If we were to ask you, off the top of your head, to rattle off the names of a few hot hatches, your list of shopping-trolley-turned-performance-cars would probably include at least some of the following: the Mk1 Golf GTI, the Peugeot 205 GTI, the Escort XR3, The Astra GTE, The Civic Type R or the Focus RS.
But for every famous hot hatch out there that comes easily to mind, the cutting room floor of motoring history is littered with the hot hatches that time forgot, and it's those we're celebrating here. The rough diamonds, lost gems and random oddities of the hot hatch world.
The idea formed when we tried to come up with a list of cars with which to compare our PH Fleet Seat Leon Cupra R. Now, we could have plumped for the obvious 'get a load of contemporary fast hatches and call it a group test' option, but we're not What Car? so we didn't. And besides, a large proportion of the Seat's current rivals are VW Group products, so there wouldn't have been all that much engineering variety on offer.
This left us with an unexpected dilemma: we couldn't actually find a suitable hot hatch hook on which to hang the Leon Cupra R and thereby choose the other cars. Fastest hot hatch of its generation? Not really. Most devastating A-B weapon? Well, it's quick, but there are quicker. Handling tweaked by God himself? Er... no. Best bhp-per-pound of its time? It's good, but the Clio Renaultsport 200 Cup does that better...
We quickly realised that, however much we like the Leon Cupra R, it is not a superlative performer in any one area. As such, when the history of hot hatches of the 2010s comes to be written it will be easy to forget the bright yellow beast from Barcelona. And here the light-bulb moment happened: we would compare it with a gaggle of other forgotten hot hatches.
There followed a fevered forum thread
, where everything from a Daihatsu Charade GTti, to an Alfasud, to an MG Maestro (and an astonishing amount of stuff in between) was suggested as a possible candidate.
The eclectic mix of stuff you see here is a result of those options suggested that we could a) find and, b) get together on the same day. And with everything from a bespoke V6 Beetle to a hydropneumatically suspended Citroen BX, it's certainly an eclectic mix...
Pics: Nick Williams
Philip - Alfa Romeo 145 Cloverleaf
"I've owned Alfas for nearly 25 years and would have liked an Alfasud but for everyday use they are just a bit too marginal these days, plus 3 or 4 times as much as a 145 for a decent one. We had a 145 a few years ago and had fond memories of it."
Top speed: 129mph
Read more about Philip's Alfa Romeo 145 Cloverleaf
Steve - MG ZS 180
"I plan to run the ZS into the ground as a second, or hoonable, car. It owes me far too much money and time to give it away for whatever a 33,000-mile, 7-year-old car is worth. That's before people say 'It's a Rover, isn't it? Can you get parts? How many headgaskets have you gone through...?'"
Top speed: 139mph
Read more about Steve's MG ZS 180
Tony - VW Beetle RSi
"I can't think of any other car that (for the money) would make me grin like a 3-year-old every time I plant my foot on the accelerator, no other car that I would consider owning. Maybe something in addition, but not as a replacement."
Top speed: 140mph
Read more about Tony's VW Beetle RSi
Richard - Citroen BX 16v
"I wanted a BX since I was 8. My dad had just bought a 1983 16TRS, one of the first into the country. I loved that car, it practically kick-started an obsession with Citroens, particularly the BX. I used to pass a black one year old BX 16v on an H plate on my way to school on my estate. It was always on my top ten list, which although people laugh at was great, because it cost less than a month's wages to buy one!"
Top speed: 135mph
Read more about Richard's BX 16v
Ian - Skoda Octavia vRS
"It isn't the most glamorous of cars, and there are much more 'hardcore' things out there, but the Octavia feels more than fast enough for me while remaining suitably comfortable."
Top speed: 144mph
Read more about Ian's Skoda Octavia vRS
Riggers (on behalf of RacingPete) - Seat Leon Cupra R
"There are hatches out there that handle better, make a nicer noise, go faster, or are simply more glamorous. That's why history is likely to forget about the 'most powerful seat ever'. But it shouldn't, because the Leon is feisty, mighty fast, and an enjoyable companion, whether you've got to deal with a motorway schlep or your favourite country road. It might not be superlative in any one areas, but that doesn't mean it isn't pretty super."
Top Speed: 155mph
Read more about RacingPete's Seat Leon Cupra R