23 Apr 2013

Funboy 3 - The holy triumverate of hot hatches

Geoff Maxted takes a look at how modern hot hatches compare to the original 80s icons

The good name of boy racers everywhere has today been besmirched by a veneer of respectability. Car manufacturers have given scant regard to historical accuracy by allowing their GTi’s to grow up and get, well, just a bit lardy. A tad suburban in appeal, perhaps. When was the last time you saw what passes for a hot hatch these days being driven by a spotty youth in a ska trilby? The prosecution rests.

So what are the cars of 2013 that could bring out the inner rascal lying dormant in 21st Century man? The Vauxhall Astra has always had a bit of a bad boy image, so how about a nice VXR? It certainly has a wild-boy look about it with great pace and sharp handling and, because it’s a Vauxhall, it is a bit mad. The same can’t be said about the Renaultsport M├ęgane which is an extremely focussed hot hatch, especially in ‘Cup’ form.

Best, however, to stick with what we know and that means driving behind the sign of the blue oval. The Ford Escort may no longer be with us but the brilliant ST certainly is and ought really to be the auto du jour of the boy racer. We shall discount the Golf GTi because, although it is arguably the best of the bunch, your Dad’s probably got one which immediately rules it out.

Civilisation has ruined driving. Proper men will want to hark back to the golden years and search the classic car listings for the real thing. The perfect funboy threesome. Recapture those halcyon days by seeking out a nice Peugeot 205 GTi which can still be found in good nick for somewhere between £1500 - £2000. Or what about the French relation, the Renault Five GT Turbo? Surprisingly, these are holding their price and the keen boy racer will need to find around £3500 for a decent example.

But there can only really be one car; the pinnacle, the absolute apogee of boy racing pleasure. The car that will bring a derisive curl (and a rather coarse joke) to the lips of the uninitiated - the Escort XR3. Is it just a fantasy, a legend like the unicorn, or are they truly still out there? Let’s trawl the small ads. Yes, there they are in all their glory. There’s a do-up-able rust bucket for £900 or a really classy, rust free example for £5k.

Some readers will of course be too young to truly remember these automotive icons of yore but you can always ask your Father. Be understanding if he becomes a little misty eyed; after all, it’s probably how he met your Mother. The trail may even lead to your point of conception - expect parents to be a little reticent on this subject.

Go on. You know you want to. Think of the fun of searching car boot sales for drive shafts and all the 80’s hits on cassette tapes. The dedicated collector may even think 8-Track. Dust off your cap, get on the road and pretty soon you’ll have the neighbours complaining - just like the good old days.

Geoff Maxted is a freelance writer and photographer whose works have been published in various print and online sources