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Home > car news > The 10 greatest hot hatches of all time

The 10 greatest hot hatches of all time

Many of us grew up loving them, and now couldn't imagine what our lives would be like without them. We watched as they grew and matured over time. They're good looking, they never went out of style and there have been countless hits over the years.

And, we're not talking about Take That. We're more Top Gear than Top of the Pops, so of course we are talking about hot hatches.

The UK is the biggest market for many performance hot hatches, and when you look back at some of the beautiful vehicles produced over the years it's easy to remember why we love them so much. We've quibbled and squabbled, but now we can present our ten greatest hot hatches of all time...  

1. VW Golf GTI (Mk1)

Arguably the greatest hot hatch of all time due to the colossal impact it had when first arriving on the scene back in 1976. A family car that was practical and sporty, this bad boy put hot hatches on the map. The VW Golf GTI Mk1 proved to be successful for years to come and spawned a host of imitators, kicking off the hot hatch craze in style.

Geeky fact: Due to its overwhelming popularity, many say the Golf GTI Mk1 was the first hot hatch on the market, but the Alfa Romeo Alfasud was actually in production five years earlier.

2. Peugeot 205 GTI

The French manufacturers have never quite mustered enough to outdo the success of the 205 GTI. Whether you're in the 1.6 version or the 1.9, driving one provides the ultimate hot hatch experience. Like the Golf, the 205 set a new benchmark.

Geeky fact: The original Peugeot 205 was pipped to the 'European Car of the Year' award in 1983 by the Fiat Uno, but would go on to enjoy a longer high market demand and was eventually named 'Car of the Decade' by CAR Magazine.

3. Ford Focus (Mk1)

The Focus completely revolutionised the family car sector upon its release in 1998, offering great value and proving to be as safe and reliable as any hot hatch. It's no surprise then that as of 2012 the Focus surpassed the Toyota Corolla to become the world's best-selling vehicle nameplate.

Geeky fact: A dispute with a German magazine publisher almost forced Ford to change the name (it owned a magazine called Focus), but the dispute was resolved at the last minute.

4. Alfa Romeo Alfasud

Widely considered to be the first true hot hatch available on the market, it's only right that we include the 'Sud in the top five. It's controls were considered unorthodox at the time (the lights, indicators, horn, wipers and heater fan are all operate d by shifting two column stalks) but they're a whole lot of fun now. When it was first shown in 1971 the Alfasud was heralded for its looks, and more than 30 years later it hasn't lost its charm.

Geeky fact: The Alfa Romeo Alfasud sold a whopping 893,719 vehicles between 1972 and 1983 - not bad for a company that was based in one of the poorest regions of Italy at the time.

5. Lancia Delta HF Integrale

At the end of the 1980s the rally car influence could be seen across the hot hatch market, but none had the swagger and intensity of the Lancia Delta HF Integrale. Integrating developments from the 1987 rally season, the Integrale was a road car engined like a rally car and included the same cutting-edge technology that you would have found hurtling through the forests to many great victories.

Geeky fact: The HF Integrale dominated the World Rally Championship between 1987 and 1992, winning the Constructors Championship six times in a row and Drivers' Championship titles for Juha Kankkunen and Miki Biasion.

6. Renault Clio Williams

We all remember the 'Papa and Nicole' adverts for the second generation Clio in 1998 and the 'Va va voom' campaigns for recent versions, but the original Clio Williams hot hatch will always hold a place in our hearts. A limited edition run of  3,800 cars were released for the Clio Williams' launch in 1993, each bearing a numbered plaque. They sold out instantly - forcing Renault to quickly build 1,600 more - and the Clio has consistently been a top-selling car in Europe ever since.

Geeky fact: Despite being named after Williams F1 - the then Renault-powered F1 team - Williams actually had nothing to do with the Clio's design or engineering.

7. Renaultsport Mégane

We'd be hard pressed to think of a hot hatch we'd rather whizz around a racetrack in than the Renaultsport Mégane 265, but the truth is that all Mégane versions have been stellar. Some may be considered extreme (the R26.R even replaced the back seats with a roll cage) but there's always the speed-limiter if you feel like you can't help yourself.

Geeky fact: The turbocharged engine was believed to reach 222bhp, but Mexican car magazine Automóvil Panamericano proved the 2004 Renaultsport Mégane could reach 247bhp in a 2004 road test.

8. Honda Civic Type R

With its red interior, highly tuned engine and MOMO leather wrapped steering wheel, the Type R model is the highest performing version of one of the longest running production cars of all time. The Japanese manufacturers truly nailed it with t his one, high praise indeed when you consider the high standard of all current Honda Civics.

Geeky fact: The Honda Civic Type R's B16B engine boasts one of the highest power outputs per litre of all time.

9. MINI Cooper S

Four MINI hatchback models were produced between 2001-2006 and all were superb, but it was the supercharged MINI Cooper S that stole the show, followed by the limited edition Cooper S Works GP model. They were certainly expensive at the time, but what else would you expect of a future classic?

Geeky fact: The reason Mini Cooper hot hatches have such a distinctive exhaust tip isn't down to ingenuity but improvisation. When first showing a prototype model to the board of directors Frank Stephenson, American chief designer, realised it was missing an exhaust pipe so promptly stripped a beer can of its paint and pushed into the clay back. The board liked it so much they told him not to change a thing.

10. Ford Escort

Launched with the tagline 'Simple is Efficient' back in 1968, here we are many models and many decades later and the Escort hasn't lost its ethos. Attempting to live up to the benchmark set by the Golf GTI, the XR3i Escort forged its own path. In 2009, the Escort became the UK's best-selling car of all time with over 4,000,000 vehicles sold.

Geeky fact: The third generation model was originally going to be renamed the Ford Erika, but due to a reluctance from British customers and a famous wartime song in Germany called Erika, Ford stuck with Escort.

Do you agree with our list? Which hot hatches do you think should have made the cut? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook!