Little Cars That Could: 10 City and Subcompact Cars That are More Potent Than They Look

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Making a car fun to drive doesn’t necessarily involve insane amounts of horsepower and torque or limits that only pro racers can get close to on a closed track. Sometimes all a car needs to be fun is lightness, great balance, and a well-tuned chassis. Power is just part of the recipe in making a car entertaining, and it’s not always the first priority—unless it’s a Challenger and Charger Hellcat. In celebration of energetic cars that prioritize handling over brute force, here are some fun-size rides that’ll give you plenty of smiles behind the wheel. Honda CR-Z Power isn’t where the Honda CR-Z’s potency lies; it’s in its agility. Despite being only rated at 130 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque (127 lb-ft with the CVT), the CR-Z is still fun to drive because of its engaging handling. Should you crave more power, Honda Performance Development has an upgrade kit that adds a different exhaust and a supercharger for a total output of 197 hp and 176 lb-ft. The upgrade is available for the manual-equipped CR-Z. Fiat 500 Abarth Small and loud, the Fiat 500 Abarth punches above its weight by offering plenty of fun behind the wheel in a tossable, city-friendly package. At home in the urban jungle and on a winding road, the 500 Abarth is nimble and feisty thanks to an exhaust that pops and crackles with every shift and accelerator input. Chevrolet Sonic RS Although the Chevrolet Sonic RS doesn’t come with more power, the stiffer suspension tuning, rear disc brakes, and remapped transmission gearing means it’s livelier than its lesser siblings. Non-RS Sonics are great to drive, but the RS takes that formula and kicks it up a bit by making it handle even better so that you can carve up twisty roads with ease. Scion iA Don’t let the Scion iA’s 105-hp rating fool you. Although it’s relatively short on power, it’s big on fun, as it’s essentially a Mazda2 underneath. As a result, Mazda’s entire Skyactiv suite is present, including the chassis, suspension, and body, making the iA fun to toss into corners. That agility also comes in handy in urban environments, where you can easily dart around tight spaces. Hyundai Veloster Turbo Quirky and asymmetrical with one door on the driver’s side and two in the passenger’s side, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo is one of the most interesting subcompact oddballs on sale today. The unusual design ensures that there’s nothing else out there like it, and the 201-hp, 1.6-liter, turbo I-4 means it’s got some power underneath that love-it-or-hate-it exterior. Honda Fit Better known for its spacious, Harry Potter-esque interior, the Honda Fit is also great fun to toss into a corner thanks to a well-tuned chassis, which gives it surprising agility. Although its 1.5-liter I-4 only has 130 hp and 114 lb-ft, the Fit’s curb weight maxes out at 2,642, so there’s less heft for the engine to haul around. Add to that an available six-speed manual gearbox, and you have the makings of a fun-to-drive runabout that’s also family- and Ikea-friendly. Ford Fiesta ST If there was one subcompact hatchback that’s the benchmark in terms of driving dynamics and fun, it’s the Ford Fiesta ST. Even though it doesn’t have an independent rear suspension, it offers exceptional handling wrapped in a pocket-size package. The car’s 197-hp, 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 offers plenty of power and gets the Fiesta ST going quickly without breaking a sweat. Mini Hardtop Despite growing in size, the Mini Hardtop is still a subcompact car and continues to offer nimble handling in all of its variants. Blessed with turbocharged power across the board, the third-generation Mini Hardtop comes—in all of its variants—with plenty of straight-line speed. Should you want the most power and a track-ready suspension, the JCW Hardtop and its 228-hp, turbo I-4 ensures that you get the best motoring experience. Just make sure your roads are as smooth as glass. Chevrolet Spark EV An electric car that’s fun and reasonably priced? Why yes! Especially when it produces a mind-boggling 327 lb-ft of torque. The Chevrolet Spark EV offers up to 82 miles of range in one charge, an electric motor with enough torque to crush the pavement beneath it into submission, and great handling for zipping around those tight city streets with ease. Not bad for a city car that’s cute and adorable. Mazda MX-5 Miata No other roadster is more popular than the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and its newest iteration is the quickest and best driving to date. Thanks to its impeccable balance, light weight, exceptional agility, and responsive character, the Miata is one of the purest sports cars in any price range. Add to that a relatively affordable starting price of $25,735, and it becomes one of the best value propositions for driving enthusiasts the world over. The Miata recently won a comparison test against the Subaru BRZ.