HOT HATCHES: BEST OF THE REST
So you know all about the five all-time greatest hot hatches. Now see which 25, ranked in order, made the long list for the final shootout and which clunkers never stood a chance. Andrew Frankel reports
RENAULT CLIO RENAULTSPORT 182 TROPHY
A simply incredible level of chassis sophistication from what started life as a cheap and cheerful shopping car. Rev-happy 2.0-litre motor is cast in a purely supporting role to beautifully judged suspension settings and some extremely expensive (not just to buy but to maintain, too) competition-spec Sachs dampers complete with remote oil reservoirs. Startlingly rapid point to point even by the standards of today, largely because you very rarely have to slow down for anything. Even if you think you’ve overcooked it, few cars ever responded better to the ‘chuck it in and sort it out’ approach. A little noisy and quite stiff, it nevertheless missed the top-five shootout by nanometers.
LANCIA DELTA INTEGRALE EVOLUTION 2
Really, this could have been any Integrale, or indeed the Delta HF 4WD that preceded them. The point is that this is not just a genuinely very great hatchback, the greatest by far produced by Italy, but also the last decent car of any sort produced by what was once one of the world’s greatest manufacturers. The thing I think few people appreciate about these five-door fourwheel-drive turbocharged hatches is that they were never about going sideways. They did not make you feel like Juha Kankkunen. They were just beautiful things to drive, still with arguably the best power steering ever fitted to a car with front driveshafts. It felt like an inexactly constructed hatchback sprinkled with some Italian supercar magic. And, in many ways, that’s exactly what it was.