This may not be the type of buying advice you were expecting, but given the ongoing popularity of hot hatchback purchases by boys and men of all ages, I felt it was time to broach the subject. If you take nothing else from this guide, just remember the next paragraph!
Buying a used hot hatch is like accepting that your girlfriend or wife used to be a prostitute! You see, deep down, no matter how much you might love the car or girl, at the back of your mind you’ll always know they’ve been fucked down some back street by someone else before you!
So, here’s your second tip, pay for the best example of either harlot or hatch you can afford, or there’s a very real prospect that within a few days of handing over your cash, you will find something nasty has occurred under your hood! Always remember, you’re not the one who wants to get raped! Let’s not be completely negative in our comparison though, a good example of either a hooker or hatch will definitely show you some new ‘tricks’!
Okay, so let’s run through the decision process you will have to make, we’ll start with age and performance. (we are talking solely about cars now!)
The 1970’s: Start by taking off the rose tinted spectacles that blind you with nostalgia! In reality your only real choice from this period is a Mk1 Golf GTi. In standard factory trim they’re not actually all that quick and the brakes (brown streaks on the seat, not black lines on the road) and steering (ridiculously heavy for such a light car) leave much to be desired! Remember, this was the 70’s, when it was still okay to be casually racist and political correctness had yet to be invented by some spastic faggot! The Golf was being built by ageing, unrepentant Nazis! So unless you’re a regular practitioner of S&M it’s probably best to look at France in the 1980’s for inspiration! And before you start to cry about Vauxhall Chevette HS’s and Renault 5 Alpines/Gordini’s, they are so rare now that you’ll be completely at the mercy of any vendor from a price perspective and good luck sourcing original parts!
The 1980’s: There are 2 clear choices when considering a trip back to the 80’s, the Renault 5 GT Turbo and the undisputed King, the Peugeot 205 GTi. There’s no point in my discussing the Vauxhall Nova or Astra (any variant) as their owners can’t read, let alone use a computer! The Mk2 Golf GTi was going into it’s ‘puppy fat’ phase and couldn’t really keep up any more, so probably best to avoid that too! The Ford XR3 was, is and always will be vulgar, so give it a wide berth unless you are the walking embodiment of sarcasm itself!
The 1990’s: Now it all starts to get a bit more interesting, despite insurance companies nearly killing the hot hatch segment during this decade, it’s when handling finally caught up with straight line performance. The 205 GTi soldiered on til about ’94, but by then Renault had usurped their Gallic cousins with the Clio Williams, in fact Renault have continued to make some of the best hot hatches ever since. Peugeot lost the plot and went down the route of creating the ‘Warm Hatch’, lower powered, insurance friendly cars, which were fine handling but completely out-classed by the ever more powerful Clio variants. Still the Peugeot 106 XSi and Rallye variants were more fun than the raw figures might suggest. The Mk3 Golf GTi arrived and was now so heavy that it made a mockery of the GTi badge. There was a new comer to the party though, Honda rolled out the 160 BHP Civic VTi and a power war was about to break out!
The Noughties: Big (physical) changes in the hot hatch segment, the traditional small hatchback was being joined by far larger hatchbacks with a lot more power and weight. Renault continued improving the Clio and produced the wonderful Cup 172 version, Peugeot tried and failed to get back into the game with the 206 GTi and the Mk4 Golf was now so obese that small children ran away from it lest they be eaten! Eventually VW came to their senses and the MK5 GTi was a force to be reckoned with. In fact so many manufacturers started producing hatchbacks with over 200BHP that the essence of the small hot hatch has been lost somewhat. There have been some notable recent exceptions like the Renault Twingo Sport which have restored my faith to a point.
So pick your period carefully and decide what level of performance and handling you can live with. Nostalgia is a wonderful concept, but may leave you feeling melancholic. The interesting thing is that a good example from each period can be had for as little as £3K.
Right, we better deal with the controversial subject of modifications now. There’s a simple rule here, less is more! The biggest problem facing a buyer of any used hot hatch is finding something remotely close to the original factory specification! Unfortunately hot hatches have always been the platform of choice for Barry Bertone and Rashid Pininfarina, for whom more is always more! And while Halfords should be brought before the European court for crimes against automotive taste, there is little that can be done to stop the rot! It’s also worth noting that the words ‘subtle’ and/or ‘sensible’ when placed next to ‘modifications’ in most car adverts are either syntax errors, or lies!
This has been a general guide to hot hatches, I’ve omitted lots of cars for the sake of simplicity and you may feel I’ve over looked some obvious choices, please feel free to discuss genuine contenders on here. I deliberately avoided talking about ‘Hyper Hatches’ from each period as they are another discussion altogether (Renault 5 Turbo, 205 T16, Lancia Delta Integrale’s, Clio V6’s, Metro 6R4’s, etc) and one I look forward to addressing soon!
Let me leave you with this final thought, whether or not you agree with my previous analogy regarding prostitutes and hot hatches, why do you think the term ‘Pimp my ride’ came to be in the vernacular?