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Over the years, we’ve seen a few categories evoke a growing excitement and passion in classic car lovers, and that’s certainly the case for hot hatches. Combining the practicality of a compact hatchback with the performance of a sports car, these vehicles represent a thrilling fusion of versatility and speed. In this blog post we look at what makes hot hatch cars so special, and we share a few of our favourites to boot.


So - what exactly are hot hatches? A hot hatch, short for ‘hot hatchback’, is a term used to describe high-performance (read: faster) versions of compact hatchback cars. Although the first car to meet the criteria of a hot hatch was the American AMC Gremlin in the 70’s, it wasn’t really a term that properly circulated in general use until the 80’s. These vehicles are characterised by their potent engines and sport-tuned suspension systems. Featuring a hatchback design, as stated, they are a souped-up version of the original, adding versatility to their performance-oriented nature. Typically, they prioritise driving dynamics and agility while still offering practicality for daily use - a winning combination, you might say.


Generally, what sets hot hatches apart from their standard counterparts is their impressive performance capabilities. Under the bonnet, you'll often find turbocharged engines delivering substantial horsepower, rivalling many traditional sports cars. Moreover, hot hatches boast enhanced handling and responsiveness thanks to those specialised suspension setups and performance-oriented chassis tuning. Whether the driver is navigating a tight city street or winding through mountain roads, this type of car can offer a decent driving experience throughout.


So what are some of our favourites? Up first, we think the Ford Escort RS Turbo is a classic example of a hot hatch. Boxier in shape than the original Escort, Ford made these with a 1.6 litre turbocharged inline-four V8 engine, with a 0-60 mph acceleration in 8.8 seconds, making it quite a bit faster than the 11.4 seconds it would take a regular Ford Escort from the mid 80’s. Most were made in white, but you might remember that Princess Diana had a different-coloured one - a black Escort RS Turbo Series 1 - although if the stories are true, there were actually three in the household as two were used as decoy vehicles...




Whilst we're on the subject of the RS Turbo, let’s look for a moment at the term ‘RS’ (meaning ‘Rally Sport’ or ‘Rallye Sport’) that you might come across in relation to several hot hatch cars. This typically refers to a high-performance variant of the car’s original counterpart, often equipped with a turbocharged engine for enhanced power and acceleration. Manufacturers in addition to Ford, such as Audi and Renault, have used the ‘RS’ label on their performance models as a designation to signify turbocharged variants of their compact or hatchback models. While some RS models may have rally-inspired features or performance enhancements, others simply denote the high-performance version of a standard model. Therefore, the classification of an RS as a rally sport car depends on the specific model and its intended purpose or racing heritage.


The second hot hatch we deem most worthy of a mention is the Volkswagen Golf GTi, a car largely credited with the gaining popularity of hot hatches. It was originally made to only be sold in West Germany in the 70’s, but production of the right-hand drive version began in 1979 after it began to be exported to other countries. One of the lightest hot hatches of its time - which made it pretty nippy on the road - it also had a big boot for fitting the family shopping in. Win-win!




Finally, another Ford, but one that we love. The Sierra RS Cosworth, produced by Ford in the late 80s and early 90s, is a high-performance version of the Ford Sierra family car. Made as a result of a Ford motorsport project to produce a winner for European Group A racing, it features the standard hot hatch turbocharged engine, but it was also heavily modified for performance, with enhancements to the engine, suspension, and aerodynamics. This one managed 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and the converted three-door RS500 Cosworth, with its uprated fuel pump, oil and cooling systems, helped Ford win many car championships in the 80s and 90s. These days they sell for a pretty penny sometimes, too - last year an RS500 with 5,192 miles on the clock went for a record sum of just under £600k…




We could easily go on, but we’ll leave it there this time. We know, we know, we could definitely have included the Renault 5 GT Turbo. And the Ford Escort XR3. And the Fiesta XR2. Come to think about it... what about the Peugeot 205 GTi? Ha! Do let us know your own favourites in the comments below...


It’s hopefully obvious to see that hot hatches represent a thrilling fusion of performance, practicality and versatility for the everyday driver, and the classics enthusiast who is looking for something just a little bit different. With their potent engines, agile handling, and everyday usability, these vehicles offer the best of both worlds - and we can’t get enough of them!