Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI

These 24 Cars Aren’t Powerful, But They’re Tons Of Fun To Drive

While we all love a fast and powerful car, it can be just as much fun to drive an underpowered model on the right road, and we’re not just saying that to justify owning a slow car.

With less power comes great skill and knowledge. Since flooring the throttle won’t send you flying down the track, you need to learn momentum-driving techniques to get the most out of a slow car. How and when to brake, rev-matching when down-shifting, corner-entry speed, trail-braking, etc. These essential techniques make driving a slow car a lot of fun.

In addition, cars with weaker engines tend to be cheaper to insure and use less fuel than their fire-breathing high-performance counterparts. Let’s check out 24 vehicles that aren’t powerful but are still tons of fun to drive.

Mazda Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Thanks to Mazda’s Jinba Ittai ethos – horse and rider as one – the Miata has earned a reputation for being one of the most fun and approachable sports cars ever. The Miata certainly isn’t a car you’ll bring to the drag strip, but you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face on the right road.

The first cars only had a 115-horsepower 1.6-liter engine. This later grew to a 1.8-liter and even a 2.0-liter unit. While the larger engines do pack more power, it’s still only on par with a regular sedan.

Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ
Image Credit: Subaru.

The Subaru BRZ and its practically identical Toyota sibling, the GT86, are way more fun than the affordable price tags and low power figures will have you believe.

With just 205 horsepower, the driver must work the 2.0-liter boxer engine and transmission hard to go fast. This is a proper momentum machine, and while it’s an easy and forgiving car to drive, it requires a lot of skill to set quick lap times.

Honda Civic

Ek9 Honda Civic Type R
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The Honda Civic was a bit played out for a while. A generation of kids growing up with first the Fast & Furious movies fitted massive bodykits and loud exhausts, essentially turning the humble Civic into something of a pariah.

However, the old Civics are now cool again, and the styling trend has moved towards rare OEM parts and proper JDM stuff rather than fiberglass and replica rims. The old Civics with D and B series engines are tons of fun, but not exactly fast in stock form. Plenty of aftermarket parts can turn them into real monsters, though.

VW Beetle

1946 Volkswagen Beetle
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The original Beetle was built to be a people’s car during a time when the world moved a lot slower than today – it took 20 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standstill.

When driving on a twisty road, the Beetle does feel more alive, especially if you keep the throttle buried. The tall, skinny tires will flex, the suspension feels anything but stable, and the rear end may try to step out since the engine is at the back.

Mini Cooper

R53 Mini Cooper GP
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

From an old classic to a modern car that’s styled to look old. Any Mini Cooper, new or old, is pure fun to drive. They’re not always a lot of fun to own due to reliability issues, but the driving dynamics have always been solid.

The classic Mini won several rallies and even duked it out with more powerful sports cars on the track. Newer ones pack much more power, but we still wouldn’t call them powerful. Our pick of the litter would be the supercharged R53 Cooper S version from the early 2000s.

Fiat 500

Fiat 500e
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Like the Mini Cooper, the Fiat 500 is a retro-styled hot-hatch that harkens back to the good old days of affordable people’s cars. The modern retro Fiat 500 arrived in 2007 and has received some updates over the years.

The base models are truly slow but still fun to drive in the city. You can reach their limit on a twisty road without breaking the law. The various Abarth versions have a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that produces from 135 to 180 horsepower. It’s enough power to get you into trouble but not so much that it’s challenging to handle.

Suzuki Swift Sport

Suzuki Swift Sport
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The Suzuki Swift Sport is one of the most underrated hot hatches, and we’re surprised it hasn’t garnered more fans. The first two generations use naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engines with around 130 horsepower.

Suzuki went with a turbocharged 1.4-liter for the latest version, which produces around 140 horsepower. None of the Swifts are powerful, but they live up to their name on the right road. Unfortunately, the Suzuki Swift isn’t available in the States, and you can’t import one due to the 25-year rule.

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta ST200
Image Credit: Ford.

