You would think that, following two energy crisis and rapid urbanization, that the “hot hatch” trend that swept Europe in the 1980s would’ve translated well to the United States. A small, nimble city car that would scratch that hoon’s itch and, when driven responsibly, actually be a responsible, frugal small hatchback when you needed it? It might not be the fire-breathers of the 1960s and early 1970s, but if you’ve got to grow up and be presentable, why not make your everyday driver a pulse-raiser? Chrysler kind of got the memo…with a little help from Shelby the Omni became the GLH and GLHS and 175 horsepower in a small hatchback never behaved so badly. But when you have a Trans Am and a Mustang nearby, suddenly the Omni returns to that dorky little thing, doesn’t it? That’s a shame, because Europe did get some killer little cars to play with, like the Ford Fiesta XR2, the Renault 5 Turbo, and the Ford Escort RS Turbo. We got…well, maybe if you look to the later 1980s and early 1990s you can bring in cars like the Mazda 323 GTX and the Dodge Colt GT Turbo, but they were few and far between and often overshadowed by the likes of the IROC-Z and the poster supercars from Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Is it strange that BangShift likes these little cars? They look dorky as all get-out, but the idea of making a daily something worth driving instead of just another boring-ass appliance has merit. Think about the other GTI from the 1980s, the one made by Volkswagen. That car is pretty much the dictionary picture of “hot hatch” for all of the right reasons: it was small, light, handled like it was on rails and for it’s size, was a snotty little bastard. Peugeot’s image in the states usually aligns with the weird dude that runs the library in some deceivingly wealthy hamlet in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t look at a Peugeot 505 station wagon and think that the same company could make a car worth driving at all, but Peugeot did have a ball in rally racing and the wicked homologation special 205 Turbo 16 was an evil little thing. Maybe there was hope for the two-passenger, three-door tiny car after all.