WITH cars like the VW Golf R posting sub-five-second sprints to 100km/h, you might think that the hot-hatch world is fairly insane right now, but itís simply following its own rich tradition.
The deranged hatch was born in 1980 with the unveiling of the genuinely intimidating Renault R5 Turbo. With wheelarches so massive you could shelter baby elephants under them, it looked as crazy as what it actually was Ė a rally car that had been mildly modified so it could be sold for the road.
A 1.4-litre turbocharged engine was wedged in behind the driver for ideal, mid-engined sportiness, which required considerable fiddling of the standard, frontengined Renault 5.
That was just the start of what the berserkers at Renaultís motor sport division were asking for, however, because they also wanted the Turbo to be rearwheel drive rather than the standard FWD.
Marcello Gandini, the man who penned the Countach, was responsible for the radical styling, while outputs were a thenimpressive 118kW and 221Nm, in a car that weighed just 970kg.
The result was a then outrageous 0-100km/h time of just 6.6sec, a top speed of 200km/h and absolute legend status in the world of hot hatches.
Renault, which now makes some very fine modern cars of this genre, was even crazy enough to try to reinvent the R5 with the Clio V6.
The excellent RS Megane can trace its lineage back to the R5 Turbo, but then just about all of its hot-hatch competitors should tip their hats to it as well.
Motor sport madness for the road; created a genre thatís still going strong today.
Only 3756 examples were built during four years in production, which makes them exceedingly rare.