To identify a hot hatch is quite easy. Put very simply, a hot hatch is meant to offer an unbeatable combination of performance, practicality and value for money. Take a standard family hatchback with all its practical uses and give it a sporty look, more powerful engine, and tighter suspensions. This is the recipe that has been used since the 1960s for making a fast compact car. It isn’t surprising that a majority of rally cars, past and present, are heavily modified hatchbacks, all the way from the 1962 Mini Cooper S to the current crop of Hyundai i20 WRC and Ford Focus RS. For more on the connection between hot hatches and rallying, stay tuned to this tribe.
Hot hatches are usually considered to be front-engined and front-wheel drive though there are exceptions to this layout. The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Toyota Corolla Sprinter Trueno/Levin (AE86) and the BMW 1 Series are some of the hot hatches that break this mould by offering rear-wheel drives. With the coming of the next generation BMW 1 Series, the current M140i (previously the M135i) will be the last rear-wheel drive hot hatch sold anywhere, making it an icon in its own right.
The anime Initial D propelled this rear-wheel drive hatchback to fame. (Image source: Wikipedia Commons)
So what is it that attracts petrolheads like us to a hot hatch? Like I had said before, it’s the combination of affordability, practicality, and fun. Unlike supercars, hot hatches are a pragmatic choice that offers similar thrills. You don’t need to spend a hundred thousand pounds and have over 500bhp of power to enjoy the thrill of driving as these sporty little machines provide comparable levels of enjoyment thanks to their lighter weight and dinkier proportions, at a much more approachable price point.
Today's hot hatches still adhere to the 'small body, loads of power' philosophy like the above Focus RS, the Mercedes-AMG A 45, and the Audi RS3. (Image source: Ford press site)
Personally, I love the idea of a small hatchback keeping up with, and even shaming much larger cars with massive engines (read sleeper cars). The idea is a bit juvenile, but you don’t except that much out of a hatchback and then it surprises you and smashes the status quo. It’s the thrill of rooting for the underdog and seeing them win. You heard it here first folks, hot hatches are the perennial underdogs of the sports car world, which is why this tribe, the Juvenile Petrolheads, is dedicated to hot hatches.
The car that began the mass produced hot hatch trend, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1. (Image source: Volkswagen press site)
Look out for future posts covering everything from some of the most (and least) iconic hot hatches, to the craziest and zaniest modded hatchbacks on the planet.