10 four-cylinder cars that are more fun than a V8

Four-cylinder cars are generally notorious for their lack of power, use as responsible commuters, and small exhaust noises. All of that changed over time, and turbos became standard equipment to unlock the power only seen in six- and eight-cylinder engines.

With investment and effort, companies have loaded four-cylinder engines with all the technology they can muster, and the result is some of the most fun-to-drive vehicles. Plus, many manufacturers save money on massive engines, money they invest in drivability or the luxury that makes a four-cylinder sports cars even more convincing than any V8 could ever be.

Related: These four-cylinder engines produce more power than a V8

ten Ariel Atom 4


Ariel Atom 4
By Ariel

Few vehicles are as crazy as the Ariel Atom 4. This literal race car has no roof, doors or luxuries, but provides one of the most inspiring track vehicles. The Atom 4 puts the Civic Type-R’s mighty K20 engine behind the driver to deliver an incredible 320 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.


Ariel Atom / Nomad
Via WSupercars

Weighing just 1,300 pounds, the powerful motor propels the Atom to a top speed of 162 MPH. It features rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox to optimize performance on the track. Additionally, the Atom 4 has a tuned suspension with JRi adjustable dampers and Eibach springs for a precision driving experience. Four cylinders have never been so much fun!

9 Volkswagen Golf R


Volkswagen Golf R 2022
volkswagen

Volkswagen offers a competent hatch with the GTi. Not content with performance, Volkswagen reserves the R title for the fastest variant. It rivals the Type-R and Veloster N the most, but the understated exterior design keeps rivals oblivious to the true performance.


TheNewVolkswagenGolfGTIClubsport45 Feature
By: Volkswagen

The Golf R is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four that produces 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. That’s better performance numbers than either the STI or the Type-R. Moreover, these figures came from improvements over the previous generation, which produced only 288 horsepower. The new Golf R also sports drive modes, including drift mode and a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

8 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider


alfa romeo 4c on road
Via: Stellantis

Alfa Romeo’s 4C Spider isn’t the fastest car out there, but with a high power-to-weight ratio, the 4C is incredibly fun. Alfa killed the 4C in 2020, but the examples are still there, and on the used market these slick sports cars are more affordable than new. The 4C Spider is a throwback to a vintage sports car feel with a convertible and just two seats.


Alfa Romeo 4C - Side view
Via bring a trailer

A turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 237 horsepower, but that’s enough to hit a top speed of 160 MPH. Plus, the 4C Spider lacks driver assist and crazy tech, and that’s okay. That’s part of the appeal of the 4C Spider; it’s truly a stripped-down sports car that delivers an exhilarating experience on every driving trip.

Related: 10 Most Gorgeous Four-Cylinder Engine Bays Straight From The Factory

7 Porsche 718 Cayman


2022 Porsche 718 Cayman
Via: newsroom.porsche.com

Porsche may be famous for its boxer six engines, but the 718 Cayman has an impressive four-cylinder that’s way more fun than a V8. The entry-level Cayman comes with a 2.0L boxer, while the S version sports the larger 2.5L, each with just four cylinders. It’s also pretty hard not to look fantastic in a Porsche.


Porsche-718-Cayman-blue-2022-1
porsche.fr

Porsche does a lot to ensure the driving experience is excellent. That’s why they installed a silky smooth six-speed manual as the standard transmission, but fans of the automatic also have an option with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Although the 718 is a Porsche, it lacks interior quality and sports far too much cheap plastic. It’s a shame too, considering you’re still paying Porsche prices for one.

6 Mercedes CLA45 AMG


Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Via Wikimedia Commons
Via Wikimedia Commons

Mercedes continues to build on its success with smaller, more powerful engines. To highlight the capabilities, Mercedes announced a turbocharged four-cylinder considered the most powerful on the market with 416 horsepower. Although this engine is not yet installed, it will adorn the 45 series of AMG vehicles.


Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Via Mercedes-Benz USA
Via Mercedes-Benz USA

This does not mean that the current engine is slow. In fact, the CLA45 peaks at a blistering 382 horsepower from the four-cylinder engine currently hiding under the AMG badge. It also features an incredibly fast eight-speed dual-clutch for quick shifts and a standard 4Matic AWD platform for a thoroughly refined ride.

Related: Here are the best four-cylinder engines ever built

5 Subaru BRZ


Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ
zombie via Flickr

Subaru has only one RWD vehicle. He also only has one vehicle that uses an engine other than the boxer four. That car is the BRZ, the sports car that, along with Toyota, completes the most underrated sports car duo of all time. Mechanically, the inline-four is identical to the Toyota GR86, but now each marque has made some exterior changes to mix things up a bit.


Subaru BRZ - Front
Via NetCarShow

Either way, the BRZ delivers a thrilling ride with excellent handling and steering feel thanks to a refined suspension for the track. Although you might not see them all the time, the BRZ is a great sports car and, in good weather, a great transportation vehicle too, if only everyone could see its potential.

4 Mazda MX-5 Miata


Mazda MX-5
Via: Mazda USA

Few cars are as iconic as the Miata. Although the little classic JDM isn’t the fastest car, the naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and open-top styling provide the most liberating driving experience for the money. Indeed, the MX-5 has seen so many generations; difficult to find an expensive model!


Mazda MX-5 Miata fourth generation
By: Mazda

Mated to the 181-hp inline-four, a perfect six-speed manual transmission gives the Miata a sporty feel and a satisfying ride. Plus, Mazda puts a ton of love into the Miata, even going so far as to expertly tune the suspension for a comfortable and responsive ride.

3 Subaru WRX STI


2021 Subaru WRX STi rear third quarter view
Via: Media.subaru.com

Another JDM classic is considered a more fun four-cylinder than a V8. Honestly, what’s more fun than rally-inspired greatness? The STI features an iconic 2.5L EJ boxer engine that powers it to 305 horsepower. Symmetrical all-wheel drive, a feature that has appeared in every generation, makes the WRX STI even more famous.


2021 Subaru WRX STi front third quarter acceleration view
Via: Media.subaru.com

Although many complain about the stiffness of the suspension, the raw power and out-of-tune nature make the STI a perfect modification platform. Plus, fans will always love the big headlights: bug-eye, blob-eye, or hawk-eye. They are all cool! We can only hope that the all-electric version will stand up to the petrol versions.

Related: These Are The Fastest Four-Cylinder Cars On The Market

2 Audi S3


2022-Audi-S3-sedan
by Audi

Who said luxury couldn’t be fast? Audi proves you can have both with the S3. This sporty luxury sedan develops 306 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, more than the Type-R or WRX. The S3 is based on the A3 platform, so it’s a bit smaller, but that doesn’t stop it from being more fun than a V8.


Audi S3 2022
United States

Audi reduced the ride height of the latest model and provided an aggressive track-tuned suspension for better handling on the road. To help with grip, Audi has put AWD standard on all S3 trims to help round out the performance specification. Inside, luxury features stand out with plenty of driver assists, memory for the front seats and a solid infotainment system.

1 Honda Civic Type R


Via Honda USA
Honda Civic Type R

Rounding out the list, the funniest FWD vehicle produced. Honda really kicked motorsport tuning on the Civic to create the Type-R. Honda supplies the hot hatch with a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four, producing 306 horsepower. The four-cylinder engine is so great that Ariel decided to use it for his track monster.


2018-Honda-Civic-Type-R-1
Via BringaTrailer

Although the Type-R doesn’t hold the FWD record it once had, it’s in pursuit of it. It’s sporty, suitable for everyday use and handles very well thanks to an LSD and Honda’s magical efforts to eliminate the steering torque typical of front-wheel-drive cars. The Type-R is incredibly entertaining; the three-pipe exhaust is excellent; the only downside? We would like it to be stronger.


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