Hot Hatch – featuring the Volkswagen Golf VR6


Volkswagen Golf VR6: The 90’s most underrated hot hatch?

To whoever coined the phrase “hot hatch” – thank you. I say thank you because it’s made talking about the subject a hell of a lot easier. And as car nuts, we tend to talk about the little pocket rockets quite a lot (also a good phrase – thank you). 

Car manufacturers and consumers alike have long enjoyed a passionate and, at times, obsessive love affair with the hot hatch. It’s a fascination that started in earnest during the 1970s and is still red hot five decades later (yes, yes, arguably the “first” hot hatches appeared long before 1970 but it’s widely agreed that their popularity went bananas with the arrival of Mk I VW Golf GTI in 1975).

BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Abarth, Renault, Honda, Peugeot, Toyota, VW and Hyundai to name but a few are all still producing fast, top of the range hatchbacks in 2019. Their popularity is still intensely strong with drivers because they combine so many desirable features and attributes all into one bundle of affordable joy and usefulness. And manufacturers love them because, well, they sell.

I swear, I see more BMW 140i’s on the road than any other 1 series. But maybe that’s just me. Or maybe it’s because they’re wonderful cars to market… and drive.

Although the modern hatches dwarf those from yesteryear in terms of size and performance the concept is still exactly the same: Practicality, performance and enjoyment. Something that has managed to transcend all generations of car owners, manufacturer fan bases and importantly, budgets.

There are thousands of articles strewn across the internet and magazines, if people still read magazines, about hot hatches. Which is the best hot hatch? Which is the fastest hot hatch? What was the first hot hatch? Which hot hatch is the best investment? Why is Hyundai making hot hatches? For example.

And I fully intend to add another to that long list: Is the Golf VR6 the best pre-2000 hot hatch to buy?

Slightly more specific than the other questions posed, granted. But I think it’s an interesting question. Especially given that cars from the tail-end of the last century are now considered classics for the purposes of insurance, and prestige. Getting your hands on the right model could well prove to be a worthwhile and wholly enjoyable investment.

That is presuming all the hot hatches from pre-1990 are already appreciated enough to be expensive and all the decent examples from 2000-2010 are still a bit too new to be considered a classic, you really should be looking at cars from the same decade as Jurassic Park and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

And the Golf VR6 should be at the top of your shopping list.

The Mk III Golf wasn’t really much to shout about when it was first launched. It looked lethargic compared to its sharper and sexy predecessors. What’s more, the GTI model was somewhat underpowered given the amount of weight it had put on. The Fiat Tipo and Citroen AX GTI were better-looking cars!

But in 1992 Volkswagen managed to up their game once again and squeezed a 6-cylinder engine into their famous little (slightly overweight) hatchback and the VR6 was born. Despite being the first of its kind, relatively impressive performance figures and incredible safety features it never really shone against its ’90s rivals.

The lesser-powered Peugeot 106 GTI had agility and excitability. The Nissan Sunny GTI-R was excellent for slinging your family around dirt tracks in the forest. But it was really the Williams Renault Clio and Ford RS Turbos that owned the performance and desirability stakes when it came to ’90s hatchbacks.

The Golf, it seemed, was taking a break from the limelight.

That’s not to say the VR6 wasn’t, and isn’t, popular. But let’s face it, outside of the VW community it’s been forgotten. And it shouldn’t be.

I’ve suspected it for a long time but after spending two days with the superb example seen in our film, it reinforced my belief that it is THE retro hot hatch you should be considering to buy before the prices creep up to the level they deserve. For too long it has been underrated, undervalued and overlooked.

The VR6 soundtrack is truly beautiful, special even, the low-end power and pull is wonderful and the cornering is addictive. The previous 25 years have been kind to the VR6 in my opinion, it’s quietly matured whilst everything around it remained lairy and angry. In an age of triple turbos, race exhausts and steroid-like body kits as standard, the Golf VR6 now looks refined, revered and respected.

If you own one or are thinking of owning one, don’t just stick it in the garage. Get out there and drive it.