For the enthusiast on a budget, a hot hatch checks a lot of important boxes. It’s fun, but it’s also practical. Distinctive if you're in the know, and often affordable. It likes to be driven hard but doesn't gulp gas. Fortunately, these qualities are reflected in classic hot hatches just as they are in new ones.
Here in America we’ve often missed out on some of the best hot hatches from Europe and Japan, but if you’re looking for a vintage ride that you could take to an autocross then pack full of luggage for a weekend getaway, there are plenty of viable choices. We narrowed it down to three (well, technically five) hot hatches that can still be found in Good (#3) condition for four-figure prices.
Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/5-hot-hatches-you-can-find-for-under-10000/
First off, the Eclipse/Talon are not hot hatches. They're sport coupes. By definition, the car needs an actual hatch and have an economy minded variant. Second, there's a boatload of cars that are missing here. A few; Mazda 323 GTX, Escort GT, Omni GLHS, Corolla FX-16, Mitsubishi Colt Turbo. Some rarer than others, but all hot hatches and can be found under 10g. These cars were all the rage in the 80s and early 90s and almost every manufacturer had some type in their lineup.
BMW 318ti! These are relatively rare, and have the venerable 1.8L OHC engine and the swing arm rear suspension from the E30 318iS, making at least that part of them fairly reliable. Other E36 maladies (door panels, IP cluster, etc.) need to be watched for. With a 5 speed manual they're a hoot to drive. Don't buy an automatic or anything that hasn't been maintained.
when Honda stopped making hot hatches in 91 (we'd owned Hondas from 78-94), we went searching and ended up with a new 96 BMW 318TI (for the same price as a Toyota Corrolla wagon). when my wife got a 328 wagon in 2002 i used the TI as my work car for another 6 years (had 150,000 on it when i sold it to an autocrosser) we've had 3 BMW wagons now and I had an 09 Mini Clubman till i retired in 14 and didnt need a car anymore
I'd include the Chrysler Laser and Dodge Daytona IROC. I had a top-of-the-line turbo charged 1986 Laser that was an absolute hoot and reasonably practical. I'd also vote for the first gen Diamond Star Eclipse/Talon/Laser. I owned a 1992 Eagle Talon TSi AWD Turbo for 200K miles and 23 years. It was always fun and proved very reliable. True story: A guy followed me home one day this spring and made an offer I could not refuse. It was stock in #3 condition. I miss it, but it went to a good home.
I loved my '84 GTI! Bought it new and I put 90,000 miles on it before trading it in. I once outran a 911 in street racing. Damn close to doing it against a 240Z, but his top-end was higher. I had to watch him pull away when we hit 105. I collected tickets like trading cards! lol
Sorry, the Eclipse and Talon ain't hot hatches in my book- more the hot coupes ala Celica. Absolutely insert the GLH right here. Too bad Ford never brought the right Escort over here to play........
Certainly miss my '84 VW GTI, silver over blue. Fun to drive, reliable, peppy, easy on fuel and fun to drive. It got traded in as a downpayment on a new Suburban for hubby in 2004 with 180,000 miles on it. Within a day or 2 of trading it in, I saw one of the dealer mechanics out driving it, flogging the hell out of it...guess he was having some fun too.
2002-2004 Focus SVT's. Naturally aspirated Cosworth 4 banger with Getrag stick shift-handles like a go cart and fun to autocross. Can be had in either 3 or 5 door configs-I have the 5 door, load the kids up and go to the track. Clean ones can be had for less than the prices listed above. Add forced induction and there's a lot of guys running in the 300+ hp range. 160k miles on mine from new and still running strong.
