Bring The Hot Hatch Back

January 28th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

There has been an ever-so-slight outpouring of media brouhaha this week over a survey which revealed that buying a house in New Zealand – particularly Auckland – is a tough ask. Because our earning power is comparatively low when compared to the rest of the developed world, it now takes around 6 times the average household income to put a roof over your head.

This makes me quite apoplectic with rage.

Not about the house prices themselves I hasten to add as these are pretty much governed by the laws of supply and demand. Decent housing stock in the better, more accessible areas of our main cities is a finite commodity and as such can command serious premiums. And like all luxury commodities available to capitalist man, there will be some fortunate, hard-working, affluent souls who can afford it and the rest of us who cannot. If this offends your sense of justice, then why not pop off to North Korea and let me know how Communism works out for you.

Arm and a leg

No, I take decidedly more umbrage with the fact the survey was even conducted in the first place. I don’t know how much time, effort and expense went into this, but producing an end result that tells you little more that it’s a bit of a stretch to fork out for a pad in Remuera isn’t exactly breaking new ground. One can only assume that when they aren’t collating this particular tome the good folk at Demographia – the company behind the study – content themselves with unravelling such mysteries as the Catholicism of Popes and whether bears lean towards defecation in heavily treed areas.

It is no secret that more and more people have to make money stretch a lot further nowadays and it is inevitable that sacrifices will have to be made. And short of selling children into slavery and changing diets to consist entirely of Budget brand margarine, the single easiest target in any household is the family steed. In times of plenty having a plaything in the garage or a V8 as the regular runabout is a wonderful thing indeed, but in this dark fiscal age it seems we’re all destined to abandon fun forever, buy a Prius and wait to die.

If only there was a way we could afford some motoring pleasure in our lives whilst staying within the constraints of our increasingly meagre budgets. All our problems would be solved if someone – anyone – could sit down and come up with a vehicle that went like the toilet door on curry night, but cost about the same as a plate of poppadoms.

Oh, hang on a moment – they have. The hot hatchback.

The hot hatch was very much a child of the 1980s. This was the decade of excess, where greed was good and vast herds of investment bankers roamed free in their ubiquitous Porsche 911s. And that made hot hatches quite a lesson in irony. Because while they were designed to be the working man’s entry into the performance car club, they were also frugal, inexpensive to buy and were every bit as user friendly as the cooking models on which they were based.

Heart and soul

Sadly in recent times mainstream hot hatches have become decidedly more tepid affairs and the performance oriented options like MINI’s Cooper S and the fabulous Abarth 500 have shifted into the airy and expensive realm of the fashionable. This is all very well, but for the budget conscious buyer of today, things need stripping back to the roots; take a very cheap hatchback and tart it up with bucket seats, a trick camshaft, alloy wheels and a body kit. The brand is immaterial – up to the point their 205 GTi stole the hot hatch title from Volkswagen’s Golf, Peugeot’s level of street cred was shared with those knitted things your grandmother used for covering spare toilet rolls – but the end product must be uncompromisingly fun to drive whilst still be capable of accommodating a couple of sprogs and half of Pak ‘n Save.

I can only surmise it will be the Chinese – currently the default white knights of the motor industry – who will eventually pick up this particular baton and run with it. Acquiring companies such as MG Rover and Volvo has handed them a historical knowledge base into which they can tap and they can rest assured that a proper, old-fashioned hot hatch would do wonders for the worldwide brand credibility of anyone who makes a decent fist of it.

Besides, Geely GTi has a certain ring to it don’t you think?

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