hot hatch

Separated at birth – the story of two very different Peugeot hot hatches

Peugeot made one of the greatest hot hatches in the 205 GTI - but prices now can vary wildly

WILLY Russell fans might want to stick around for this week’s motoring musings. It’s essentially Blood Brothers in four-wheeled format, albeit starring a couple of old Peugeots rather than two Scousers separated at birth.

Our two protagonists both happen to 205 GTis, born in the same French factory and fitted with the same delightfully revvy 1.9-litre, 105bhp engine. They were even painted the same shade of Alpine White, and both were welcomed into a world where excitable road testers thought the 205 GTi was the best hot hatch ever made. With the exception of not quite having the same birthday – oh alright, one’s three years older than the other – they’re pretty much identical.

Except, as anyone familiar with Liverpudlian musicals will testify, they really aren’t.

Our two go-faster Peugeots, having led very different lives once they’d left the factory, both happened to go under the hammer at two separate auctions within 24 hours of each other recently. The younger of the two, which had done 103,000 miles but definitely wasn’t a shabby example, was yours for a shade under six grand. That’s a lot more than they used to fetch, but even in 2017 not exactly verging on unreasonable.

But then its older brother stepped into the spotlight. It was a 1988 car that had been given away in a competition – to a winner who couldn’t drive – and as a result still has fewer than 6000 miles on the clock. It’s also been wrapped up in cotton wool every night and doted on for the past five years by a Peugeot evangelist, so you’d expect it’d fetch a little bit more at auction.

It ended up selling for £38,480. That’s 15 grand more than you’ll pay for a brand new 208 GTi, which has airbags, traction control and a warranty.

Obviously just about everyone ended up fixated on what was a phenomenal result for a 29-year-old hot hatch, but if you live in the real world it’s the first price that’ll bear more relevance. Old cars with minimal mileages and unblemished panels come out of the woodwork every so often and go for some eyeball-grabbing price, but it doesn’t suddenly make that old Golf GTi rusting away at your mate’s garage worth a million quid. Only last weekend a Vauxhall Nova with a particularly exciting backstory sold online for £65,000 – that’s Porsche Cayman money – but it doesn’t mean the one you used to own is worth the same.

Blood Brothers ends of course with both protagonists getting shot – something which probably won’t happen to either of our elderly Peugeots. But if you believe the hype and spend over the odds on some vaguely trendy bit of 1980s motoring, you might end up shooting yourself. In the foot, of course…

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When hot hatchbacks get overcooked

Our David reckons the Ford Fiesta ST is the best hot hatch on offer at the moment.jpg

SUPPOSE you’re about to sink half a million quid into a nice house. There’s a sizeable swimming pool, a huge kitchen with an AGA cooker, and an enormous dining room – but the entire upper floor is out of action because it’s been filled with scaffolding to make the building a bit stiffer.

Not only would it make a particularly bad episode of Grand Designs but chances are you’d walk away from the deal after a particularly shirty conversation with the estate agent. Which is pretty much how I felt after trying a new breed of car for the first time. Ladies and gentleman, meet the extreme hatchback.

The souped up supermarket chariot in question was the first iteration of the MINI Cooper’s more aggressive sibling, which I spent a couple of hours at the helm of last week. The MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works GP has the name, spec and credentials to really get dyed-in-the-wool driving fanatics frothing at the mouth, but in the real world it’s a deeply frustrating set of wheels.

It’s hard not to get addicted to the instant whallop of the supercharger – unlike a turbo, the power’s always there the second you need it – and the steering is pin-sharp and effortlessly talkative. It is huge fun to drive.

But you get all that with a regular MINI Cooper S anyway – and without the big sacrifices the GP asks you to make. I’ll forgive the ride being harder than Bear Grylls, but glance in the rear-view mirror and where the back seats should be is a single strut brace, literally pulling the two sides of the car together to make it tauter.

It makes it childishly good fun on a track day, but in the real world having a two-seater hatchback is a pointless as our imaginary house full of scaffolding. Same goes for the old Renault Megane R26R too, which eschews back seats for a roll cage. Brilliant at Brands Hatch, but no so great for giving your mates a lift. Then there’s the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari, which did have back seats but was a still essentially a £30,000 Fiat 500. All of these cars have one problem; the Toyota GT86, which is far more fun for less money.

I love hot hatches because they give normal people the chance to embarrass sports cars while doing the school run – a Golf GTI has all the fun and feistiness you could ever ask for, and it has five doors, lots of seats, a big boot and a sensible starting price. Stripping out seats and asking silly money is why extreme hatchbacks, for all their Nurburgring lap times, don’t work in the real world.

Give me a Fiesta ST any day. For under 18 grand you get 182bhp, sublime handling, a revvy engine that howls with delight every time you put your foot down – oh, and there’s room for you and four of your fellow car nuts. Now that’s what I call a hot hatch.

Can’t afford a Civic Type-R? Here’s Honda’s solution

The Civic Sport looks like the Type-R but has a third of the powerHONDA has launched a hotted-up Civic that looks like the Type-R but costs eleven grand less to buy.

The new Civic Sport has a colour-coded rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels and a mesh grille to mimic its 306bhp sibling, but with a 100bhp 1.4-litre engine it’s a lot cheaper to buy, run and insure. It goes on sale next month, with prices starting from £18,360. That’s £11,635 less than you’ll pay for the Type-R – and at a glance most people won’t be able to tell the difference.

Personally, I reckon it’s a great idea – it gives hope to all those go-faster younger drivers who can’t afford to insure Japan’s turbocharged answer to the Ford Focus RS. It might come across as a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but let’s hope some of the Type-R sparkle has rubbed off on the new arrival.