Has everyone forgot about the 88, and 89 Chrysler Conquest and Mitsubishi Starion. These 4bangers had very nice HP, and strong torque coming from their 2.6 liter turbocharged engines. I had an 89 Chrysler Conquest triple black and it was special. They came with 8 way adjustable shocks, independent suspension and staggered fitment standard. Also standard on these cars were all of the modern, and future electronics of that era. They stuffed everything and the kitchen sink into them. A laundry list of amenities! Modestly called vette, 5.0 mustang, Camaro, 944 Porsche, Pontiac GTA and firebird killers just to name a few was an understatement. And I dusted all of the above whenever we met. I miss my little 2.6 turbocharged 4banger and I just thought they deserved an honorable mention.
So many great hot hatches never made it to the US. If I had to pick one of those above I would go for the best maintained low mileage Mitsu Eclipse as it just seems more of a modern car than the others. However if we are just talking about hot hatches in general I would get a newer Abarth. daughter has one and it is a hoot every time you go to the grocery store.
What's the problem with the Ford Escort ZX2? it has a 2 l 16 valve engine with Fi and a 5 speed. It of course provides all the bells and whistles! The Focus is the next step with a turbo and 4 wheel drive and I think 350Hp!
Escorts have a long history in Jolly olde in their sporting events and here they do well in autocrosses!
Still have my '90 Eagle Talon TSi with AWD. The electronics are aging, but I intend to do a full re-build on the engine and tranny (which are hitting 185k). Still haven't found a car as fun and comfortable as this has been for the last 30 years.
So the GTI is a great car...cousin to my Scirocoo albeit not as nice lines...but reliable if not a wee bit expensive for parts in some cases and parts of the country. The Civic's well not a hatch but the DelSol would be my choice...with same underpinnings...but the CRX over the standard fare for sure! As for the Mitsubishi/Eagle...yeah...stay far away...too many issues with those and uber hard to find parts for...and basic stuff too not just the unique to this model items that will be rather difficult to source for restoration. The Dodge Omni 024 and the GLH pocket rocket mentioned by another poster is a good option too. Hatchbacks are timeless as they keep brining them back each millenium when they fade away meaning there is a need and want for these little runabouts..currently (not a hot hatch but along the utilitarian lines) I have a Spark...yeah..but it does the trick on commuting and gets fantastic gas mileage and with a 5 spd is fun to drive...and gets in and out of traffic and the mall parking lot (where no classic should ever tread) with ease. Little runabouts are fun...and most of these along with the current crop have more HP and higher speed then the classics did like my 69MGBGT for example...you can have a lot of fun driving these little grocery getters!!!
Had a 1985 Dodge Colt GTS Turbo - 5 speed in high school. You actually could get it as an auto, but why?
They were 104hp of pure fun from a 1.6L. I think they were 1994lbs. Torque steer enhanced the experience when the turbo kicked in.
Obviously they were imported from Mitsubishi...even had a sticker saying as such on the hatch.
Wish they were still around, now pretty much unobtainable, but would love to get my hands on one from 1985-1988. I had a red one, but would prefer black now.
The new for 1989 Colt with the DOHC Turbo/intercooled 1.6L is also a gem, but I like the drawn by a ruler look of the 1985-1988 years best.
one minor correction - the very first Civic S was released in '83. i had one in college and i'm constantly on the lookout for a clean one to add to my collection! i replaced that car with a '90 Civic Si, which was phenomenal! of your list, i'd pick the Civic SI or CRX Si. thanks for the great content!
I also think the 2002–2006 Mini Cooper S should be on this list. I still have the one I bought it brand new in 2002. Super charger, six speed manual transmission, fantastic handling. I added the John Cooper Works exhaust and smaller supercharger pulley. The car is probably worth 200 hp now-up from the stock 163hp for the S. When we first bought ours, we drove it round-trip from Florida to California and through the Rockies for 8000 miles round-trip. Lots of people have not seen the mini yet because not many dealers were established. To this day people ask me how old the car is because it still looks like a brand new model. That’s the beauty of a design that was not changed until they came up with all the other (often cringeworthy) variations. This past week I changed my brakes for the first time. 18 years on the same brake pads/discs if you can believe it.