An industry-wide shift towards drifting has also triggered renewed interest in the classic 1980’s hatchback. When Americans think of hatchbacks, they think “grocery getters” but in Europe, these smaller antique cars were designed to compete against the heavier supercars of the 60s and 70s. If you’re thinking about getting a hatchback, either for racing or nostalgia, here are a few popular and affordable models to look out for.
While the North American version of the Escort focused chrome and trunk space, the European was all about performance. The XR3i debuted in 1983 with performance-grade brakes, suspension, and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system. Off the production line, the XR3i made 105 horsepower and went from 0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds. By far the biggest draw for this model was the five-speed gearbox, considered a luxury option for hatchbacks during the early 80s. You can usually find this model in fair condition for less than $8,000. Although more expensive by comparison, the 1992 Cosworth RS edition is another Escort worth looking at.
In 1984 Renault redesigned the popular Renault 5, into the GT Turbo. The new model maintained the mechanical simplicity and performance of the original 5 series but upgraded to a 1.4-liter pushrod engine. The Garrett T2 turbocharger also came standard on the 1985 version, hence the name GT Turbo. The car made 113 horsepower and 122 lb-ft of torque, surpassing the performance outputs of other 1.7-liter engines on the market at the time. At 2,000 pounds, this lightweight hatchback could do 0-60 in 7.5 seconds. In Europe, people often mistake the GT Turbo for the 5 Series “Le Car” but in America, you’re sure to turn heads with this rare 80s flashback.
Owning any Alfa Romeo is considered a hallmark in the life of a car enthusiast but when it comes to hatchbacks the 33 model is a must. Towards the end of the hatchback era, manufacturers were looking to the four-door design to appeal to larger families. The Alfa Romeo was one of the first hatchbacks that tried to incorporate the four-door design. Even with the extra length and weight, the 1.7-liter hatchback made 135 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque. For a simple car without a complicated onboard computer, the 33 model is perfect, however, as any Alfa Romeo owner will tell you, they’re not without wiring issues. You can find the 33 and other classic hatchbacks and antique cars for sale usually under $7,000.