These are 10 of the most iconic hot hatches of the 80s and 90s
With modern hot hatches getting bigger and more powerful than most classic supercars, it feels like some magic has left the heart of the automotive industry. The magic that seamlessly combined a nimble chassis with a firecracker engine to produce an excellent performance car with the practicality of an everyday car. However, the good news is that no matter how big the hot hatchback is, the smile on the driver’s face will always be huge.
That said, here is a list of some of the most tempting hot hatches of the 1980s and 1990s. While some fall into the category of forgotten and underrated classic cars, others are veritable rides that all gearheads would love to drive. Dive into ten of the best hot hatches of the 80s and 90s.
ten 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo
In 1963, Ford founded TeamRS with one goal: to create high-performance versions of its regular cars. The Escort RS Turbo was launched in 1984, and it became an instant hit thanks to its body-colored bumpers, unsubtle rear spoiler and remarkable power.
The Escort RS Turbo featured a 1.6-liter turbocharged CVH engine that produced a healthy 132 horsepower. To make sure the car could handle all that power, Ford beefed up its chassis and fitted it with a limited-slip differential, making it the first production car of its kind.
9 1984 Peugeot 205 GTI
Perhaps the most notorious hot hatch of the decade – if not of all time, the Peugeot 205 GTI offered cutting-edge road performance with a sleek look. The first models were equipped with a 1.6-liter engine developing 105 horsepower. Later cars received a ten horsepower boost in 1986, the same year it was joined by its bigger brother, the 130 horsepower 1.9-litre GTI. The 1.9-litre cars delivered stunning performance stats, including the 0-60mph sprint in under eight seconds.
While all models of the 205 GTI are desirable, the 1.9-litre cars are the most sought after and offer more grown-up performance, and are in many ways more fun to drive. Although the car is so rare today that it’s hard to find one in real life, a well-maintained 1984 Peugeot 205 GTI costs around $15,178.
8 1985 Renault 5 GT Turbo
Renault was among the first automakers to jump on the hot-hatch bandwagon, and its 1980s 5 GT Turbo was excellent in every way – a car that left its mark on the hot-hatch segment. With a new body by the original designer of the Lamborghini Countach, Marcello Gandinithe 5 GT Turbo looked perfect, thanks to the chunky bumpers, wheel arch extensions, side skirts, chic yellow fog lamps and Alpine-style alloys.
Additionally, to match its looks, the GT Turbo featured a turbocharged 1.4-liter Cleon engine that generated an incredible 115 horsepower, enough to propel the car to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds at from a stop. In 1989, a Renault 5 GT Turbo model won the Rallye de Côte d’Ivoire, the only Group N car to take a victory in a WRC event.
seven 1986 Volkswagen Golf GTI G60
Although the Lancia Delta Integrale is popularly known as the most successful car in Group A rallying, the first Group A rallying champion was the VW Golf in 1986. Volkswagen sought to capitalize on this by introducing rallying in 1989 .
The GTI certainly looked the part, with bulging box arches and square headlights accompanied by a supercharged version of the 1.8-liter G60 engine that produced a decent 112 horsepower. It also had four-wheel drive and was capable of a top speed of 120 mph.
6 1988 Vauxhall Astra GTE 16V
When the original Astra GTE was first launched in 1984, consumers had mixed reactions. Some liked it because of its design and practicality, but most gearheads thought its performance and handling were uninspired and off the pace. So four years later Vauxhall came along and launched a whole other beast, the Astra GTE 16V.
The Astra GTE 16V featured a new 2.0-liter 16-valve engine that produced an incredible 150 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, enough to catapult it to a top speed of 137 mph. Its handling has been improved with strong anti-roll bars, shorter springs and a wider track with negative camber. It even came with the most digital dashboard of the 1980s.
5 1990 Nissan Sunny GTI-R
The Nissan Sunny GTI-R was a homologation special built by the Japanese automaker to enter Class A of the 1991 World Rally Championship. So to make it competitive, Nissan took the Sunny sedan, bundled all its mechanicals and fitted its SR20DET 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which was good for 216 horsepower.
That decent power was transmitted through a four-wheel-drive system, similar to that of the contemporary Skyline GT-R. So, that meant the Sunny GT-R could accelerate to 60 mph in around 5.0 seconds and claim a top speed of 144 mph.
4 1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth
After years of dominating the world of touring car racing with the Sierra RS500 Cosworth, Ford built a car to take on the Germans and French in the World Rally Championships. The result was the Escort RS Cosworth, and it turned out to be much more powerful than expected.
It was powered by a Cosworth-tuned 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that pushed up to 227 horsepower. And although some may argue that the Escort RS Cosworth had turbo lag issues, once the boost was initiated at 2,500 rpm the car accelerated from 0-60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and achieved a top speed of 137 mph.
3 1993 Renault Clio Williams
The Clio Williams was the first hot sedan to put the iconic Peugeot 205 GTI in its place. The car was developed as a special homologation for Renault for rallying, therefore requiring more power and excellent driving dynamics. So Renault engineers took the front subframe from the Clio Cup racer, installed improved springs, beefier dampers, wider tracks and a beefed-up gearbox to give it nifty handling.
Moreover, its engine was also reworked and its displacement increased to 1.8 liters, enough to generate 148 horsepower. The powertrain’s peak torque figures have also been tweaked and arrived in the low-end range, making the Williams more gutsy.
2 1993-1995 Lancia Delta Integrale Evo 2
First shown in 1979 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Lancia Delta Integrale is popularly known for its WRC dominance in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first Evoluzione cars were built in late 1991 and carried out until 1992.
In 1993, the automaker improved the development of the HF Integrale, and it became known as the Evo II. It featured an updated version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which delivered up to 215 horsepower, enough to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds from a standstill. Additionally, the car had a top speed of 137 mph. Today, a well-maintained Evo II costs around $50,000.
1 1999 Peugeot 306 GTI 6
The Peugeot 306 GTI 6 was the darling of most car magazines in the 1990s. Its chassis towered head and shoulders above its competitors, circling the Golf GTI and Renault Mégane of the time. And like its predecessor, the 205 GTI, the 306 also offered great handling.
Additionally, the 306 also had an engine cracker. The naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine developed a modest 167 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the GTI from 6 to 60 mph in about 8.0 seconds from a standstill. and reach a top speed of 137 mph.