No question, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is regarded as the pioneering hot hatch. But half a dozen years earlier a very different kind of car ushered in a new way of thinking about the melding of high performance and functionality. This car was not as rorty, agile or racy looking as the GTI but it was more radical in concept – if you forget the ‘hatch’ bit, the Mini-Cooper S was the first pocket rocket.
When we think ‘hot hatch’, we don’t think Renault 16TS, but we probably should.
Hot hatches – the Golf GTI, the Renault 5 Turbo, the Peugeot 205 GTI, the Suzuki Swift GTi, and so on – are rorty and overtly racy, often with red highlights either outside, inside or both. They have sweet-shifting floorshifts, a firm ride, sharp steering and a brilliant power to weight ratio. The 16TS, by contrast, had a column gearchange, cosseting ride accompanied by copious body roll and no element of boy racer decor. But its rack and pinion steering was superbly direct and full of feel, and the number of brake horsepower per kilogram of weight was none too shabby.