I’ve always loved hatchbacks. In fact, most of us who grew up in India in the 1990s owned one and even learnt to drive in one.
If given a choice, I’d choose a Mini Cooper S over many more expensive sportscars and probably even supercars. Not cause I like the Cooper S so much, but because I really like hot hatches.
With a Porsche 944 being my first car back in college, and me being privileged enough to drive some exotic cars regularly, I’m not a stranger to sportscars. But truth be told, even when I plan on driving my cars in the evenings, I worry about it all afternoon. Rash driving by other drivers and the chalta hai attitude for scratches and dings is something I can’t get to terms with.
I don’t enjoy driving a low-slung supercar or even a muscle car on our potholed roads. In fact, auto rickshaw drivers petrify me with their fender guards, and a proper supercar is extremely cumbersome and stressful to drive in traffic, especially with their limited visibility, low noses and hard ride.
Of course, there are everyday supercars like the 911 and Nissan GTR, but they remain affordable only to a few. Most supercar owners I know are switching to super-sedans and super-SUVs.
Supercar purists may play down sleepers, but there is no denying how practical they are for daily runs and can be faster than thoroughbred supercars in the real world too!
This brings me to hot hatches and why I think everyone should own one. You can enjoy zipping around town without much worry. It would be impolite to thrash a Cooper S around town like Charlize Theron did in The Italian Job, but they are the fastest cars that’ll get from one end of town to another, in the most fun way. Most of all, a nice hot hatch with about 180hp would have more than enough performance in the real world. Better still, it would be accessible performance.
If given an option, I’d have a classic hot hatch like the 205 GTI, the Renault 5 Turbo and the original Golf GTI in a heartbeat, for their unmatched combination of practicality, fun and ease of living with.
There are some modern ones that I find highly desirable. The Polo GTI may not look special enough on a Supercar Sunday meet, but it will be way more fun for the weekly chores. You can even leave it parked without attracting attention, and it would park in the same amount of space as your mum’s regular Polo. Best of all, you can smoke many luxury sedans costing a lot more in a quarter mile. Perfect!
As we’ve learnt from the Polo GTI, three-door hot hatches at the correct price (after discounts) have the potential to sell like hot cakes.
What I really wish for are cars like the Swift Sport or even the Baleno with Suzuki’s 1.4L Boosterjet. Yes, there is the Baleno RS and Polo GT TSI, but they are only lukewarm. Sports badges on regular hatches with body kits, wider tyres and alloy wheels are fine, but kick-starting the hot hatch segment with affordable, fun models at the right price could be what Indian enthusiasts have long been waiting for!