A hot hatch is an informal or slang term for a high-performance derivative of a three (or sometimes five) -door automobile. The term is more popular in Europe because of the popularity of hatchback configuration. The United States also uses the term sport compacts, however, this deviates from the original meaning of the hot hatch terminology. Vehicles of this class are typically based on a budget, family-oriented automobile, and equipped with improved suspension and a more powerful engine. Front mounted petrol engines and front wheel drive is the most common powertrain layout.
The original 1974 version of the Golf was in mass production at this point, and the addition of a higher performance 1.6 litre fuel injected engine, sharper handling, and sports-focussed marketing found the birth a huge market for small, practical cars that still had excellent performance. The Golf GTI enjoyed a short run of unparalleled success, but by the early 1980s car manufacturers worldwide were racing to market with their own alternatives. Notable big-sellers in the early days were the Peugeot 205 GTI, Ford Escort XR3i, and Vauxhall Astra GTE.
By the end of the 1980s the hot hatch had taken its place across Europe, and was pushing into other worldwide markets. The brief heyday of Group B rallying pushed the hot hatch genre to its limits, and small numbers of ultra-high performance variants were manufactured to comply with the rally rules (often termed "homologation specials"). These enthusiasts vehicles represented a brief, extreme branch of the hot hatch, and included such notable vehicles as the Peugeot 205 T-16 and MG Metro 6R4.
Until 1980 the VW Golf dominated the hot hatch market segment. Competition was limited to non-hatchbacks, the Mini, and race-inspired enthusiasts' vehicles such as the Vauxhall Chevette HS. However, sub-compacts and superminis had adopted a two-box design ever since the Mini, and, in spite of their small engines, had been adopted by young racing enthusiasts with little money because of their low weight. Thus, even though the Golf was one of the few cars with engines larger than 1.4 L and with more than 100 hp (75 kW), other hatches were on their way to becoming "hot". Also, cars such as the Hillman Imp or the Simca Rallye, while having sedan bodies, were small enough to be considered direct ancestors of the hot hatch.
With the Golf getting slower, heavier and more expensive to match its target market, space opened for a new breed of hot hatches in the 1990s:
The late 1990s saw a gradual shift away from lightweight, economical small cars and the introduction of new market category-blurring vehicles. In the 2000s new hot hatch "class" was born, engine powers grew up to .
Recent hot hatches include the following models: