Hot hatch

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2018 Renault Clio RS 2018-03-06 Geneva Motor Show 2546.JPG
2018 Renault Clio RS
1976-1983 VW Golf GTI Volkswagen Golf GTI 1780cc registered October 1982.jpg
1976-1983 VW Golf GTI
2019 Mini John Cooper Works (F56) 2019 Mini John Cooper Works Hatch (60).jpg
2019 Mini John Cooper Works (F56)

A hot hatch (shortened from hot hatchback) is a high-performance hatchback car.


The term originated in the mid-1980s; however, factory high-performance versions of hatchbacks have been produced since the 1970s.

Front-mounted petrol engines, together with front-wheel drive, is the most common powertrain layout, however all-wheel drive has become more commonly used since around 2010. Most hot hatches are manufactured in Europe or Asia.


Usage of the term "hot hatchback" began in the United Kingdom in 1983,[ citation needed ] which was shortened to "hot hatch" in 1984. [1] The term first appeared in The Times in 1985, [2] and is now commonly and widely accepted as a mainstream, albeit informal, term. It is retrospectively applied to cars from the late 1970s but was not a phrase used at the time. [3]

Some sports cars have a rear hatch (such as the Porsche 928, Porsche Panamera, Reliant Scimitar GTE and Ferrari FF), these are hatchbacks, however it is uncommon for these to be referred to as hot hatches.

Due to the historical scarcity of hatchback cars in the United States, the term hot hatch is not widely used in the US.

Since the 1990s and 2000s,[ citation needed ] the term warm hatch has been used to describe sporting hatchback models of lesser performance than a hot hatch (i.e. a "junior" version of a hot hatch). [4] Examples include the Mini Cooper (which sits below the Mini Cooper S), [5] Peugeot 207 GT (which sits below the Peugeot 207 GTi) [6] Suzuki Swift Sport, [5] and Toyota Yaris SR. [7]


1960s and 1970s

The 1961 Mini Cooper was one of the first performance cars to use a small body and an FF layout, both key characteristics of a hot hatchback. However, the Mini was not produced in a hatchback body style (until 2001) and is therefore not considered a hot hatch.

The car retrospectively considered to be the first hot hatch is the 1973 Simca 1100 Ti. [8] [9] Power was increased by 40% to 82 hp (61 kW), which resulted in a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time of under 12 seconds and a top speed of 105 mph (169 km/h). Other upgrades included a front disc brakes, front and rear spoilers and alloy wheels.

The second hot hatch to be introduced was the Renault 5 Alpine [9] [10] (called Gordini in the United Kingdom), which went on sale in May 1976. It had a top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h) and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 10 seconds.

The car credited with establishing the popularity of hot hatches is the Volkswagen Golf GTI, [9] [11] [12] which was announced at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show. [13] and released in July 1976. [14] The Golf GTI was originally designated to be sold only in West Germany, but from 1977 Volkswagen began exports of the (left-hand drive only) GTI. [15] Production of right-hand drive GTI's began in 1979.

The Renault 5 Alpine and Volkswagen Golf GTI, with the addition of a higher performance engine, sharper handling, distinctive body styling with additional spoilers and alloy wheels, helped create the birth of a huge market for small, practical hatchback cars with performance to match contemporary coupes such as the Ford Capri 2.0, Lancia Beta Coupe 2000 and Renault 17 TS. With top speeds above 110 mph (177 km/h), the Alpine and GTI enjoyed a short run of unparalleled sales success until the early 1980s.[ citation needed ]

The 1979 Lotus Sunbeam set a new performance benchmark of hot hatches, with a power output of 150 bhp (112 kW) and a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds. Despite being rear-wheel drive, the Sunbeam is considered a hot hatch. [16]


1982 Renault 5 Turbo Techno Classica 2018, Essen (IMG 9996).jpg
1982 Renault 5 Turbo

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.

From around 1984, the market for hatchbacks with sportier performance grew, and many manufacturers added a hot hatch variant to their range. Power increases were achieved through upgraded carburettors (e.g. the Ford Fiesta XR2), [17] fuel injection (e.g. the Peugeot 205 GTI), [18] turbocharging (e.g. the Renault 5 GT Turbo), supercharging (e.g. the Polo G40) or fitting larger engines (e.g. the 2.0 litre Fiat Ritmo/Strada Abarth 130 TC). [19] Other significant hot hatches of the 1980s include the Ford Escort RS Turbo, Opel Kadett GTE (also known as Vauxhall Astra GTE), Renault 11 Turbo, Lancia Delta HF Integrale (all-wheel drive), Citroën AX GT and Suzuki Swift GTi.

