The Hot Hatch has transformed from a fun B-road hero into a supercar baiter in the last 30 years. This article explores some of the highlights that trace the progression of the Hot Hatch up to the current day Hyper Hatch.
The mk1 Golf GTI marked the birth of the Hot Hatch . The 1.6 litre normally aspirated lightweight (~800kg) 3 door hatchback with uprated suspension was a car that could be driven quickly down a UK B-road at Porsche 911 pace. The car was a revelation and instant hit.
The Mk2 version of the Golf GTI came in 1985 and added a level of refinement, whilst retaining the key ingredients that made the mk1 GTI great. Other manufacturers had also started producing their own interpretations of the Hot Hatch. Most notable were Peugeot and Renault. Like the VW Golf, the 205 GTI and 5 Turbo were based on small lightweight everyday hatchbacks. These cars that were much more than the sum of their parts.
Ford also was in the mix throughout this whole period, most notably the XR series Fiestas and Cosworth versions of their Escort and Sierra. These cars proved to be excellent budget high performance cars.
90’s Hot Hatches were fun to drive and also extremely fast, and this made them a magnet for criminals and car thieves alike. Insurance prices spiralled as a result and for the best part of a decade it was difficult for anyone under the age of 30 to get affordable insurance.
The mid 90’s saw a different breed of high performance car emerge, the series of turbo charged 4WD cars. These cars were a techno tour deforce that rewrote the book on what a family car was capable of. The trend largely started from rally homolagation. The Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort Cosworth were rally champions with road going versions that performed superbly on the narrow and winding roads of the UK. Japanese manufacturers were also producing rally inspired road cars. The pick of the bunch were the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO and Subaru Impreza. There battle for the ultimate giant killer raged for the best part of a decade alongside their world rally competition.
In the noughties the battle for Hot Hatch crown continued, FWD and 4WD contenders were still compared side by side. As power output increased the technology that underpinned had to be improved. To channel over 200bhp through the front wheels was a real challenge. Trick differentials and complicated multilink suspension designs helped keep these cars from understeering and torque steering. Ford and Renaultsport fitted a Limited Slip Differential to the Focus RS and Megane respectively.
In 2010 Ford produced the Focus RS500 (limited to a production run of 500) which has a staggering 350bhp and 340 lb ft torque. It also transmits all that power through the front wheels. This was one of the first Hyper Hatches. For a point of reference the Porsche Carrera in 1994 was producing 285bhp and 255 ft lb.
Another example of a Hyper Hatch is the Audi RS3 which was launched in April 2011. Although it is a small family car, it has 335bhp and 330 lb ft torque. The 0-60 acceleration time is 4.6s, which is quicker than a 2010 Porsche Carrera S. Hyper Hatches are now on par with full blown sports cars.