Many people – though not ViaRETRO readers, obviously – think that the first hot hatch was the VW Golf GTi, but they would be mistaken.
In fact, there’s a case to be made for the BMW 2002tii Touring – launched in 1971 and unquestionably both a hatch and hot! More conventionally, however, hot hatches are generally considered to belong in the so-called “Supermini” class, so the Touring would be on the large side. If we accept that point of view – if! – then the French led the way with the Simca 1100ti being the first hot – or at least warmed-up – hatch back in 1973, followed by the Renault 5 Turbo in 1975. But it was when VW launched the Golf GTi in 1976 that the sector really took off, and it continues to do so – a small, light car with a powerful engine and a few go-faster accoutrements yet practical enough to offer room for four or five and a tailgate are still the essential ingredients for a “Hot Hatch”.
Although it wasn’t the first, the Golf GTi was – and remains – undoubtedly the most successful hot hatch, which encouraged many rivals to follow suit, getting in on the act with breathed-on versions of their supermini’s such as the MG Maestro, especially in Turbo form, the Ford Escort X3i and Fiesta XR2i, FIAT 127 Sport, the Lancia Delta Integrale, the Lotus Sunbeam and many more. The sector thrives to this day, with even Mercedes-Benz and BMW getting in on the act, if somewhat tardily.
The Golf GTi is still seen by many as the benchmark in this sector – both in classic and modern-day terms, but not everyone thinks it’s king of the hot hatch hill, and perhaps the strongest challenger for that crown is Peugeot’s little flier, the 205GTi.
Peugeot launched the cooking version of the 205 in 1983 to considerable acclaim – it was voted European Car of the Year in 1984, and in 1990, CAR Magazine voted it Car of the Decade, as the 205 led an upturn in Peugeot’s fortunes.
The 205GTi first appeared in 1984 with a 1.6-litre, producing a relatively modest 105bhp. Performance was moved up a notch in 1987 with the introduction of a more powerful, 115bhp version, and then raised things to another level when the 205 GTi 1.9 was launched onto the motoring world in 1987. Power output was increased to 128bhp, taking the little car from 0-100 kmh in around eight seconds and on to a top speed of just over 200kmh.
It wasn’t just about the performance figures, though, it was the way the 205GTi went about its business that drew so much praise – light and lithe, wheels almost in the corners endowing it with go-kart like road-holding, the little Pug fizzed when driven with enthusiasm, something almost impossible to avoid doing, something which had the unfortunate side-effect of making it very attractive to joy-riders…
The 205GTi was also a very successful competition car, its image burnished with numerous triumphs in the World Rally Championship achieved almost exclusively by a trio of Finnish drivers – Ari Vatanen, Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen.
And let’s be honest – it looks terrific! The proportions of this in-house design are perfect, with lots of lovely details such as the now-iconic pepper pot alloys and the C-post badging.
And so we come to our Prime Find this week, which is a 1989 Peugeot 205GTi 1.6, but not just any old example. This one – in silver with red and black interior and red external detailing – is up for auction with Silverstone Auctions at the NEC Classic Motor Show on Sunday November 10th, and by the auctioneers’ account, it’s “in simply exceptional condition”.
This is a face-lifted 1989 car, with the 113bhp engine, endowing it with very brisk performance – 0 to 60 in 9.0 seconds and a maximum speed of 195kph – only slightly slower than the later 1.9 and by some accounts, a better car to drive; I’m afraid I haven’t had the good fortune to make a judgement.
Warranted mileage is a mere 27,815 – less than a thousand miles a year – and the car comes with a very comprehensive history, including original paperwork, service history, many invoices and no fewer than 22 MOT certificates.
205GTi’s in this condition and with such a low mileage are few and far between so whoever bids successfully for this little French Flier looks like getting a superb – and unusually for a 205GTi, unmodified – hot hatch. Hopefully whoever it is will use it as it’s meant to be, and not store it for fear of negatively affecting its value.
I’ll be taking a good look at this car myself when I go to the NEC Classic and will let you know if it’s as good as it seems – as always, there’s no substitute for examining a car in the metal. The auctioneer’s estimate is for between £15,000 to £18,000, which for a low-mileage example of such an iconic car, doesn’t seem unreasonable on the face of it.
We’ve borrowed some photos from the Silverstone Auctions website – you can see more, and more information about the car, on their website here:-
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org