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The birth of the hot hatch

green hot hatch from side view

If you’re looking for some thrill-a-minute driving on a budget and a motor you can do the weekly shopping in, a hot hatch is definitely the car for you. This week we’re going to take a look at the origins of the pocket rockets that changed the motoring landscape – and made driving much more fun for us!

The first hot hatch

Strictly speaking, the first hot hatch was the ‘73 Simca 1100TI, but because it was never released in the UK we’re going to offer a nod in its direction and move swiftly along! Many people assume that the original Golf GTi was the car that started the revolution, but that honour actually goes to the Renault 5 Gordini, which preceded the Golf by a few months. Despite its 1.4-litre engine, the Renault still managed to reach 0-60 mph in less than 10 seconds, which was super fast for a hatchback in 1976!

The iconic Golf GTi

1976 really spoilt the driver with both the Gordini and the GTi hitting the forecourts. There was something special about the Golf – its stylish front grill, tasteful trims and hard lines – but it was the driving experience that really grabbed our attention.

The 108 bhp its 1.6-litre engine produced propelled the lightweight frame to a more than respectable 0-60 time of 9 seconds – plenty quick enough for the mid-70s! When you couple this performance with the nimble handling that made a B-road drive an experience to remember, the GTi quickly became a highly sought after motor.

The 80s – hot hatches take off

The 80s saw more manufacturers recognise the intoxicating effect a small car that drives like a go-kart had on their customers and jumping on the bandwagon. The Peugeot 205 GTI is often described as the best hot hatch in history, and a mint condition one will set you back over £20,000 today! Along with the insanely quick Renault 5 Turbo, the 205 GTI took hot hatches to the next level. It was clear that this was more than a craze, and these cool little cars were here to stay.

The hot hatch started to become bloated and sensible by the end of the last century, but we’re pleased to say that there’s been a revival of the older style over the past decade or so!