The 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed featured the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport sharing the hill climb with its well-respected ancestor, the Mk1 VW Golf. There are more than a few hot hatches from yesteryear that have fallen by the wayside as time progressed. Hot hatches like Toyota’s Corolla GTi, Nissan’s Almera GTI, and Skoda’s Fabia vRS all have their place in history. It is a sad truth that so many manufacturers, especially those from the land of the Rising Sun, no longer make this sort of car.
On the other hand, there are hatchbacks like the VW Golf that come with an impressive lineage that harks back decades. I don’t mean to sound like a eugenicist, but pedigree is an important factor when looking to buy your next hot hatch. Mind you, admirable parentage doesn’t always ensure a great car. Just look at the Mk 4 Golf. Below are some of the best hot hatches around that have real staying power in order of their age:
The original Mini Cooper was a rally champ like few others in its time. (Image source: Mini press site)
Originally sold as the Morris Mini way back in 1959, a go faster version didn’t arrive until John Cooper met with Sir Alec Issigonis and convinced him to create the Mini Cooper and Cooper S in 1961. Launched in 1963, the first Cooper S featured a 70bhp 1-litre motor propelling just 567kg of metal, which made it a little firecracker of a car. Branded in memory by its rally wins in the 60s, the Mini Cooper is still sold today, in design little different from its predecessor. The newest generation Cooper S, built under the BMW umbrella, possesses an 189bhp 2-litre engine, and is very much still in demand.
The Honda Civic has always had a more than decent sized fan following thanks to its potential for tuning (Image source: Honda press site & Creative Commons)
First made in 1972, it wasn’t until the third generation that Honda decided to give the Civic some sporting credentials. A JDM 1.6-litre DOHC engine making about 120bhp was introduced in 1984 making enthusiasts of the time drool. Then came the Type R, which boasted Honda’s innovative VTEC engine technology that cemented this car’s name in history books. Today, the fourth generation Type R (10th generation since 1972) is one of the fastest hatchbacks around (claiming the fastest lap time for a front-wheel drive car around Nurburgring) and contributes decently to Honda’s sales. At the 2016 Paris Motor Show, Honda had revealed the new Civic Type R with even more power coupled with its boy racer looks.
Ford has nearly always had a winner in the Fiesta, from when it first launched to the present day. (Image source: Ford press site)
September 2016 saw Ford’s supermini celebrating its 40th anniversary as well. The first generation model sold from 1976 to 1983 though there wasn’t a properly fast version until Ford launched the third generation Fiesta in 1989 with XR2i badge that came with 103bhp. Today, the Fiesta is one of the most sought after hatchbacks selling in large numbers and the ST versions that were first sold in 2013 with 197bhp make the proposition even harder to ignore. There have been rumours that Ford will add a 250bhp all-wheel drive RS version sometime next year. All I can say is YES, PLEASE!
It may not be the perfect successor to the iconic 205 GTI, but the 208GTi still has its charms. (Image source: Peugeot press site)
While the 208 GTi doesn’t carry its predecessor’s name, it does follow in the footsteps of the classic 205 GTI that was introduced in 1986. The 205 GTI was known for its penchant for lift-off oversteer, understated yet classy looks, and zingy 105bhp 1.6-litre engine. The current 208 GTi sports a turbocharged 1.6-litre motor that makes 197bhp, and is a strong contender in the supermini hot hatch segment. Fun-to-drive and relatively cheap to run, the 208 may not have the charm of the 205 GTI that lured petrolheads in the 80s, but it still is a great hot hatch with an impressive lineage.
Renault Clio Williams/Renault Clio Renaultsport
While the Clio Williams is considered a one-off by some, it is the progenitor of the current Clio Renaultsport. (Image source: Renault press site)
As with the above Peugeot, the current Clio Renaultsport doesn’t share its name with the Formula 1 inspired Clio Williams, but is its spiritual successor nonetheless. Introduced in 1994 as a special edition model, the Clio Williams featured a 150bhp 2-litre engine and a raft of mechanical improvements over the standard model to make it sporty and quick on its feet. In 2013, Renault brought out the Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo, a rival to the 208 GTi, Fiesta ST and Mini Cooper S. While many have said the new Clio isn’t as enjoyable (lack of a manual ‘box, etc.) as the previous generation Clios, it still is an enjoyable little hatch with a 1.6-litre 197bhp mill, and a decent heritage.