Classic 1990's hot hatches - a brief buying guide

Scared off by the rising prices of historic hot hatches? Here are the 90's icons you should buy before it's too late.

If you’ve sat back and watched in amazement the rise in values of classic 1980s hot hatches, then you may already have left it too late to acquire one. Led by the 205 GTI 1.9, but with Renault’s 5 GT Turbo and the hardy Mk2 VW Golf GTI in close company, the ’80s performance hatch has become the latest ‘affordable’ classic. However, with values of the best 205s now soaring over £20,000, the obvious place to look for more realistic alternatives is the following decade: the 1990s. 

The ’90s was a decade of mixed fortunes for the hot hatch. On one hand the breed nearly became extinct altogether as thefts, insurance costs and fashion conspired to turn manufacturers and buyers alike towards a new wave of coupes. But it was also the decade that saw the arrival of genuine evo greats, such as the Renault Clio Williams. These were more habitable, safer, more capable cars than their predecessors, but still with that raw edge and involvement often missing from their modern-day counterparts.

> Click here for our favourite modern hot hatches.

Renault Clio Williams - 1993

The Williams may be over 20 years old now, but this car is arguably still the finest exponent of the small hot hatch there’s ever been, 205 included. In fact, if there’s one car to really put the wind up the 205 GTI in every sense, it’s the Williams: prices for the best cars are already strong. And remember, over its three iterations it was the Williams that introduced us to the reality of a solid 150bhp in a small French hatch.

Richard Northrop, from the excellent community site williamsclio.co.uk, paints a picture of surging values: ‘This last year they’ve gone crazy – or at least the “1” has. Tatty ones have more than doubled and can now be five grand, while the really good cars, with less than 50,000 miles on them, can be £25,000. The trend I’ve noticed now is that most of the good cars go to auction; they’re seen as an investment, and owners are starting to restore rather than just get rid.’

But the path to a good Williams is fraught with difficulty: ‘Parts are becoming hard to find – there are lots you can’t get now. Mechanically they’re okay, but the body lets them down – the rear arches and sills are terrible for corrosion, and the “3” seems to be the worst for that.’

Peugeot 306 GTI 6 - 1996

Such fanatical interest is anathema to the world of the Peugeot 306 GTI 6. Sure, they weren’t numbered, or a homologation special, but the fabulous 306 ruled the hot hatch world in its lifetime as convincingly as anything before or since. Somehow, this isn’t currently reflected in values. Stuart Farrimond is the chairman of the Peugeot Sport Club UK (pscuk.net): ‘The 306 is still in banger territory with most around £500-1500. The GTI 6 can have engine problems, and they do suffer from corrosion in awkward places. So that – along with the engines once going into 205s – has meant a lot being scrapped.

We only had 40 turn up to our recent Pugfest day, and remember the most recent was only made in 2000. In fact, we’ve stopped putting them on our club stands because people either tend to think they’re too modern or just an old banger. Even the Rallye version isn’t worth much more, due to the same corrosion and engine issues. Having said that, we’re starting to get more chatter on the forums and interest in the club about the cars, and I wouldn’t be surprised if values rise significantly over the next few years. I can’t see them ever going over £10,000 though, but I might be wrong!’

SEAT Ibiza Cupra - 1996

Remember those crazy little SEATs in the wild colours and with the white wheels? The Mk2 SEAT Ibiza Cupra, to be precise, was a homologation special for SEAT Sport to go rallying, – something it did with great success in the mid- to late-1990s. Just ask yourself, though, when was the last time you saw one? Mark Forbes is from seatcupra.net and tells a story of a car almost forgotten: ‘There’s not a great deal of chatter about Mk2s in general – it’s not a burgeoning scene. Pricing is anyone’s guess: they don’t come up for sale very often, and tend to go quickly when they do. Prices can range from hundreds to a couple of grand, but it’s finding one that’s hard.’

> Click here for our run down of forgotton hot hatches

The verdict:

The world of classic cars is a fickle one: if a car has all the right ingredients of perception, image, ability and desirability, it can ascend to that hallowed classic status where expenditure becomes justified and the ‘for sale’ advertisements ever-more pretentious; if not, it can simply fall off the cliff into oblivion. 

With more attainable performance cars, such as these hot hatches of the 1990s, the fall from ‘latest hot property’ to ‘cheap fast car’ territory can be more pronounced than most. Many of these cars are unlikely to recover from the years of abuse and neglect, and unfortunately ’90s cars seem no more immune to the issues of corrosion, fragility and parts supply than equivalent vehicles from preceding decades.

All the more reason now to snap up one while you still can, whether that’s joining the Clio Williams investment trail or taking a punt on something more below the radar – a Peugeot 306 Rallye, for example. Whatever your choice, given the manner in which these kinds of cars drive, it’s unlikely to be a boring home for your cash.

Most Popular

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers

The long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid has finally come to fruition, with first US examples hitting the road
11 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched
2021 Maserati GranTurismo spy – track
Maserati

2021 Maserati GranTurismo to go EV-only – IC option ditched

GranTurismo coupe and its soft-top GranCabrio sibling to be reborn later this year, but controversially without the proposed combustion alternative...…
11 Jun 2021
Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder
Posaidon Mercedes-AMG E63
Mercedes E63 AMG

Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder

Three new Posaidon power upgrades are now available for Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S, bringing hypercar numbers to the four door supersaloon
9 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals 11 June 21
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
11 Jun 2021
Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come
Mercedes-AMG GT53 MY22 – front tracking
Mercedes

Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come

GT43 and GT53 4-Doors receive a refresh while we await the arrival of the V8 hybrid GT73
14 Jun 2021
Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated
Best small cars 2021
Best cars

Best small cars 2021 – pocket rockets reviewed and rated

You don’t need 200bhp or more in a small hatchback to have fun – these ‘warm’ small cars are the proof
7 Jun 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – front
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement mule spied – will it emulate the McLaren Artura?

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
9 Jun 2021
HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86
HKS Toyota GR 86
Toyota

HKS in development of a supercharger kit for new 2021 Toyota GR 86

Japanese tuner HKS is in development of a supercharger upgrade package for the new GR 86
9 Jun 2021
BMW announces entry into LMDh class from 2023 – to fight Audi, Porsche and other big names
BMW Le Mans header
BMW

BMW announces entry into LMDh class from 2023 – to fight Audi, Porsche and other big names

The 2023 LMDh class is shaping up to be a big one, with BMW getting back in on the action with its own racer, but only in the USA
11 Jun 2021
Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?
Jethro opinion header
Opinion

Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?

The boot struts have gone saggy and the hatch slams onto my head three times a week, but the Clio Trophy is hard to resist
8 Jun 2021