How does Renaultâ€™s fiery hot hatch from the 80s stack up today?
The hot hatch really came of age in the 1980s. Todayâ€™s heroes such as the Renault Clio RS all have their roots in the groundbreaking originals of yesteryear â€“ and few were more rabid than the monster Renault 5 GT Turbo.
Unlike its contemporary rivals such as the Peugeot 205 GTI, Renault fitted a potent turbocharged engine to the bantamweight little hatch. The result was the birth of a road car legend, one that successfully managed to consumerise the ferocious 1980 Renault 5 Turbo rally car homologation special.
The GT Turbo was launched in 1984, and although 114bhp doesnâ€™t sound all that much today, the 1.4-litre turbo engineâ€™s performance was still pretty electrifying. It was faster than even a 1.9-litre Peugeot 205 GTI, for example, and handled very well through the bends too.
Sensing that there was an opportunity to go a little further, Renault facelifted the GT Turbo in 1987. The so-called Phase 2 cars gained smart body-coloured wheelarches, better seats and an improved cooling system that made them (a bit) easier to start when hot. Power was increased too, thanks to a higher red line for the engine.
Contemporary reports were glowing, with the 5 GT Turbo scooping many a â€˜hot hatch of the yearâ€™ prize. Its gem-like engine, grippy chassis and perfect interior were all praised, with one title describing it as â€œthe ultimate road-legal go-kartâ€.
0-62mph took just 7.2 seconds, which is fast even by modern standards: at the time, it must have seemed incredible. Thank the carâ€™s sub-one-tonne kerbweight for this, although you had to work hard for it: turbo lag was a big issue in the 1980s, meaning drivers would initially think the 5 GT Turbo was a lethargic thing until power came in with a rocket-like rushâ€¦
Itâ€™s something that you soon get used to even today, though. Whatâ€™s perhaps a bit less impressive to modern drivers is the carâ€™s grip, which seems little better than a conventional car. Where todayâ€™s cars canâ€™t hope to match the Renault 5 is in feel and feedback, though: this little Renault rocket genuinely feels alive. Even the ride quality isnâ€™t bad.
However, to buy secondhand, theyâ€™re no longer the bargain they once were. You can get a rough, scrappy example for around Â£3,000, but if you want the very best, youâ€™ll have to fork out upwards of Â£9000, with many coming in at the Â£12,000 mark.
Genuine factory-fresh examples with tiny mileages basically cost the same as a modern hot hatch â€“ around Â£20,000. And no matter what you spend, donâ€™t expect contemporary reliability. The 5 GT Turbo was never the most dependable machine even when new, and will prove to be much more temperamental than a modern car today.
At least it wonâ€™t depreciate like a modern car, though: find a good one and youâ€™ll have a solidly-appreciating asset that will also prove thrill-a-minute to drive. Admit it, youâ€™re just a little bit tempted, arenâ€™t you?