With hot hatches like the rally-derived 2020 Toyota GR Yaris pulling more than 260 horsepower out of tiny 3-cylinder engines, it can be hard to remember what little pocket rockets were like just twelve years ago when power was low and weight was even lower.
Luckily, Fifth Gear’s Vicky Butler-Henderson and Tom Ford spent some time pitting a Fiat Panda 100HP against a Renault Twingo GT back in 2008, and we’ve got the footage here to give you all a refresher.
These two cars hail from a different era of hot hatches. Rather than pushing ever more power through complex differential systems, these cars opt for simple drivetrains (a 1.4 litre naturally-aspirated four in the Fiat and a turbo-ed 1.2 in the Twingo), both making no more than 100 horsepower. Carrying those motors are light, compact bodies that weigh less than 1000 kg.
The driving philosophy for both of these cars is all about pushing the cars to their limit, revving high and braking lightly. With such low curb-weights, even at the edge, the cars seem to stay pretty controllable. I like that in a car. A low barrier to entry for fun is a lot more enjoyable than too much power to use, I think.
In the head-to-head, the Fiat comes out a little quicker than the Renault, despite a slightly lower top speed. With its four doors and a slight edge on the track over the Twingo, I think the Panda would be the one for me between the two, though I wouldn’t say no to chance behind the wheel of the Renault either.
These days, the spotlight is largely off of these cars, but enthusiasts looking for a bargain have started to take notice again. In 2018, Evo published this guide to picking out a plum among the Panda 100HPs on the market. It’s worth a read, especially since time is ticking until you can bring one stateside. Only thirteen years to go.