There was a time when a hatch couldn’t be a hot hatch unless it had red carpets.
The 1981 MG Metro kicked off that fad (it had red seat belts too, though it wasn’t so hot under the bonnet) and it was soon followed by the Fiat Uno Turbo, the Peugeot 205 GTi, and Renault’s 5 GT Turbo, all of them sporting blood-red matting that would have shaved precisely no seconds at all off the 0-60mph time.
These three really were hotter than your MG Metros and Fiesta XR2s, and hottest of them all, if it was acceleration that you craved, was the Renault 5, whose blown 1400 engine could post in-gear times that would outdrag a Ferrari Testarossa. More than that, the Renault could apply this fat wallop of torque to the road without spinning its Michelins like Catherine wheels.
Even more impressive, it wouldn’t wrench that leather-bound three-spoker from your mitt in a spasm of suspension-bending torque-steer either. The 5 was quite civilised, and in some ways a better car than the 205 GTi. It pulled even harder than the Pug in the mid-range where it matters, which was enough to make it a blindingly exciting weapon for a back-roads blast.
It out-points the Pug
But unlike the Pug, it had suspension designed to preserve the nation’s hedgerows. The Peugeot was notorious for back-end break-away if you dared lift the throttle mid-bend, but the 5 rarely went in for terrifying tail-spins, even it its nose tracked tighter if you backed off. Instead, you’d be kept busy marshalling those urgent gouts of power, the Renault always a less delicate car than the Pug.
It wasn’t as pretty either. The 5’s basic shape lacked the 205’s Latin class, and Renault’s designer appeared to have applied the GT’s spoilers, skirts and wheel-arch extensions with tools found in the gardening section of B&Q. The squared off spats looked odd, the egg-crate grille was ugly and the stick-on stripes made it look like the boy-racing beast that it was.
The Peugeot was far more subtle. The Renault’s mild untidiness intensified under the bonnet, where a snake pit of tubes, pipes and wires looked as if they’d been dumped there by some fag-chugging Frenchman dreaming of a 35-hour week.
As recently as 2001, there were 3600 GT Turbos on British roads. This fell to just 329 in 2016, but rose to 367 in 2017, perhaps as a few owners who had them off the road realised the gem they had on their hands.
Inevitably, prices are firming up. There's a few on sale currently, with prices starting at £7000, but mintier examples can cost twice that. That’s a lot to pay to roll out the red carpet, but probably worth it.
Reasons to want one: Terrier-like turbo go, more fun than most moderns.
Why you’ll run a mile: It looks naff nowadays, it’ll squeak more than a squashed mouse.