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The original pocket rocket, the Renault 5 GT Turbo

By FaezClutchless on 09 Oct 2012

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Nowadays, when we mention the term pocket rocket (with regards to automobiles) the first car or cars that comes to our minds are models such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Peugeot 207 GTI and the Mini Cooper JCWs. The Japanese have their hot hatches too, for example the Suzuki Swift Sport.

These are the examples of todayís modern pocket rockets. But which car did the term pocket rocket was first used on? There is no definite answer to that question but many believed that the Renault 5 GT Turbo was the original pocket rocket.

The Renault 5 GT Turbo was first introduced in the mid 1980s. It was rumoured that the Renault 5 GT Turbo was a marketing tool to help promote Renaultís success with their turbocharged engines used in Formula One racing at that time.

The Phase One production Renault 5 GT Turbo was introduced in late 1985. It featured a 1.4-litre eight valve, four cylinder turbocharged engine that is said to be a pushrod unit (overhead valve) that dates back to the 1950s. Coupled with an air-cooled Garrett T2 turbocharger that pushes out 11psi of boost, the engine generates around 115bhp.

The Renault 5 GT Turbo is able to complete the century sprint in 7.5 seconds, all thanks to the car's excellent power to weight ratio (the car weighs a mere 850kg). To differentiate it with the ordinary Renault 5, the 5 GT Turbo came with boxy-looking side skirts. The Phase One car was plagued with turbo lag and poor hot starting issues.

A facelifted version was introduced in 1987. The Phase Two Renault 5 GT Turbo had several major changes which include a water-cooled turbocharger system (which prolonged the life of the turbocharger) and a new ignition system which allows it to rev 500rpm higher.

The above mentioned changes increased the power output to 120bhp. The car also received a new body styling which reduces the carís drag coefficient. This gives the car a new 0-100km/h timing of 7.3 seconds.

Over the next few years, the car receives several styling changes and the engine and performance level remained pretty much the same. By late 1991, the Renault 5 GT Turbo was discontinued and it was replaced by the Renault Clio 16v and the Renault Clio Williams.

Photo credit: Net Car Show

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Written by FaezClutchless
Some say that his blood is actually RON98 petrol and some say that his right foot weighs over 20kg. But all that we know about Faez is that he loves to drive and is a JDM enthusiast.

  • 1
Soran Oct 10 2012 08:24 PM
Technically the first mass-market hot hatch, the Golf GTI MK1 (1976) predates this car by a decade
Civic6656 Oct 11 2012 12:01 PM
Thanks for bringing back the momeries! I missed my R5...
I remember before the R5GT Turbo, there was a R Gordini Turbo. :)
FaezClutchless Oct 11 2012 01:12 PM
Soran: Somehow many don't see the Mk 1 GTi as a hot hatch or pocket rocket because it was not that fast. Try to compare both cars. Although there are a lot of differences in terms of power, weight and etc, Not many are willing to call the Mk1 GTi a pocket rocket unless they are a die hard VW fan.

The Renault 5 GT Turbo simply "wow-ed" people at that time. and I strongly believed the same thing happened when VW released the Golf GTi Mk 1. To come out with 110bhp from a 1.6 litre unit during the 1970s was pretty impressive.

The Renault 5 GT Turbo just simply replaces the Golf GTi Mk 1 as a so called title holder for pocket rockets. It is just something that people do.
Disco Oct 25 2012 06:31 PM
While Euro marques are releasing a new hot-hatch at every new motor show, the Japanese have been scaling back. I can only think of 2 Jap hot-hatches still in production at the moment - Swift Sport and WRX STI.
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