The French hot hatch that usurped the Golf GTI
Honestly believe that the original Volkswagen Golf GTi is the most fun a small car can offer? You clearly haven’t encountered Renault’s bonkers 5GT Turbo 2…
If you delve into the automotive culture books, Volkswagen’s Golf GTi is frequently proclaimed as history’s definitive hot hatch. End of. Bar none. Full stop. Well, they’re wrong.
The GTi may have set the stall for mass-produced superminis boasting more power than a Coup D’état, but purely being first to the showroom doesn’t make it élite.
In fact, the greatest hot hatch doesn’t stem from an ethos fixated on brusque engineering and steadfast dependability. It’s not even blessed with Japanese build quality. Instead, the ultimate fire-breathing hot hatch comes from a land where lunch takes four hours and headstrong women are burned at the stake – France.
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Seeking a replacement for the Gordini Turbo, Renault decided to shoehorn a 115bhp, 1397cc, inline four-cylinder under the stunted bonnet. On paper, when compared to contemporary offerings, such an output would seem uninspiring. Most vacuum cleaners now boast similar performance figures.
However, installing such a unit within an 820kg frame produced mind-bending results. The 5 Turbo was capable of cracking 60mph from a standstill in little over 7 seconds before pushing on to a top speed of 125mph. Planting the throttle upon the right moment found 121lb ft of torque radiating through the steering wheel. In a world laced with Mini Metros, Nissan Micras and AMC Pacers, the Renault was an out-and-out monster.
Even when rival manufacturers tried to update their performance-tuned marketplace competitor, they couldn’t keep up. The Golf GTi was an entire second slower to 60mph whereas the Peugeot 205 GTi was slower still.
Clear of the city limits, Renault's bonkers creation separated the men from the boys. While the 205 GTI was all sensitive and delicate, the 5GT Turbo changed direction like a train. The more speed that registered on the dials, the more planted it felt. Calling the Tarmac-abusing Frenchie ‘exciting’ is like dubbing old-school James Bond ‘sexist’.
Just as Volkswagen’s premium performance submission came off the boil, the 5GT Turbo swept in to showcase how such a design should be undertaken. While the Golf GTi feels gruff and devoid of pleasantries and the 205 GTi remains gentle and pale in comparison, Renault’s 5GT Turbo hints at the subsequent dominance that was to follow.
Faster than the competition, better looking than the competition and oozing more steroid-fed character than any Russian athlete, is this the best 1980s hot hatch, and therefore the greatest of them all?
Not quite content with dwarfing the market, Renault’s engineering boffins tampered with the design to bring even more power to the party. Although a pure homologation special to compete in ‘Group 4’ racing and international rallies, the 5 Turbo 2 churned out 185bhp through a Factory Stage 2 upgrade. This was an automotive assassin that could be purchased from the forecourt.
Thinly veiled, road-going rally cars of this nature have often lead an abusive life, yet this example heading to auction with Silverstone Classics has escaped such torture. Trumpeting a mere 16,898 miles on the odometer and only two private owners since new, this 5 Turbo 2 was recently imported into Britain.
The very smart Bordeaux exterior retains the original soft sponge roofline spoilers, plastic intake ducts, fog and headlamps and the Beige interior is in excellent condition with authentic seats, steering wheel and luggage straps. The car sits on the original Turbine Alloy Wheels with Michelin TRX tyres and the correct Gotti steel spare wheel remains unused.
What more could you possibly ask for? Check the listing out here.
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