The seventies, eighties and nineties were the defining eras of the hot hatch. The idea of taking a regular family hatchback and turning it into a performance car is now time-honoured and remains popular with car enthusiasts across the UK.
So, what exactly makes a hot hatch, a hot hatch? Determining what is considered a hot hatch is actually very easy. Firstly, the car needs to be a hatchback (a hatch for short!). A hatchback can be identified by the unique boot door, which is attached to the car’s roof above the rear window. The “hot” part of a hot hatch can be a lot harder to define. In theory, a hot hatch is any performance-tuned variant of a regular hatchback. Performance upgrades tend to focus on power and handling but will also stretch to areas like exterior and interior trim and specification. All in all, a hot hatch is any serious attempt by a manufacturer to improve the performance (and sporting look) of a hatchback, and the car is often the premier option in the line-up for that particular model.
The seventies was a defining era for the hot hatch, bringing together features traditionally only seen on performance cars onto the reliable, efficient, and cheap family hatchback. Increased demand meant that by the mid-80’s the market for hot hatchbacks grew, and many manufacturers had added a hot hatch variant to their range. By the end of the eighties, the hot hatch was hugely popular across Europe, and was pushing into other worldwide markets. The popularity and performance of the hot hatch grew across the nineties and into the early 2000’s with more and more using turbocharged engines. The classic eras of the hot hatch paved the way for the hot hatches we see on our roads today.
To see how popular some of our favourite hot hatches were in their time, Creditplus analysed 18 of the hottest hatches from 3 decades, spanning from the 1970s to the 2000s.