In a world of facts and figures, you can sometimes forget about the sheer fun factor of driving. The sensation of a B-Road blast isn’t something you can exactly pin a number or statistic to, so it can often get lost in the likes of 0-60mph times and engine sizes.
In order to prove that joy can come from even the most modest of sporty automobiles, we’re zoning in on cars with under 150bhp. They may not be the fastest, but they’re sure to put a smile on your face.
Suzuki Swift Sport
The Suzuki Swift Sport is a loveable little junior hot hatch (aka warm hatch). It doesn’t take itself too seriously or pretend to be more hard-core than it actually is. The Swift Sport puts driver enjoyment at the forefront of its character, instead of how quick or racy it is. It’s lightweight, nimble, and just powerful enough for all occasions .
Smart Fortwo Brabus
If you thought the Swift Sport was a little pedestrian, brace yourself because the Smart Fortwo Brabus is even slower. 0-60mph takes over 10 seconds and 107bhp is less power than what you get in some regular superminis. You could argue then, that this ‘sporty’ Smart doesn’t even qualify as a warm hatch.
But again, it isn’t all about the numbers – the fun aspect is more important. Where the Brabus shines is in being a nippy tiny town car, with a bit more zing that your average Smart. And that quirky, sort of sporty small city car nature of the Fortwo Brabus is what makes it such a laugh – in a good way of course.
Volkswagen Up! GTI
VW’s smallest GTI has caused quite the stir in the car community. Like other cars on this list, people have fallen in love with its perky attitude and charm, once again reinforcing that fun factor matters just as much as power and performance. The Up! GTI is light at just 995kg, meaning, while it’s not necessarily fast, it feels spritely behind the wheel. You can really use all the performance the Up! GTI has to offer on UK roads, making you, the driver, all the more involved and engaged with the car itself.
2008 saw this little pocket rocket shoot onto the scene – the Abarth 500. As the Fiat 500’s sportier sibling, it packs more power – 140bhp to be exact. Compared to some of the other cars on this list, that may seem like a lot. Having so much grunt in something so tiny is amusing – it’s as simple as that. Sure, it’s a bit silly, but who wants to drive a sensible car anyway?
Everyone knows about the icon that is the Mazda MX-5 (or Miata if you live in the States). What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said in the 30 years the roadster has been in production?
The MX-5’s philosophy is all about being a rewarding car to drive. Fun fact: the word Miata derives from Old High German for “reward.” Anyway, it’s a light, playful, small two-seat roadster that loves to rev – it actively encourages you to use all the accessible performance. Really, the 130bhp in the 1.5-litre model is just enough for this kind of car. If you want a bit more oomph, there’s an 181bhp 2.0-litre available too.
Ford Fiesta ST-Line
Usually, a car with ‘line’ on the end of its name basically means all show and no go. These are cars that often put sporty looks above sporty driving dynamics, resulting in a lacklustre experience that doesn’t live up to what the brutish body kit may suggest. The Fiesta ST-Line, however, is a different story.
The Fiesta feels very much alive from behind the wheel, with playful dynamics. It’s engaging, this Fiesta. And despite not being the fully fledged ST, still packs a respectable 140bhp – though it’s a car which, again, isn’t about the numbers alone.