RAC Cars News


The joy of the GTi

By raccars Published

Citroen GTI

Did you know GTi or GTI is from the Italian 'Gran Turismo Iniezione' - Grand Tourer Injection?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that GTi was a term reserved for hot hatchbacks, but it was originally the designation for Grand Tourer models fitted with a fuel injection system. The term was first used on the Maserati 3500 GTI in 1961 but has since become indelibly associated with Volkswagen thanks to the Golf GTi.

However a number of interesting cars have worn the GTi badge, particularly in the Eighties. A sharp little GTi was every boy racer's dream. While Italian supercars were out of reach, GTi hot hatches were affordable, achievable and great fun.

French GTis

The Peugeot GTi is another great hot hatch from the Eighties and is probably the best known example of a GTi apart from the Volkswagen Golf. Peugeot has used the term a number of times, including for the 106, 206, 207, 208, 306, 308, 309 and 505 but the Peugeot 205 GTi is fast achieving legendary status among fans of modern classics and is even considered by many to have out-GTi-ed the Golf.

Another French manufacturer, Citroen, also took a liking to the GTi designation, which it applied to its Visa, AX and BX models, but also to the large CX saloon in 1977, which was fitted with the most up to date L-Jetronic injection system from Bosch. In 1985 customers could add a turbo to the CX GTi, resulting in a very powerful but comfortable car.

Japanese GTis

In the late Eighties Toyota introduced the fourth generation Celica, which came as a 2.0 litre GT-i variant in the European market. Daihatsu went for a variation on the theme in the late Eighties with the nippy Charade GTi - a three cylinder turbocharged 1.0 litre unit that miraculously managed 100 horsepower and enjoyed a pretty respectable rallying career. The fourth generation Charade in 1993 went for the more traditional GTi designation and squeezed out a little extra horsepower with a punchier 1.6 litre 16 valve engine.

Nissan has applied the GTi designation to the flagship Sunny and Almera models. The Almera GTi was an aggressive-looking version of the standard hatchback and was a version of the Pulsar model, which was available in GTI-R rally spec.

The Russian GTi

Believe it or not, there was even a GTi spec Lada, a version of the 1106 model which apparently used an Opel-sourced 2.0 litre 16 valve with 150 horsepower. Even the internet has very little to say about this fabled beast but as the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear...

Rover Metro GTi

In the early Nineties Rover spiced up its Metro supermini's K series engine with a 16 valve GTi. Lotus later put the same engine in its first generation Elise. While never a particularly distinguished member of the hot hatch scene, the Rover Metro GTi has been gaining a following in recent years as a low cost way into motor racing, thanks to simple mechanicals which are easy to work on even for amateurs.

Volkswagen and GTi

The Seat Ibiza also wore a GTi badge in the mid to late Nineties, but it is technically a Volkswagen as it rides on the same platform as the Mk3 VW Polo.

However when Suzuki identified its hot, electronically fuel injected Swift model as a GTi in 1986, Volkswagen USA brought its lawyers in and forced the company to change the name to the Swift GT in 1994.

R line, RS and ST designations are commonly used for high performance models these days, but the hot hatch is becoming newly appreciated. Could the GTi badge be revived to harness our nostalgia in a clever marketing campaign?


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