What happened to the pocket rocket? PH Blog

Planet hot hatch is an exciting place to be at present. A new Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R and Audi RS3 are all imminent, the Octavia vRS has just been improved and Peugeot has reclaimed some credibility. Heck, there are even rumours of buying and driving a Leon Cupra that did 7:58 round the 'ring...

Proves a point and it's hilarious - win!
Proves a point and it's hilarious - win!
But there's a common theme amongst all those. By varying margins, they are all over £20,000 and 200hp. Fine for their respective hot hatch class, but about the juniors?

Think about all the little c.1,000kg and 120hp crackers you used to be able to buy. Some were superb with even smaller numbers than that. Ford SportKa, Fiat Panda 100HP, VW Lupo GTI, Peugeot 106 GTI, Renaultsport Twingo and cars of that ilk. Where are the replacements for those? Granted, the Suzuki Swift Sport has taken on their mantle but there should be more choice. The MG 3 is better than you would give it credit for but its engine average at very best. I'm not holding out too much hope for the Adam Wham Bam Thank You Mam either (but I stand to be corrected).

The worst thing is that there's no excuse for lack of inspiration. Not only are there are a wealth of very good standard cars currently (the recently replaced C1/108/Aygo trio, the Up/Citigo/Mii and the Hyundai i10/Kia Picanto) but loads of good engines too. The Fiat TwinAir is crying out for a performance installation, and surely the 999cc Ford Ecoboost could be put to great use in a Ka. Volkswagen in fact made an Up GT prototype back in 2012 with 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine and 110hp. What's happened to that?

Here's a car that needs replacing...
Here's a car that needs replacing...
Furthermore, if safety and efficiency concerns did kill off the old breed, then the new school easily addresses them. You wouldn't want to hit a Jenga tower in a Saxo for fear of injury but the current crop of city cars are eminently safe and the engines won't be outlawed next week. They're still light as well, which is a bonus.

There's more too. Think of how good the grown-up hatches from these manufacturers are. Nobody makes a duffer anymore. Peugeot was selling the 106 GTI at the same time as the rather average 206 GTI. Today even Kia makes a decent hot hatch in the Pro_cee'd GT and so the chances of them distilling the bigger cars into a few really good pocket rockets must be high.

... and this too!
... and this too!
So, car manufacturers of the world, here's what we need: 108 GTI, C1 VTS, Aygo T Sport, Up GT, Mii Cupra, Citigo vRS, i10 N, Picanto GT, another Renaultsport Twingo and whatever else I've forgotten. No more than 130hp is needed and as close to 1,000kg as possible. Turbocharged ones must have boost gauges. Manual with proper handbrakes please. Who wouldn't want one of those?

Perhaps there is a significant financial or political hurdle for not producing cars of this ilk anymore. But they always seemed fairly popular not so long ago and if VW can sanction an e-Up it can give the green light to an Up with 120hp. And a yellow SEAT version. Now feel free to reminisce about the past masters and let's get this thing off the ground!


[Source: Autocar]


Comments (132) Join the discussion on the forum

  • MrStack 11 Mar 2015

    Maybe the new Twingo RS and Forfour Brabus bring them back.

    There is still hope.

  • JakeT 11 Mar 2015

    What was one the pocket rocket got bigger and fatter over time. The latest hatches seem massive, but that's what the market wants. The thought of an Up! GT sounds interesting if it wasn't canned.

  • Dr Interceptor 11 Mar 2015

    The problem is with them they have very limited appeal.

    The whole point of the small car like the 108/CityGo/Twingo/Up is that they are cheap to buy, cheap to fuel, cheap to insure and cheap to maintain.

    They are popular with very young drivers due to the low insurance, and favoured by parents due to relatively high levels of safety versus an old banger.

    Fit a 130bhp engine in, and they will no longer be cheap to insure. That rules out most young drivers under 25, as they simply won't pay £2-3000 to insure a small car.

    So, the only people that can run them sensibly are the 25+ age bracket. Problem is by 25 we want more than a 130bhp hatch. Whether its a hotter hatch, sports car, or something else, once you're 25 you can insure some much more interesting metal, so the junior hatch is long forgotten.

  • Limpet 11 Mar 2015

    Yep, small cars seem to be too big, too fat, and take themselves too seriously these days.

    One thing all the "pocket rockets" had in common was a fundamental sense of fun in the way they drove. You could get into a base model and although you wouldn't go quickly, you could still enjoy yourself. The 106 or Saxo were perfectly capable of entertaining you as 1.1 poverty models. The hot versions just added power and grip.

    Most small cars today are about as interesting as watching paint dry. Bloated, gutless and idiot proof.

  • thatguy11 11 Mar 2015

    No mention of the 500 Abarth?

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