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Hot Hatch Love Lost?

At the time of writing this I am driving a DS3 Performance. That’s it above. With its Parisian boulevardier looks and feisty engine it is the very epitome of a hot hatch. There’s much I like and some things I like not. I’ll write a pretty positive review soon; but there’s a problem.

Many car makers have a hot hatch like this in their catalogue. Like French wines, most are fine at what they do; some are better than others and a couple give you acid reflux or have you reaching for the Imodium.

When out putting the DS3 Performance through its considerable paces I was struck by a sense of (sticking to the French theme) ennui. As I was driving the thought occurred to me that I had been here and done this and on numerous occasions. “Fine”, you might say, “its easy for you to think that. You get to drive cars like this whenever you like”.

Hot Hatch Ownership

Yes, this is almost true (some are more available than others) but it is probably not wrong to say that if you buy and own one for a period, the shortcomings become more apparent. Are they really suitable as a daily driver? Really? The firm to harsh ride, the noise and general frantic nature of the beasts can soon become a tad wearying.

I have owned a couple myself. My love affair with a SEAT Ibiza Cupra a few years ago lasted only a few months, once my base hot hatch urges had been sated. T’was nothing more than a Magaluf holiday romance you could say. Fun for a fortnight but once you’re back at the airport you realise it wasn’t really love at all.

In the passenger seat, my wife was forever under the impression that the Cupra was going to take off into the nearest hedge. I soon traded it in for a sleek Alfa Romeo 159. This conclusively proves one thing as far as you readers are concerned. You can take away what you want from my car reviews but don’t ever take anything away from my personal car choices.

In their bid to deliver ever more powerful and aggressive superminis laden with technology and turbochargers and Torsen diffs and trendy paint jobs into the hot hatch arena, it is my contention that car makers have forgotten to add the original ingredient: FUN.

Remember the first Golf GTi or the Peugeot 205GTi from the 1980’s? I owned a Pug and I loved it. Not a patch on the performance of today’s offerings of course but that crucial ingredient was there by the spoonful. It broke down often obviously, it was a Peugeot, but when it was on the road it was a laugh a mile.


The front-driving hot hatch has grown up and become too serious.

Who are these cars for? Young drivers, who, for the most part, are the motorists likely to crave hot hatchery, probably couldn’t even begin paying the insurance premiums for a start.

For those motorists who crave a really serious hotty there’s already the four-wheel drivers like the blistering Golf R or the brilliant Audi RS3 further up the range. Hot hatches for the masses need to lighten up. Anything over 180bhp seems to me to be pointless on British roads with British rules.

That’s what I felt when testing the DS3 Performance. In many ways it is an excellent hot hatch, a real pocket rocket. The trouble is, I was no longer having fun. Geoff Maxted