Small Doesn’t Mean Boring
There’s something about a smaller car with lower curb weight packed tight with a turbocharged four-cylinder motor that you just can’t recreate in a bigger car. And, if you notice, it’s something those big ol’ V8s have been trying to capture for years now.
That is a zippy nature that is at home in the corners as it is on the straights and something that feels as aggressive from zero-to-sixty as it does from sixty-to-one-hundred. The best part of these small cars is they feel like they have the space of a small SUV without being as large.
So to those people who think you can only have fun sitting behind eight cylinders (or heck, even six), we say take a spin in these diminutive little whips and try not to have the time of your life.
Hyundai Veloster N
The Veloster N is one of the newest and most exciting additions to this list. Featuring a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that produces 275-horsepower and an optional over-boost function that increases your torque from 260 to 278 pound-feet, this is perhaps the best and most thrilling of the bunch. And in addition to four different settings of driving modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, and N), you can input and save your own custom driving settings, tweaking your throttle response, adaptive dampers, rev-matching, stability control, limited-slip differential, steering weight, and, of course, exhaust.
Honda Civic Type R
Like the Veloster, the Civic Type R sports a turbocharged 2.0 four-cylinder that makes at least 306 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque. Manual transmission is standard as is a dual-clutch (rumored to have been added to match the thrill of the Veloster’s dual). As the Civic has long been a staple of tuner culture (which generally gravitates to the 2.0 or 2.5-liter, four cyl powerplants), the Type R is Honda’s way of giving back to that community, straight from the factory. And with a signature rear wing and massive, 19 or 20-inch wheels, the Civic Type R is an impossible-to-miss car on the streets.
Subaru WRX STI
Is there a more iconic four-cylinder than the Subaru WRX STI? Perhaps it’s thanks to the WRX winning World Rally Championships what seems like year after year.
Whatever it is, the WRX STI is one of the bedrocks of high-performance four-cylinder cars. Featuring a turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four and some of the stiffest factory handling available anywhere (along with mandatory manual transmission), this is a racer’s racecar and one that was never intended for the faint of heart.
Ford Focus RS
At the top of the four-cylinder horsepower mountain, you’ll find the Ford Focus RS, which somehow coaxes 350 horses out of its turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed manual trans. And with race-ready seats that’ll keep your body in place and nineteen-inch wheels, this thing is tailor-made for cornering, while possessing enough power to send you out of the apex and down the straights with aplomb.