I think that is an underestimated sport hatch. The engine is very very good with plenty of power from the down to high revs... I have seen about three dyno tests from three normal HGTs with down to 1000km and the power was from 138 to 139 hp IN the engine (not at the wheels. The auto companies does not give the official power at wheels but in the engine) so it has more power than 130 that FIAT says. Maybe after 50000 km the power will be better at around 140 hp. So from the engine and generally from the car's acceleration, I am very satisfied.
The handling is good. Maybe the understeer is coming a little earlier than other sport hatches, but it is very friendly, the oversteer is rare and generally you know what car will do. I think an 106 GTi will turn a little faster but is not so friendly, it wants you to be a very good driver to do it. HGT can be turned fast by a typical driver.
The brakes in 2002 were very good, but now are just good because all the new cars have very good brakes. But from the sport hatches generation of 2002, it had the best brakes.
I have to say that it is very good for trips on the highway. It is stable in high-speed and with the engine power you can be traveling with 150 km/h easily on the highway. So it is a good car if you know why you buy it.