When it comes to making that used hot hatch purchase, many discerning drivers like to go continental. In particular, there are loads of great deals on a wide range of French cars; Renault, Peugeot and Citroen models are prevalent in the marketplace for used cars, and there are plenty of good reasons why!
Hot hatch lovers will remember the Peugeot 205 GTi, this was up against the Renault 5GT Turbo at the time. The Renault boasted a 120bhp, unbelievably only tipping the scales at a modest 850kg; and was a bargain in comparison. The 205 GTi was built between 1986 and 1993, the 1.9 litre model blazed a trail for sporty, lightweight smaller cars. Boasting amazing performance and superb agility, both 1.6 and 1.9 litre versions are right up there when it comes to French small car excellence. They are still brilliant to drive, and can rival or exceed many of today’s sporty hatchbacks for sheer fun. Many drivers will have experienced a 205 GTi zipping past – on private or trade plates!
Peugeot’s dominance of the hot hatch market continued with the later 306 GTi-6. Another powerhouse from the 1990s, the 306 boasted a two litre, four cylinder engine which output 167bhp and delivered amazing performance. They are affordable, fun and boast some of the sharpest handling you can experience in a car of this type.
A rarer find is the Citroen AX Sport. Built over a four year period in the mid to late 1980s, the AX is tricky to track down, but if you can find one, you’re guaranteed a fantastic driving experience at a very affordable price. Extremely light (under 700 kg), the AX married a clean, simple interior with a punchy 1300 cc engine. 95bhp may not sound like much, but this car delivered in spades.
Citroen’s hot hatch stable was rounded out by the Saxo VTS. Much loved by car enthusiasts and those who liked to tinker with their cars, this sporty little car oozed speed and stability in equal measure, meaning it is a joy to drive. If you’re lucky enough to find a model that’s been relatively unaltered, the VTS could well answer your hot hatch needs!
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Both private owners and motor traders will have dozens of examples of the Renault Clio on offer, but if you’re after a prime example of French fun, then seek out the Renault Clio Williams. Another contender from the early to mid 1990s, the Williams was fitted with a modified suspension and uprated gearbox. When combined with a superb 2.0 litre engine, this represents another excellent driving experience; with just 5,000 examples built, finding one may be tricky, but if you can acquire one you won’t be disappointed.
The Williams is a terrific car, but its sister Clio, the 182 Trophy, may just be the best Clio ever produced, certainly from a driving viewpoint. The key component giving it that extra edge is a suspension set up rivalling that of a full-on rally car; like the Williams, they can be hard to pick up – indeed just 500 models rolled off the production line – but find one, get the right insurance policy, and you can experience one of the best hot hatches ever built.