The most powerful Fiesta ST had almost 200 horsepower, which made it a lot of fun to drive. However, there’s no need to buy the ST to have a blast. The 1.0 Ecoboost Fiesta can be just as hilarious, and the three-cylinder engine sounds raw and raspy at full throttle.

Ford really got the Fiesta’s chassis right, and the car darts around the corners, making you feel like a professional rally driver.

Mazda 2

Mazda 2
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

You can redline the little Mazda2 in every gear without the risk of getting in trouble with the long arm of the law. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but if you find a narrow road with many corners, you can have fun for days without breaking the speed limit.

The best part about the Mazda2 is its taut and agile chassis, making the car just as much fun as the legendary Miata.

Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2 Spyder
Image Credit: r MercurySable99/WikiCommons.

If you want a reliable mid-engined sports car, check out the Toyota MR2. It was in production from the mid-80s to 2007, spanning three generations – none of which are particularly powerful.

The second-gen MR2 Turbo is the most powerful and expensive of the bunch. The last generation is often compared to the Lotus Elise, which is never a bad thing. Be warned that mid-engined cars can bite back if you’re a bit ham-fisted behind the wheel.

Honda Beat

Honda Beat
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The Honda Beat is a kei car, and to adhere to the Japanese government regulations, they can’t exceed 63 horsepower. Incidentally, that’s the exact figure the Beat’s tiny three-cylinder unit produces.

Other Japanese carmakers turbocharge their kei cars, but Honda went down a different route, using individual throttlebodies. The engine revs to 9,000 rpm, and the sound is glorious, making the Honda Beat a blast.

Suzuki Cappuccino

Suzuki Cappuccino
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The Suzuki Cappuccino is another one of Japan’s most popular kei cars. Like other models in this segment, its engine can’t exceed 660cc, but that doesn’t stop the Cappuccino from being fun to drive.

Imagine darting between traffic from behind the wheel of a Cappuccino. That sounds hilarious to us, although the daily commute would feel cramped.

VW Golf

Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The VW Golf has been around for 50 years now, although VW sold the first generation as the Rabbit in North America. With the exception of the R models, none of the Golfs are particularly powerful.

They are fun to drive, though – especially the first two generations and the fifth generation. Early GTIs were typical point-and-squirt cars, and it’s not without reason that this model singlehandedly changed the automotive scenery.

Honda Fit

2013 Honda Fit
Image Credit: RL GNZLZ/WikiCommons.

There’s nothing extraordinary about the Honda Fit, or Jazz if you’re European, but it’s a hoot to drive. It doesn’t have much power, even the 1.5-liter version only has 130 horsepower, nor is it very sporty, but it still puts a smile on our faces.

The Fit drives similarly to Honda’s iconic Civics from the 1990s. It’s rewarding to drive fast if you get everything right and keep the momentum going. Miss a gearshift or brake too early, and you’ll be left in the dust.

Honda CRX

1987 Honda CRX Si
Image Credit: Mr.choppers/WikiCommons.

The Honda CRX looks like a genuine sports car, but the Si only has 108 horsepower. What the CRX does have going for it is the low curb weight. That’s something most fun but underpowered cars have in common.

Honda built some great, lightweight cars with rev-happy engines back in the day, and the CRX was among their best work. Unfortunately, finding one in good, original condition today is almost impossible.

Morgan 3-Wheeler

Morgan 3-Wheeler
Image Credit: Alexander Migl/WikiCommons.

Morgan concluded that making a car with three wheels would be a great idea, and somehow, they succeeded where others have failed multiple times. The Morgan 3-Wheeler has a V-twin motorcycle engine mounted at the front, and its 82 horsepower drives the single rear wheel.

While you’ll struggle to find a more impractical car than the Morgan 3-Wheeler, driving one is a barrel of laughs. Being lightweight comes with certain benefits, such as quicker acceleration. Zero to 60 mph is dealt with in just 6 seconds.

Toyota Corolla GT AE86

Toyota Corolla GT AE86
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The Toyota Corolla GT AE86, or Hachi-Roku, is one of the most legendary JDM cars ever. These days, you’ll have to part with a lot of money to get your hands on one. The AE86 uses a 1.6-liter twin-cam engine – the same Toyota used in the original MR2 – and only produces around 125 horsepower.

