For many young drivers, their first taste of performance motoring comes behind the wheel of a hot hatch.
Some of the finest of the breed have harked from across the channel, ranging from warmed-up lightweights to full on homologation specials. Here are some of our favourites, starting from less than £1000.
1 - Citroen AX Sport (1985-1988) - From £800
There are two ways to get a hot hatch. One is to throw loads of power at a regular hatch, while the other is to not have much power, but to not have much weight either. That is very much the route taken with the Citroen AX Sport. Weighing in at less than 700kg, the AX was made very a spritely indeed when it was given 95bhp 1300cc twin-carburettor engine. It was an exercise in minimalism, with a simple interior and white steel wheels which marked it apart from the rest of the range. Such lightweight build means relatively few survive, but it’s a pure and simple a hot hatch experience as you could wish to have.
For Cheap and fun
2 - Renault 5 Turbo and Turbo II (1980-1984) - From £30000
Created as a homologation special, the Turbo was a fundamental re-engineering of the lightweight hatch. The 1300cc turbo engine was relocated from the front to the rear, sitting between the rear wheels, flanked by a bespoke suspension set-up for the car. In order to accommodate the wider track, huge flared wheel arches were required, which give the Turbo comic book looks and immediately distinguished it from the various other hot Renault 5s.
The original homologation cars made extensive use of aluminium components with some versions packing a scarcely believable 240bhp punch. The standard Turbo II came with 160bhp. Plenty for a short wheelbase hatch weighing less than 1000kg.
For Looks like a superhero’s car
Against Rare, expensive and all are left-hookers
3 - Renault Clio Williams (1993-1995) - From £3000
With Nigel Mansell laying waste to his Formula 1 opposition around the world, Renault decided to build something that cashed in on that success. The Clio Williams was more than decals and gold wheels however. Modified front suspension, wider tyres, firmer dampers and an uprated gearbox combined with big-valve 2.0-litre engine all conspired to make a finely poised small hatch which quickly sold out the near 5000 production run.
One common misconception, however, is that Williams had some engineering input to the car. They didn’t. All the development was completed in-house by Renaultsport. Follow-up models arrived, but enthusiasts revere the original above all others.
For A good one is an investment
Against Watch out for dodgy repairs
4 - Peugeot 205 1.9 GTi (1986-1993) - From £2500
For many, this is the pinnacle of French hot hatchery, and this isn’t lost on Peugeot either, who use it in the campaign for the current 208 GTi to reflect a bit of that glory. Fans are split on whether the revvy 1.6-litre car, or the lazier but ultimately faster and better equipped 1.9-litre is the preferred choice. Ultimately, either car has tremendous balance, agility and usable performance that Peugeot has struggled to achieve with any of the small GTis it has produced since.