Hot hatch

This article is about European hot hatches. For international versions, see Sport compact. For saloon/sedan counterparts, see Sports sedan.
Peugeot 205 GTI crowned "The Greatest Ever Hot Hatch"[1] at the Birmingham Performance Car Show

Hot hatch (shortened from hot hatchback) is a high-performance derivative of a car body style consisting of a three- or five-door hatchback automobile. The performance upgrades of a hot hatch are sometimes available for the estate variant of the car, often called sportwagons.

Vehicles of this class are based on family-oriented automobiles, and are equipped with an uprated more powerful internal combustion engine, improved suspension, and may also include additional "aerodynamic" body parts and larger wheels and tyres. Front-mounted petrol engines, together with front-wheel drive, is the most common powertrain layout, although some can be specified as diesel-powered, and rear or four-wheel drive hot hatches are also available.

Origination of the term

The term hot hatch gained widespread use during the 1980s in the UK, first as 'hot hatchback' by 1983 and then shortened to 'hot hatch' in the motoring press in 1984,[2] and first appeared in The Times in 1985,[3] and is now commonly and widely accepted as a mainstream, if still informal term. It is retrospectively applied to cars from the late 1970s but was not a phrase used at the time.[4]

Within the United States, hot hatches are classified along with saloons and small coupes as sport compacts and elsewhere the term sport sedan is often used.

Some sports cars are hatchback in form, but as they are not upgraded small family cars, they are not classified as hot hatches. Cars such as the Porsche 928, Porsche Panamera, Reliant Scimitar GTE and Ferrari FF have not been classified in print as hot hatches.

Development of the hot hatch

Example of a hot hatch before 1980, the Golf GTI

The car that popularised the concept of the hot hatch is the 1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI, announced at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show.[5] However, the Golf GTI was not the first hot hatch with several cars from the early seventies starting the trend of sportier versions of mainstream hatchbacks such as the Autobianchi A112 Abarth in 1971 and the Simca 1100 Ti which was available on sale Europe-wide by 1974. Another early hot hatch was the Renault 5 Alpine which first went on sale in May 1976 and also pre-dated sales of the Volkswagen Golf GTi, by two months.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI, with the addition of a higher performance 1.6 litre fuel injected engine, sharper handling, and sports-focused marketing, helped create the birth of a huge market for small, practical cars that still had excellent performance. Its top speed was above 110 mph (177.0 km/h) at a time when most cars of this size were not even capable of 100 mph (160.9 km/h). The Golf GTI enjoyed a short run of unparalleled sales success, but by the early 1980s, car manufacturers worldwide were racing to market with their own alternatives.

Until the early 1980s, the Volkswagen Golf Mk1 GTI and the Renault 5 Alpine/Gordini dominated the retrospectively named hot hatch market segment in many European markets. However, competition was not entirely limited to non-hatchbacks, the various sports versions of the Mini, Alfa Romeo Alfasud and race-inspired enthusiasts' vehicles such as the 135 bhp (101 kW) Vauxhall Chevette HS providing sporting performance in a non-coupe body. Other hatchbacks which conformed to the new hatchback format included the 1978 Chrysler/Talbot Sunbeam Ti with 99 bhp (74 kW; 100 PS) and brisker acceleration than the Golf and followed a year later by the 2.2 litre Talbot Sunbeam Lotus offered a then astonishing 150 bhp (112 kW) and a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds.[6]

The Eighties and Nineties

From the coining of the term hot hatch in 1984, the market for small and family hatchbacks with sportier performance grew, and nearly all manufacturers included a hot hatch variant to their range. There was great variation in how the performance modifications were developed, with manufacturers selecting improving the carburettor such as the 1981 Ford Fiesta XR2,[7] fuel injection as with the Peugeot 205 GTI -crowned "The Greatest Ever Hot Hatch" at the Birmingham Performance Car Show[1]- and 309 GTI, turbocharging by Renault in the 5 GT Turbo and 11 Turbo or inserting larger engines such as the 2.0 litre Fiat Ritmo/Fiat Strada Abarth 130 TC.[8] Volkswagen also experimented with supercharging in the Polo G40 and Golf G60.

Other mid 1980s hot hatches included the Citroën AX Sport / GT, Daihatsu Charade GTti, Fiat Uno Turbo i.e[9] (European) / SR 1.6 (Brazil), Ford Escort XR3 and XR3i, Mitsubishi Colt 1600 Turbo, MG Metro, MG Maestro, Opel Corsa/Vauxhall Nova SR / GT / GSi / GTE, Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra GT / SRi / GSi / GTE. The fastest hot hatch of the 1980s was the Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra GTE, which had a top speed of 134 mph (215.7 km/h).