That’s not much power by anyone’s standards, but the AE86 has rear-wheel drive and loves to go sideways through corners.

Lexus IS300

Lexus IS300
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Lexus created the IS300 to go up against German giants such as the BMW 3-series and Audi A4. The IS300 had a naturally aspirated 2JZ engine, and with 217 ponies available, it wasn’t slow, but certainly not fast either.

With rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and a limited-slip diff, the IS300 nailed the formula of a fun car on a road with lots of bends.

Caterham Seven 160

Caterham Seven 160
Image Credit Wiki Commons

The Caterham Seven 160 looks sporty, and it is, but it doesn’t have a lot of power. The engine is a three-cylinder Suzuki unit producing an underwhelming 80 horsepower.

Zero to 60 mph is still done in a rapid 6.5 seconds, which makes it faster than some spectacular sports cars from the 1980s. However, compared to some of its more powerful siblings, the Seven 160 is downright slow. We wouldn’t mind driving one, though. Its low weight and tiny engine means it carefully sips fuel, and it’s still a riot in the corners.

Citroën 2CV

Citroen 2CV
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The first Citroën 2CVs only had nine horsepower – less than a 125cc scooter. The French carmaker added more horses to the stable over the years, and by the time the 2CV retired in 1990, its power had more than tripled. 29 horsepower still isn’t much to write home about, so what made it so much fun?

The 2CV had the softest suspension setup known to man. They designed it so farmers could drive across a field without breaking any eggs stored in a basket on the passenger seat. This plush suspension came with almost ridiculous amounts of body roll, and driving a 2CV flat out through the corners will have you screaming long before you reach the speed limit.

Volvo 240

Volvo 240
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Unlike most of the other cars on this list, the Volvo 240 isn’t a lightweight. This thing is built like a tank. It was never powerful in stock form, not even in the Turbo-guise. When modified, it could be seriously quick — Volvo raced it in various touring car series, where it earned its nickname, the Flying Brick.

Volvos is based in Sweden, a country known for its harsh winters, and while the brand is best known for putting safety first, they clearly enjoy having some fun, too. All Volvo 240s are rear-wheel drive, which makes them a blast to drive on snow- and ice-covered roads.

Autozam AZ-1

Autozam AZ-1
Image Credit: Tobias ToMar Maier/WikiCommons.

The Autozam AZ-1 is another kei car, which just goes to show how much fun these can be. Again, 63 horsepower is the maximum power allowed, but when you combine the low weight with a mid-mounted engine and gullwing doors, you know you’ll have a good time.

The Autozam AZ-1 is what you’d get if you scaled down a Lamborghini. No wonder the Japanese love them so much. It weighs next to nothing, and the chassis and steering was developed for tight and twisty roads.

Peugeot 106 Rallye

Peugeot 106 Rallye
Image Credit: adolf martinez soler/Shutterstock.

The Peugeot 106 Rallye was one of the performance versions of the Peugeot 106 supermini. It proved that an excellent chassis with a small engine can beat a powerful engine in a poor chassis.

The 106 Rallye was a stripped-down, lightweight version with a 1.6-liter 8-valve engine that produced 103 horsepower. It was never meant to be a straight-line rocket – this is one of the best-handling FWD cars of its time.

Nissan 240SX

Nissan 240SX
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The Nissan 240SX is one of the most popular drift cars out there. In stock form, its K24 engine is rather anemic, and the chassis can handle much more than the engine offers.

The 240SX is the perfect car for newbie drifters, but with an engine swap and various other upgrades, it becomes a beast only the pros can tame.

Andre Nalin

Author: Andre Nalin

Title: Writer

Bio:

Andre has worked as a writer and editor for multiple car and motorcycle publications over the last decade, but he has reverted to freelancing these days. He has accumulated a ton of seat time during his ridiculous road trips in highly unsuitable vehicles, and he’s built magazine-featured cars. He prefers it when his bikes and cars are fast and loud, but if he had to pick one, he’d go with loud.

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