These Are Some Of The Biggest Fails Of The Hot Hatch World
A selection of Hot Hatchbacks that are best left forgotten about.
It’s going to be of no surprise to a lot of people that Hot Hatchbacks are one of my favourite types of motor car. I’ve lusted after them, I’ve admired their wide spectrum of abilities, and best of all, I own one. The concept is just so deliciously appealing: a compact body shape, racey engine and enough space for five adults all for the price of a medium-sized diesel powered saloon is a recipe so fine, it could be served in the Ritz.
The industry has gone mad for these pocket rockets lately, in the past year we’ve had the new eighth-generation Golf GTi, the improved yet still loutish Civic Type-R, the supercar frightening A45 S from Mercedes-AMG and the sensation of the year - the rally homologation Toyota GR Yaris. So what better time to talk about this genius invention of the automotive world.
At first glance it sounds like an easy car to get right, just use the standard hatchback body parts, slot in a huge engine, and away you go. Right? Well, wrong. In fact some attempts have fallen foul of the post by quite some margin over the years, proving one of the simplest sounding recipes can easily end up like a dogs dinner.
Peugeot 307 GT Feline
Credit - Net Car Show.
It’s no secret that Peugeot knows how to make a sensational Hot Hatch. Think 205 GTi, 306 GTi-6 and 106 Rallye and you’d have a hard time arguing that they aren’t kings of the Hot Hatch. It seems hard to believe then that the 307 GT Feline could be anything short of excellent. In reality, sadly not. The core problem, I think, is the 307’s natural emphasis towards comfort, which is fine for the diesel version, but not for the fire-breathing version. Plus, the interior and exterior styling cues were all far too restrained for a Hot Hatch, with a set of alloys, single tail-pipe, barely noticeable boot spoiler and some thicker seat bolsters as the only hints towards the sporting pretensions. With 180 bhp from the two-litre engine, it’s also considerably out-classed for performance too, with rivals of the time producing in excess of 200 bhp. If I had to describe this car in a word, it would be lacklustre, as it pretty much sums up Peugeot’s effort here, especially considering it’s history of performance cars prior to this one.
Volkswagen Golf GTi Mk4
Volkswagen Golf GTi. Credit - Honest John Classics.
Volkswagen is no stranger to an epic pocket rocket either, being hailed by many as the creators of the Hot Hatch with the original Golf GTi in 1976. The fourth generation of the iconic model, though, missed the mark by quite some margin. Launched in 1998 the Mk4 Golf GTi used various power units from a feeble 115 bhp 2.0-litre to a rather more respectable 180 bhp 1.8-litre turbo. The more underpowered cars suffered terribly from a distinct lack of pace for something wearing the highly coveted GTi badge, which being quite heavy cars in comparison to the whippet-like original Mk1 from which they spawned, didn’t help matters. In Mk4 guise, the GTi represents athleticism like a plump middle-aged man at a burger van. Put as many Nike tracksuits on him as you like - he’s still not sporty.
Mercedes-Benz A200 Turbo
Mercedes-Benz A200 Turbo. Credit - Net Car Show.
We all know the sheer might and capability of the Mercedes A45 AMG, and I bet most of you all consider it the brands’ first ever punt into the Hot Hatch fray. However, the more geeky among you may remember in 2005 when the ‘new’ A-Class hit the scene, Mercedes offered a fast version - the A200 Turbo. The reason you probably don’t remember it is because it was completely overshadowed by all it’s rivals. It was more expensive, yet less powerful than the Mk5 Golf GTi, Civic Type-R and the Focus ST, all of which were considerably more driver focused, enjoyable and brimmed with the pizzazz that a Hot Hatch needs. It was all just far too ordinary and unexciting for such a vehicle, and with rivals very much on the right side of spectacular, that was nowhere near enough. When the new A-Class came along in 2013, Mercedes got AMG involved this time round, and with far superior results - so I think we can probably forgive Mercedes for their long-since forgotten first effort.
Toyota Yaris SR
Toyota Yaris SR. Credit - Net Car Show.
You saw me mention at the head of this article the new GR Yaris. A mighty impressive motor vehicle and one that seems to have bowled over journalists everywhere. I think it comes as a great shock too, because it wears a Toyota badge. Toyota has not really dipped their toe too far into the Hot Hatch game too much over the years. The Corolla and Yaris T-Sport from the early noughties were alright and in the 80s they made a now long-forgotten GTi. But in recent memory all we really have is the Yaris SR from 2007, which wasn’t so great. Built to compete with the vastly populated crowd of Supermini sized Hot Hatches, the Hottest Yaris was barely lukewarm in reality. Firstly, it wasn’t fast enough, with many of the opposition packing around 150bhp, the 131bhp Yaris struggled and could be easily outpaced by cheaper rivals like the Suzuki Swift Sport which was quicker to 60 mph. The standard Yaris of the time was a fine car, very staid and worthy, which is half the problem. It’s very hard to make an already dull package tarnished with OAP appeal and jazz it up to make it look and drive with more magic than a Fiesta ST, so sadly for Toyota, they missed the mark with this one.
Rover 25 GTi
Rover 25 GTi. Credit - RAC.
Do you remember the MG ZR? In 2001 it came about as MG Rover had decided to enter the Hot Hatch market using an already elderly Rover 25 as a starting point. The ZR was quite hilarious. It was powerful and looked outrageous. Spoilers, alloys and a big exhaust adorned the body making it look like a no-nonsense performance car, even if it was dynamically challenged. So the question is, why on Earth did Rover bother to make a 25 GTi? The ZR was essentially exactly the same car, with just a slightly fruitier version of the same VVC 1.8-litre engine, and so seems to kind of single out the 25 GTi as a pointless exercise. On top of rivalling itself, the 25 GTi looked nothing like as aggressive as the ZR, with only a set of alloy wheels to really set it apart from the standard models. There’s nothing wrong with looking restrained and discreet, but the 25 was far too much like a standard 25, which suffered terribly with its pensioner-esque image. It looked and felt like the polar-opposite of a Hot Hatch.
Hot Hatches are one of the motoring world’s greatest creations, they would be the equivalent of a tequila slammer that doesn't give you a hangover, or a bacon butty that gives you a six pack. You can have your cake and eat it with a Hot Hatch, but with this little group, the cake leaves a nasty aftertaste. These cars may not be truly awful machines but they all widely missed the mark. In fairness that mark is hard to hit perfectly, and there are plenty of other cars out there that failed just as miserably. What would you say is the worst Hot Hatch of all time? Let me know in the comments below.