1990s extreme hot hatch, Ford Escort RS Cosworth

The hot hatch was a particularly popular choice of car in Britain. By 1983, more than a quarter of Volkswagen Golf sales (some 6,000 to 7,000 cars) were of the GTI, while sales of the Escort XR3i accounted for around 10% (approximately 17,000) of total Escort sales. Austin Rover had retained the MG brand, having originally abandoned it with the end of sports car production in 1980, for the "badge engineering" of its Austin-badged hatchback and saloons with higher performance. However, this was discontinued in the early 1990s under the Rover Group, with badge-engineering being discontinued and the MG marque only being used on subsequent sports cars like the MG F.

By the end of the 1980s, the hot hatch had taken its place across Europe, and was pushing into other worldwide markets. The brief heyday of Group B rallying pushed the hot hatch genre to its limits, and small numbers of ultra-high performance variants were manufactured to comply with the rally rules (often termed "homologation specials"). These vehicles represented a brief, extreme branch of the hot hatch, and included such notable vehicles as the Lancia Delta S4, MG Metro 6R4 and Peugeot 205 T16.

From the 1990s, the choice of hot hatches widened, with most examples still from the European motor manufacturers, with the Japanese makers making an impact too, and were primarily destined for European markets. New entries to the market and higher performance versions included the Ford Fiesta RS Turbo,[10] Ford Escort RS2000 and Escort RS Cosworth, Honda Civic Type R, Nissan Sunny GTi, GTi-R, Peugeot 106 Rallye / GTi and 306 GTi-6 / Rallye, Proton Satria GTi, Renault Clio Williams / 16V, SEAT Ibiza GTi / GT 16v / Cupra, Toyota Corolla GTi. Ford also revived its historic RS2000 designation for the Escort in 1991; it had last been used 11 years earlier on the demise of the old rear-wheel drive Escort RS2000 saloon. The XR3i was discontinued in 1994. Volkswagen built on the success of its GTI models by launched an even faster VR6 version of the Golf in 1991, with a 2.8 V6 engine and a top speed of 138 mph (222.1 km/h), which overtook the Astra GTE 16v as Europe's fastest hot hatch at the time.


Renault Sport Mégane 265 Cup Red Bull Edition coupe
A hot hatch of the 2000s, Mini Cooper S JCW
A hot hatch of the 2010s, Audi A1 Quattro MTM.
MG ZR 160 1.800cc TRON 2.0 MKII 2004, MG ZR 160 2004 MG ZR.

In the 2000s, a new hot hatch "class" was born, engine outputs grew up to well beyond 200 PS (147 kW; 197 bhp), and by 2010 Ford and Subaru challenged each other with the Ford Focus RS 500 (350 PS (257 kW; 345 bhp)) and Subaru Impreza Cosworth (350 PS (257 kW; 345 bhp)).[11] Evo magazine called these extreme versions "superhatch" in the early 2000s[12] but the phrase did not catch on.

Most hot hatches continued to still be of European origin, with competitive models principally from Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Outside of Europe, Japan is a major exporter of hot hatches. Several hot hatches are exported to Australia and North America where they compete with local sport compact models. During the 2000s manufacturers started to emphasise the sub-brand of their hot hatch derivatives such as Renault's Renault Sport,[13] Opel's OPC, Vauxhall's VXR[14] and Fiat's Abarth.[15]

Examples of post-2000 hot hatches include the Audi A1 Quattro, Alfa Romeo 147 GTA,[16] Citroën DS3 Racing,[17] Abarth Grande Punto,[18] Ford Fiesta ST, Focus ST[19] and Focus RS, MG ZR and ZS,[20] Mazdaspeed 3,[21] Mini Cooper and John Cooper Works, Opel/Vauxhall Astra SRi Turbo, OPC and VXR, Peugeot 207 GTi, Renault Clio RS 2.0 / V6, Mégane Renault Sport, SEAT León Cupra[22] and FR,[19]Volkswagen Golf GTI[23] and R models.

Post 2000 also saw the introduction of the first ever Korean Hot Hatch, the 3-door Pro_Cee'd GT and 5-door Cee'd GT from Kia Motors. Kia originally intended this car to be a Warm Hatch, however the motoring press and now Kia themselves refer to it as a Hot Hatch. Hyundai Motors released their Korean Hot Hatch in 2012, with a turbo variant of their Hyundai Veloster, as well as a Elantra GT hatchback in 2001, both achieving 200bhp.

The hot hatch in North America

Main article: Sport Compact

Before the Volkswagen Rabbit, the North American version of the Golf, was introduced in GTI form in September 1982 with 90 bhp (67 kW), American manufacturers already offered sporting versions of their own hatchbacks including the 1981 1/2 Dodge Charger 2.2 with 84 bhp (63 kW) and 107 bhp (80 kW) in the 1983 Shelby Charger, and the 1980 Chevrolet Citation X-11 originally with 115 bhp (86 kW). Ford offered the Escort GT and near-identical Mercury Lynx XR3. Chrysler first offered a 2.2 turbo in the Daytona and Laser in 1984 and also offered it in the Lancer/Lebaron GTS and Shadow/Sundance hatchbacks. Chrysler offered the Carroll Shelby prepared turbocharged Dodge Omni GLH in 1985 to 1986 with 146 bhp (109 kW) (which was reputed to stand for "Goes Like Hell"[24]), and in 1986 the 175 bhp (130 kW) intercooled GLHS (Goes Like Hell Somemore). General Motors offered a few sports version of its J-car hatchbacks through 1987, including the V-6 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 and turbocharged Pontiac Sunbird and Buick Skyhawk.

