Performance cars come in all shapes and sizes now, from coupes, to hatchbacks and even full-size SUVs. But to be considered a true sports car, vehicles still need to have one specific thing: a rear-wheel-drive layout.
If you ask some people, they’ll tell you a sports car also needs to have a big engine, but that’s simply not the case.
While having more firepower under the hood has its upsides, it’s also a hindrance. Unlike muscle cars, which solely are designed to go fast in a straight line, sports cars need to be nimble and have good acceleration; a high top speed is nice, but it isn’t a necessary part of the equation.
To prove this, we made a list of seven rear-wheel-drive sports cars that make do just fine with only four-cylinders.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Photo via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Alfa might have only given the 4C a 1.7-liter turbocharged in-line four, but because the car weighs just 1,118 kilograms (2,465 pounds) it will still get to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. That’s why Alfa chose to highlight the engine’s size in the model’s name — 4C stands for four cylinders — rather than bury that information in the spec sheet.
Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ
Photo via Toyota
Yes, we’ve admitted we want Toyota to give the 86 more power, but that doesn’t mean we want it to give the 86 more cylinders. The 86 — and its Subaru-branded twin — arguably can handle better than anything else in its price bracket, so the last thing we want is more weight up front to mess with the chassis balance. All we ask for is some forced induction so the 86 has a bit more torque at the ready coming out of corners.
Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman
Photo via Porsche
Not everybody was happy when Porsche decided to ditch the 718’s flat-six for a turbo in-line four, but most people quickly realized it was for the better. Although you have to make do with a less exciting sound when driving with the top down in the Boxster, that’s a small price to pay for an extra 25 horsepower and 66 foot-pounds of torque.
Photo via Mazda
The MX-5 is widely regarded as one of the best small two-seater sports cars, but not only does its engine have just four cylinders, it’s also naturally aspirated and produces only 155 horsepower. However, the MX-5 is extremely agile, as it has a curb weight of just 1,058 kilograms (2,332 pounds). So, even with an almost laughable amount of power by today’s standards, the MX-5 will get to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Plus, with the new MX-5 RF (pictured) you don’t have to keep your Miata in the garage when it rains.
Fiat 124 Spider
Photo via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
The 124 might technically be an MX-5 underneath its Italian exterior, but considering how good the Mazda is, we’re fine with that. Plus, the two still have very different personalities. That’s partly due to their styling, though mostly because the 124 weighs a bit more. It compensates for that with a turbocharger attached to its 1.4-liter in-line four that gives it five more horsepower standard, and nine more in Abarth trim.
Ford Mustang EcoBoost
Photo via Ford
Some think the Mustang EcoBoost is a waste of money, because it has half the amount of cylinders it “should have,” but the four-cylinder version actually makes the V-6 seem redundant. It gets 2 more mpg — city and highway — 10 more horsepower and 40 more foot-pounds of torque than the V-6 fastback.
Photo via BAC
BAC’s Mono is the ultimate example of why a bigger engine isn’t always the answer. The road-legal single-seater has a 2.5-liter Mountune engine that produces 305 horsepower, and because it weighs just 508 kilograms (1,279 pounds), the Mono can beat nearly any car on the road — and one that only can be driven on the track.
Thumbnail photo via Porsche