Britain's love affair with the hot hatch goes back a long way. And with a large number of exciting hatchbacks turned up to 11 this year, the love story continues. It makes sense, too. The rising cost of fuel coupled with an economy down the proverbial toilet means that huge swathes of owners have to get rid of their weekend weapons in favour of something potently practical.
Enter stage left... the hot hatch.
1. Volkswagen Golf GTI
Image courtesy: autocognito.com
We're fortunate enough to be getting two tarted up VWs this year, as the Golf is joined by a warmer Up! The Golf is still the headline act, though, with its 2-litre turbocharged engine producing 217bhp. A yardstick for high performance practicality, the GTI feels like it's been around forever. It even made tartan cool thanks to the seat trim.
Image courtesy: ausmotive.com
Back at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show, VW took the covers off its now legendary GTI badge. The 1.6-litre engine made 112bhp, but with just 810kg to lug about it went like stink, with the second generation 1.8-litre version carrying on the trend. The GTI had brought supercar humbling performance to the masses, and the supercharged G60 and four-wheel-drive Rallye versions have become highly sought after.
Image courtesy: breezemotorsport.com
VW dropped the ball with the Mk3 and Mk4 GTIs, perhaps getting too comfortable on its ultimate hot hatch perch. The Mk5 was a return to form, with reviews of the Mk7 confirming that VW show no signs of losing their mojo a second time.
2. Ford Fiesta ST
Image courtesy: fiesta-mk1.co.uk
Ford's ability to breathe monstrous life into its most mundane motors is legendary. The Mk 1 Escort and the famous Cosworth collaborations spring to mind, but it is the return of the performance Fiesta that intrigues us this year. The Fiesta's life began in 1976 as a run-of-the-mill city runaround. It didn't take Ford long to realise that a performance version would be a boy racer's wet dream, with a 1.3-litre Supersport offered in 1980. Proving popular, the iconic XR2 was born.
Image courtesy: forum-auto.com
Acknowledging this popularity, Ford chucked the 1.6-litre engine from the Escort XR3 into 1983's facelifted Fiesta, before really upping the ante with the third generation's XR2i and RS Turbo. Sold from 1990, the RS was based on the XR2i and largely identical, becoming the first Fiesta to get a turbo. As if the brilliant XR2i need any upgrades, the Turbo featured bigger alloys and better tyres, while inside were snug Recaro seats.
Read our review of the 2013 Ford Fiesta ST.
3. Peugeot 208 GTI
Image courtesy: motorlegend.com
Fast Peugeots are steeped in rallying history, while the 205 GTI is still considered one of the purest forms of hot hatch entertainment. Pug lost its way, however, and until 2010's RCZ it seemed they'd forgotten how to make a fast, attractive car. Historically speaking, this fact was hard to take.
Image courtesy: forum-auto.com
The 205 GTI was introduced in 1984 with the option of 1.6 and 1.9-litre engines, and is still lusted after thanks to the way it attacks B-roads; connecting the driver to the road in a way modern cars can't. Pug's performance arm - Peugeot Talbot Sport - got hold of a 205 and placed a 1.3-litre engine inside creating the aptly named Rallye. The Italians however might have referred to it as the 205 Superleggerra due to the fact it was stripped of all non-essential parts.
On the motorsport side of things, the 205 is most famous for the mental T16. As with some of the greatest road cars, the T16 was created for homologation purposes - in this case to allow Peugeot to enter a 205 into the terrifying world of Group B rallying. Boasting 197bhp the T16 was a 205 in nothing but name, sharing most components with the rally car, including that fat bodykit. The 205 dominated Group B's final 2 years of competition, before the ultimate motorsport disappeared for good.
Read our review of the 2013 Peugeot 208 GTI.
How will this epic, hot hatch love saga play out? Only time will tell...