Classic hot hatches remain popular as ever, here in this list we’re going to run through a few ways of making your classic look young and fresh again, all without destroying that tasteful, original flavor inherent in mid-80s hot hatches. The eighties were the time hot hatches really came into their own, sure, you had the trendsetting Simca 1100TI in the late seventies, but that was really just the beginning. Nowadays you’ve got a wide range of surviving vintage key players to choose from, ranging from the Fiat Uno Turbo IE to the Citroen AX GT, and all at fairly reasonable prices on second hand car sites. Just watch out for potentially ‘modded’ cars, as this can lower resale value!
Here are a few ideas on how to spruce up your old faithful without affecting resale value.
Change the Wheels
Although a slightly obvious upgrade, you’d be surprised at how much a nice new set of vintage, or contrastingly modern rims, can change an older cars overall appearance, and decent, new rims won’t blow a massive hole in your pocket. Just be tasteful, poorly chosen rims can make the rest of your beloved hatch look cheap and off-balance.
A great, unobtrusive way to improve handling, acceleration and braking is putting a strong new set of good quality tires on your ride. Being that this one upgrade can make such a potentially potent improvement to your hot hatch, spend as much as you’re able, no other single upgrade will return as much gains.
Get Yourself Some Private Number Plates
A great way to get noticed and set your production model hot hatch well apart from all the others, is a shiny new private number plate. As well as being something of a status symbol, private plates can also make the car feel more personal, connected and unique to you. To get the best value DVLA personalised number plates in the UK, you’ll have to have a thorough look around the various auctions, but make sure you stick to you budget! One Lebanese businessman gifted his wife a private plate he’d won for just over £350k!!
Treat Yourself to a New Paint Job
Again, a fairly obvious, but extremely powerful upgrade for the older vehicle. Getting a new spray job can really pour new life into a tired, faded hot hatch. While purists will always go on about sticking to original factory colors, we say go with your judgement, always mock up some designs on Photoshop before taking the plunge though! Once again, tastefulness is the name of the game, so no more than three different colors, no nonsense NASCAR sponsorships and definitely no pin-ups (because it’s an eighties hot hatch, not a WWII Lancaster bomber). Adding a stripe can really change the shape of the car and make it look fresh and sporty, however.
Go For Some Specialist Engine Tuning
This one’s pure performance based. Get your classic down to your local specialist and have the engine tweaked to perfection. It’s not all about appearance, and seeing a gorgeous, gleaming hot hatch that sputters around on its last legs, struggling with slight inclines is frankly embarrassing.
Consider Getting Custom Seats and Interior
We’re all familiar with that bland grey upholstering sadly so common in mid-price range cars from the eighties and nineties. I’m pretty sure it looked old and tacky minutes after the first prototype rolled off the production line! A firm favorite of mine for altering the look of classic cars, as well as making them infinitely more comfortable, is re-upholstering the inside of the car and putting some nice racing seats in. Make sure you keep the originals though! Always thinking of that resale value!
A key thing to remember here is contrasting not matching colors. If the outside of your car is white, maybe try black, blue or even red (if you’re feeling adventurous). It can really make the color of the car really pop.
Just because hot hatches are small, doesn’t mean they can’t pack a punch! Ever since the humble Simca 1100TI way back in 1973, hot hatches with power have been a firm favorite among anyone looking for that alluring mixture of practicality, drivability and unnecessary but wholly enjoyable power. I’m going to show you how the major players stack up today. These are five of the most powerful production hatchbacks on the road today.
Vauxhall Astra VXR
Often described as the moment Vauxhall went full throttle with their hatchbacks, the first VXR might been considered potent but the new one is in a whole new league. Boasting a Turbocharged 2.0-litre engine capable of spitting out an eye-watering 276bhp and 295lb ft of torque, leaving the VXR able to go from 0-62mph in six seconds flat and wielding a top speed of 155mph. With this kind of power behind those wheels, the VXR utilizes a fitting mechanical spec that lands the VXR in good strong stead. Surprisingly, the VXR is also known for very sharp handling, this combo of power and elegance makes for a very satisfactory driving experience.
The Audi S3 is very similar to the Golf R, except that it is a lot more expensive, and obviously not quite as good value. Sadly, it’s just not that enjoyable to drive, with very predictable handling, and lifeless steering. However, it’s still pretty amazing, considering the 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds capability, and the 280lb ft of torque its 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine pumps out. All that with gorgeous typical futuristic Audi sharpness and elegance, as well as a plush luxury interior. Not bad!
Honda Civic Type R
Introducing the most potent, savagely powerful Civic in the history of the universe. This monster boasts a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, a 6 speed manual gearbox and some seriously sharp looks, this is a KILLER looking car. After trying one out, our opinion is that this car would be most at home bombing full speed round a track, rather than say, grandma’s bi-weekly shopping run! Its only major pitfall is the £39,000 new price tag.
Ford Focus RS
While it isn’t the quickest, the Ford Focus is a new challenger in the arena of hot hatches. Boasting a not-insubstantial 345bhp, a top speed of 165mph and managing zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds, it’s a medium performer on this list. Its boring, safe appearance lets it down slightly, although where it really shines, is in its intuitive, approachable handling, making driving this superb machine an absolute dream.
