Any conversation about hot hatches either starts or ends with the nameplate that established the genre in the first place: the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Now in its seventh iteration, the GTI is neither the lightest, the most powerful nor the most advanced of its ilk.
So what is it that makes the GTI such an iconic car? And, more importantly, why is this Mk7 version arguably the best yet? DEON SCHOEMAN gets behind the wheel to find out.
Hot hatches started out as hairy-chested, raucous and unruly backyard specials - humble commuters and econoboxes, brutally transformed by shoe-horning bigger, more muscular power plants into cramped engine bays, bolting on bigger-bore exhausts, and squeezing larger alloys and fatter rubber into confined wheel wells.
Well, that used to be the case. Today's performance hatchbacks are a far cry from those early, fast-and-furious machines. They're even faster - but also much more sophisticated, harnessing cutting-edge technology to extract sports car-rivalling urge from soberly executed hatchbacks.
The reason is simple: what used to be a niche market with only specialist appeal, has grown to embrace mainstream support with attractive sales volume potential.
One could argue that Volkswagen legitimised the hot hatch phenomenon. The original...