The world would have been a much better place if they had.
Hot hatches are a special kind of vehicle, historically representing an entry to the world of performance cars in a manner that’s affordable, fun, and with enough power to exploit, but not enough to get you into trouble. While some hot hatches, though not many, follow those traits, modern equivalents are pricey things offering the performance of decade old supercars. However, some hot hatches have been relegated to the history books, having never reached production despite their crazy ambitions. We’ve selected 10 hot hatches that were never fated to be.
We start this list off with a golden oldie. Back in 1981, French automaker, Citroen, decided they wanted to take on the World Rally Championship. Rivals, Renault, had the Renault 5 Turbo which was decimating almost everything, so the task ahead was tough. Citroen teamed up with Lotus to create the Visa by Lotus, which was essentially the body of a hatchback from the Frenchmen, loaded atop the chassis of a Lotus Esprit. It generated 210 horsepower from a 2.2 liter engine, mated to a 5-speed gearbox.
Sadly, testing proved that the Visa by Lotus wasn’t sturdy enough for competition, and the debut of the Audi Quattro ensured that the Visa By Lotus never made production. It’s rumored that two were made, one located at the Citroen museum, and the other residing somewhere unknown.
To celebrate 40 years of Renault’s Renault Sport (RS) division, the brand released a tantalizing 2016 concept that many had hoped would reach production. Sadly, it never did, but the Clio RS16 was based on the brand’s smallest hot hatch, the Clio RS, and equipped with the running gear from the senior Megane RS hot hatch that dominated the Nurburgring on many occasions. To that end, a 2.0-liter turbo 4 cylinder generated 271 horsepower, channeled to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox.
That last bit was absolute gold, as the standard Clio RS was and still is only available with a twin-clutch automatic. It weighed around 2600 pounds, and rumors suggested it would be the quickest front-drive car around the ‘Ring. But it was just a concept, never destined for anything more.
There is still hope in some circles that the Golf R400 might reach production eventually, despite Dieselgate effectively canning development on the hyper-hatch. Based on the all-wheel drive Golf R, the R400 turned the wick up on the EA888 engine to develop 400 hp from its 2.0-liter capacity. It was said to be reliable too, and when paired with the DSG dual-clutch auto ‘box and AWD, the R400 was set to reshape the hot-hatch game forever. But 2015 wasn’t a good year for Volkswagen, and funds had to be redirected towards crisis management after Dieselgate, halting development on the road-going R400. Still, we silently hope for its resurrection.
At a time when Volvo was known for safety more than anything else, the C30 was the first model to inject some real style into the brand. Polestar, before they were bought out by Volvo and went electric, handled development of Volvo’s racing exploits, and decided to turn the C30 into something maniacal to celebrate victory in the 2009 Swedish Touring Car Championship. The 2.5-liter turbo 5 cylinder was tuned to develop 456 hp, mated to a Haldex all-wheel drive system, and a six-speed manual gearbox.
0-62 mph was achieved in 4.2 seconds and a pair of Quiafe differentials were employed to help aid agility. Nothing this manic ever reached production though, with only the Rebel Blue paintwork reaching showroom floors
Renault’s latest generation Twingo is a compact hatchback sharing a platform with the Smart ForTwo and ForFour, including the rear-mounted engine (in Smarts we no longer get here). Renault saw fit to imbibe the Twingo with the spirit of the R5 Turbo and Clio V6, dropping in a 3.5-liter V6 between the rear wheels that developed 320 hp. It naturally drove the rear wheels, and thanks to fiberglass body panels, the TwinRun concept would’ve been immensely fast. It likely would’ve been dangerous on the road, too, and as such it was limited to the realm of concepts.
Audi may be somewhat losing its touch when it comes to performance lately, but that doesn’t mean it can’t create an insane concept or two. The A1 Clubsport Quattro took the compact A1, and equipped it with all-wheel drive and Audi’s award winning 2.5-liter turbo 5-pot. It generated a mammoth 500 hp, enabling a 0-62 mph sprint of 3.7 seconds, and 0-124 mph sprint of 10.9s. All this was managed with a 6-speed manual gearbox – but sadly it never reached the production line, and remained a Worthersee special.
The 308 is Peugeot's Golf rivaling hatch with a 308 GTI already fighting the hot hatch battle in Europe. But the 308 R HYbrid of 2016 upped the ante significantly. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the 308 R HYbrid utilized a 1.6-liter turbo engine developing 268 hp, mated to two 114-hp electric motors on the rear axle to develop a total maximum output of 494 hp. An automatic 6-speed handled shift work, enabling a four second 0-62 mph time, whilst the hybrid drivetrain enabled a theoretical 94 mpg.
Electric cars are seemingly the future of mobility, but what’s a car without a performance version to have some fun with? Renault decided to showcase what electricity could do, taking the drivetrain from its Formula E racer and dropping into a bespoke version of the ZOE e-Sport Concept. It was by no means production ready, with virtually no sound deadening or refinement, but the 460 hp output, paired with the 3,200 lbs weight, ensured 0-62 mph took 3.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 130 mph in under 10 seconds. The ZOE e-Sport sure proves the future is exciting – if anything like this ever reaches production.
Throughout the rest of the world, Opel’s Astra has rivalled the VW Golf for generations, with the OPC version providing a hardcore alternative to the all-rounder GTI. In 2014, an even more hardcore model was proposed. Dubbed the Astra OPC EXTREME, the 3-door coupe hatchback boosted power outputs from its 2.0-liter turbo motor to 300 hp, while reducing weight with carbon-fiber body panels and wheels. Six point racing harnesses, racing seats, and a roll-cage were included too. The OPC EXTREME was once touted for production pending public reception, but GM eventually offloaded the brand to Peugeot, ending that possibility with it.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI W12 650 Concept reads like a cat across a keyboard, but the 2007 concept was the definition of insanity when it debuted. Based on the Golf 5 GTI, the show car was equipped with a 641-hp 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12, mounted behind the front seats and delivering power to the rear axle. A six-speed automatic gearbox handled all the power, ensuring 0-62 mph in just 3.7 seconds before topping out north of 200 mph. The insane concept was lower, wider, and meaner than any standard GTI, but was developed purely as a show car for the annual Worthersee show.