Where absolute beasts of hatchbacks are concerned, there is only really one true contender, the monstrous Mercedes-AMG A45. This powerhouse’s Mercedes 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is the single most powerful four-cylinder engine… in the known world! We’re big fans of stupidly overpowered, speed-machines like this. Its 350lb ft of torque, 376bhp, and the ability to shoot from zero to sixty in just 4.2 seconds, all on top of the beautiful meaty roar of the engine, encased in sharp, fluid lines, in a gorgeous elegant, organic form, make for an unbelievable machine.
So lets face it, when comparing hatchbacks its more than likely we’ll be interested in getting our hands on something with not only a great looking package in terms of looks and affordability, but also something that packs a punch in the speed department.
Fifth Gear have done some of the fun stuff for us and put three of the top hatch backs to the track, see the results in their Hot Hatch Death Match Challenge above.
With such a fantastic variety of superb hatchbacks released this year, I’m going to run you through some of my personal favorites, and let you in on a few amazing new options for your daily driver.
- Skoda Octavia vRS
Boasting a powerful turbocharged engine and superbly agile handling, the Skoda Octavia vRS is no mean contender in this list. With its huge boot space, roomy interior, and more-than-reasonable price, the Octavia is as sensible as any other Skoda. This hatchback combines the same precision mechanicals as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, with the functional sensibilities of any family car, all while being great value to boot!
Personally, I’d give the 2.0-litre TDI diesel a go, this marvel combines 143mph power with 61.4mpg fuel economy. One key feature for me (being something of a giant!) is the expansive leg room, making long journeys an absolute breeze.
This model also emits just 119g/km of CO2, making tax nice and cheap, and leaving you feeling like you’ve done your bit for Mother Nature. She’s also available as an estate. Sadly the interior is a little bland, but you can’t have everything, right?
The Skoda Octavia vRS runs dangerously close to being a very sensible choice, however the raw power and fun handling make sure it’s still an exhilarating ride.
- BMW M135i
The BMW M135i utilizes an amazing 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine, boasting 316bhp, it is blisteringly fast. Combining agile and engaging handling with practicality with its 360-litre boot space. This is a balanced performance machine.
Going from 0-60 in only five seconds, and revving up to 7,000rpm, this is a lot of bang for your buck. Tellingly you get 450Nm of torque at just 1,300rpm, meaning in-gear performance is stunning and the optional eight-speed gearbox just bombs through the gears like lightning.
A lot of people with also be looking at the new A45 AMG Mercedes but, at over £5,000 cheaper, the BMW is a lot more performance for your money while still retaining that status symbol element in a practical car.
- Renault Megane RS 265
If you’re anything like me, you’re into more powerful driver thrills. In which case pay attention because the Renault Megane with its bombastic power performance, rigid suspension and compelling handling might be for you. This powerful machine just grabs your attention and keeps it. However, with its noisy engine and hard, uncomfortable ride, I really don’t see the Megane functioning as anything more than a fun racetrack and windy-country-road weekend car.
But, boy, does it impress on a country lane or track, the fabulous six-speed manual gearbox and grippy, firm tires mean that it’ll leave other, more multi-purpose cars in the dust. That performance power is really its main issue. It neglects the balance sought after by other hot hatches in this list, it’s absolutely a less than ideal daily driver. With its overly firm ride, and poor fuel economy, the Megane just isn’t for anyone doing regular motorway miles. As a fun, weekend car though, perfection.
- Peugeot 308 GTi
Don’t let its deceptively weedy figures lead you astray, even when compared to its more powerful competitors, the 308 GTi holds its own. Proving 266bhp is still an impressive amount of power in a little hatch, factoring in the trim 308 GTi’s substantially lighter weight compared to that of its rivals, proves this little hot hatch is a force to be reckoned with.
Among the Peugeot’s many winning features are its 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder workhorse of an engine, making it an intensely powerful ride. Combined with the 330Nm of torque at its disposal, the GTi goes from 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds flat, and with a top speed of 130mph, it’s no mean contender in this list. However the steering is somewhat emotionless and dull and the gear change is less than compelling. With its flexible chassis, the 308 GTi really shines on pothole-ridden back roads, with an incredibly smooth, enjoyable ride.
In terms of usability, the GTi does have a spacious boot, but it’s pretty tight in the back seat, especially when compared to some of its competitors. The instruments are also somewhat strangely placed behind the steering wheel too, which is a little awkward to get used to. All in all, a solid little hatchback and a great option this year.
- Ford Fiesta ST
The Ford Fiesta ST is quickly becoming something of a classic, and with its grin-inducing performance it’s easy to see why. The ST upgrades cut a dazzling figure in the crowd, while retaining the standard Fiesta’s awesome practicality and affordability
Based on the solid Ford Fiesta, only with a meaty power increase from the 1.6-litre, 180bhp turbo petrol engine, as well as better suspension, creating an intoxicating mixture of small, cheap, practical hatchback with plenty of pace, superb handling and power. It makes itself known against the duller standard Fiesta with luxurious Recaro sports seats, a sporty rear spoiler and gorgeous black honeycomb grill, this is no ordinary car.
All that while retaining excellent practicality in the form of a 290-litre boot space, with a spacious back seat and solid fuel economy. While not quite as good in tight areas as its rivals, it’s still a superbly practical, powerful hot hatch.
Despite these powerful advantages over its competitors, it’s actually cheaper than most by a substantial amount, leaving me in no doubt that this is the best value performance hatchback in the world.