By the end of the 1980s, the hot hatch was hugely popular in 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. [20]


1992-1996 Ford Escort RS Cosworth 1996 Ford Escort RS Cosworth 2.0 Front.jpg
1992-1996 Ford Escort RS Cosworth

European manufacturers continued to produce hot hatches through the 1990s, including the Ford Fiesta RS Turbo, [21] Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Peugeot 106 Rallye / GTi, Peugeot 306 GTi-6 / Rallye, Renault Clio Williams, SEAT Ibiza GTi / GT 16v / Cupra, Volkswagen Golf GTI / VR6 and Ford Focus ST170.

Japanese manufacturers also began to produce hot hatches, including the Honda Civic Type R, Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, Toyota Corolla GTi and Suzuki Swift GTi.


Renault Sport Megane 265 Cup Red Bull Edition coupe 2012 Renault Sport Megane 265 Cup Red Bull Edition coupe (19317008083).jpg
Renault Sport Mégane 265 Cup Red Bull Edition coupe
A hot hatch of the 2000s, Mini Cooper S JCW Mini-Cooper-S-John-Cooper-Works-GP-kit.jpg
A hot hatch of the 2000s, Mini Cooper S JCW
A hot hatch of the 2010s, Audi A1 Quattro MTM. Audi A1 Quattro MTM (8683157608).jpg
A hot hatch of the 2010s, Audi A1 Quattro MTM.

Performance of hot hatches continued to increase through the 2000s, with an increasing number of models using turbocharged engines. During the 2000s manufacturers started to emphasise the sub-brand of their hot hatch derivatives such as Renault's Renault Sport, [22] Opel's OPC, Vauxhall's VXR [23] and Fiat's Abarth. [24]

European-built hot hatches from the 2000s include the Abarth Grande Punto, Bmw 1 Series,[ citation needed ] Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, [25] Audi S3, [26] Ford Fiesta ST/RS, [27] Ford Focus ST/RS, [28] [29] Mazdaspeed 3, [30] MG ZR, [31] Mini Cooper S/JCW, [27] Opel/Vauxhall Astra SRi Turbo/OPC/VXR, [27] Peugeot 206 RC/207 GTi, [27] Renault Clio RS/Mégane RS, [27] SEAT León Cupra/FR+SEAT Ibiza Cupra/FR [32] [29] and Volkswagen Golf GTI [33] /Golf R. [28] Asian-built hot hatches included the Honda Civic Type R [28] and Proton Satria GTi. [26]


Further increases to power outputs saw the adoption of all-wheel drive on several hot hatches, beginning with the Volkswagen Golf R in December 2009. [34] [35] Other all-wheel drive hot hatches include the 2011 Audi RS3, [36] [37] 2013 Mercedes-AMG A45 [38] and the 2015 Ford Focus RS. [39] [40] With these models expanding the definition of hot hatches from front-wheel drive to also include all-wheel drive, the hatchback versions of the Subaru Impreza WRX/STI that have been produced at various times could be considered to be hot hatches. However, the WRX/STI is generally considered a compact saloon (to rival the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution), [41] rather than a hot hatch.

The majority of hot hatches continued with the traditional front-wheel drive layout, with many models producing in excess of 201 kW (270 bhp) [42] and the Ford Focus RS 500 producing 257 kW (345 bhp). [43] The BMW M135i/M140i is a rare example of a rear-wheel drive hot hatch.

Another technical development for hot hatches since 2010 is the increasing use of dual-clutch transmissions.


Japanese-built hot hatches include the 1982 Honda City Turbo, 1984 Isuzu Piazza XS Turbo, 1986 Suzuki Cultus GTi, 1988 Toyota Corolla AE92 GTi, 1989 Daihatsu Charade GTti, 1992 Mitsubishi Mirage Cyborg R, 1994 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, 1997 Honda Civic Type R, 2007 Mazdaspeed3, 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI hatchback, 2017 Suzuki Swift Sport and 2020 Toyota GR Yaris.

South Korean manufacturers began to produce hot hatches in 2013 with the Kia Pro_Cee'd GT. [44] Hyundai's first hot hatch, the i30 N was released in 2017 and was awarded Best Hot Hatch at the 2018 UK Car of the Year Awards. [45]

North America

Hatchbacks have historically not been popular in the United States, therefore hot hatches are relatively rare in the US.[ citation needed ]

In the 1980s, hot hatches built by Ford in the United States include the 1983 Escort GT (and its twin the Mercury Lynx XR3), [46] [47] [48] Chrysler hot hatches include the 1984 Dodge Omni GLH ("Goes Like Hell") [49] and the 1986 Shelby GLHS ("Goes Like Hell S'more"). [50] General Motors produced the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24, [51] 1986 Pontiac Sunbird GT [52] and 1987 Buick Skyhawk Sport Hatch [53] with rear hatches, however these are hatchback coupes, rather than traditional utilitarian hatchbacks.

More recent North American hot hatches include the 2002 Ford Focus SVT, [54] 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT-4, [55] [56] and 2016 Ford Focus RS. [57]

See also

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