More recent American hot hatches include the 2002 Ford Focus SVT with 170 bhp (127 kW),[25] the 2013 and newer Ford Focus and Fiesta ST, 2007 Dodge Caliber SRT-4[26] and 2012 Chevrolet Sonic RS.[27]

Japanese manufacturers launched their own sports compacts to the American market including the Acura Integra, Toyota Corolla FX-GT and Corolla GT-S and the Honda Civic Si,[28] and the Canadian built Toyota Matrix XRS.

The hot hatch in Australia and Asia

While the term is not widely used in Australia and Asia, there were locally developed models which provided performance and visual improvements to the regular family hatchback such as the Ford Laser TX3, Toyota Corolla Levin/Sprinter Trueno GT-APEX, Honda City Turbo/Turbo II Proton Satria GTi and Suzuki Swift GTi/Swift Sport. More recently hot hatches in Australia have included the Ford Focus XR5[29] and HSV Astra VXR.[30]

Warm hatch

As hot hatches gained more power and performance during the 1990s and 2000s, the term warm hatch started to be used to denote a junior version of a hot hatchback. Warm hatches still offer improved performance whilst retaining the practicality of the standard derivatives and attracting lower insurance premiums.[31] Warm hatches can be expected to have more muted styling features than their hot hatch cousins, they will often lack items such as front splitters and racing style bucket seats.

Whilst having improved performance, warm hatches are less powerful than the hot hatch version of the car, typically more than 100 bhp (75 kW), but less than 150 bhp (112 kW) such as the Mini Cooper,[32] Peugeot 207 GT[33] Suzuki Swift Sport,[32] and Toyota Yaris SR.[34]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Peugeot 205 GTi Crowned "The Greatest Ever Hot Hatch"". Car Scoop. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  2. Motor. 166. 1984. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
  3. The Times, Friday August 16, 1985; pg. 21; Issue 62218
  4. Autocar 5000th Road Test edition March 2011
  5. "Evo November 2010". 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  6. "Lotus Sunbeam which by the term "Hot hatch" was the first, Also known in the United States as the "Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon". driven". Evo. August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  7. "1981-1989 FORD Fiesta XR2". Octane Classic. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  8. "1984-1987 FIAT Strada Abarth 130TC". Octane Classic. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  9. Hunston, Hugh (29 July 1985). "Turbo boost for mini-sprinter Uno". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  10. "Ford Fiesta RS Turbo (1990 - 1992)". Friday Ad. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  11. "Top Gear hot hatch power league 9 December 2010". 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  12. "The Decider It's the ultimate superhatch test". Evo. February 2003. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  13. "New Renault range announced". Fifth Gear. Channel 5. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  14. Mallinson, James (29 November 2005). "FHM and Vauxhall take fast route to success". Media Week. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  15. "Fiat 500C Abarth 1.4 16v Turbo". AA. December 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  16. "Power Crazed". Evo. November 2002. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  17. Dobie, Stephen (January 2011). "Citroen DS3 Racing v hot hatch rivals". Evo. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  18. Martin, James (25 October 2008). "The Grand Punto Abarth: The hot hatch with family connection". Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  19. 1 2 "Ford Focus ST-2 v SEAT Leon 2.0T FSI FR". Auto Express. September 2006. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  20. "Honda Civic Type-R v MG ZS 180 v Renault Clio 172 v VW Golf V5". Evo. February 2002. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  21. "2013 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 review notes". Retrieved 2016-08-07.
  22. "Ford Focus RS v Renaultsport Megane 250 Cup v SEAT Leon Cupra R v VW Golf GTI". Evo. January 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  23. "Best Hot Hatch". Auto Express. October 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  24. "". 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  25. Pund, Daniel (March 2002). "Ford SVT Focus vs. Honda Civic Si, VW GTI". Car and Driver. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  26. Markus, Frank (November 2007). "First Drive: 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT-4". Motor Trend. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  27. Griffin, Keith (19 December 2011). "Chevrolet Sonic RS Coming to Detroit". Torque News. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  28. "Honda aims to make". Toledo Blade. 2 December 2001. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  29. Morley, David (25 January 2010). "Used Car Review - Ford Focus XR5 Turbo". Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  30. Dowling, Joshua (31 October 2008). "New Car Road Test - HSV Astra VXR". Drive. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  31. "Daily Mirror 4 January 2008". 2008-01-04. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  32. 1 2 "Warm hatchbacks" (November 2006) "Ford Fiesta ST v Mini Cooper v Suzuki Swift Sport" Auto Express
  33. "Peugeot 207 GT" (September 2006) "First Drives: Peugeot 207" Auto Express
  34. (2 June 2007) "Warm under the collar" The Telegraph
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