 seconds. However, it never quite made the mark it should have in the UK as it was only ever sold in left-hand drive.
The Subaru Impreza, on the other hand, became ubiquitous after a relatively low-key start to life in 1994.
The timing of its arrival was spot-on, however, as the UK was just coming out of recession, the Loaded lad generation was about to kick off, and EVERYONE was playing Colin McRae rally on the PlayStation.
Ford Hits The Hot Hatch Scene Again
After successfully taking the 80s hot hatch scene by storm with the XR2i, XR3i and the RS Cosworth becoming THE hot hatch to have, Ford hit the scene again in the noughties.
Following the relative disaster that was the Puma, Ford resurrected the RS name and not only badged up the Focus, but changed nearly three-quarters of its components to give it a turbocharged four-pot engine that could go from 0-60mph in three seconds and hit a top speed of 144mph.
The Future Of The Hot Hatch?
Pretty much every manufacturer offers some sort of hot hatch these days, and while Ford and VW continue to offer some of the best cars in the market, the SEAT Leon Cupra stole the show at the WhatCar? awards to take the gong for 2014’s best hot hatch.
Its 2.0 litre, turbocharged 276 horsepower engine goes from 0-60mph in just five seconds and can hit a top speed of 155mph, but it’s the well balanced steering and superb grip that make it stand out from the crowd – its cornering really is something else.
With so much on offer, both past and present, there has never been a better time to be a hot hatch fan.