Car catalogues, episodes of Top Gear and the Fast and Furious franchise are full of incredibly muscled and streamlined vehicles, and each one is designed to scream their degree of insane performance to the world! But as much as I love the look of a gorgeous V8 rumbling down the street – squared bonnet and all – the truth is that many people want a cute car that can also put some burn on the road.
That’s why we’re here today. For those of you who have been yearning for an adorable car that will send your head back into your seat the second you touch the pedal, this one’s for you. I see you, I appreciate you, so let’s do it.
Volkswagen Beetle RSi 3.2
We’ve all seen this tiny little car beetling along the road, usually in a lovely pastel colour. I personally prefer a light yellow, the traditional colour of the Beetle brand and a hallmark of tiny car culture. Here’s the thing though, many people tend to assume that because a beetle is small, round and friendly-looking that they can’t crush the tarmac at a moment’s notice. For the most part that’s true, but not for the V6 RSi 3.2.
The whole thing is made of carbon fibre to make it as light as possible, so the 221HP the engine spits out makes sure that as soon as you put the pedal down, you are absolutely flying. Its adorable yet unassuming appearance means that you can pull up next to the idling Impreza at a traffic light, wait for the green light, and absolutely smoke their asses with no warning. The most satisfying of endeavours possible, trust me.
Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 Multiair Turbo Lusso
Next up, we have the Spider. Does whatever a spider can. I’m kidding, but this car is undoubtedly venomous. I’m going to be honest; Fiat is not and never will be my favourite brand, but they really killed it with this one. Let’s take a look.
A small, modern two-seater convertible with a luxury interior, the 124 Spider is a roadster for the ages. When building the car, Fiat put more of a luxury spin on the suspension, so it’s a smoother ride than a lot of other sporty roadsters. That being said, this car will do the work. Low-range revs sport a lot of torque, so you really don’t have to pull teeth to get the Spider moving well, and the rear-wheel drive means that your back-end won’t kick out on any corners.
Her top speed is 215km, and the engine quietly just keeps giving and giving, hitting 240Nm of torque that will haul the smaller car along very nicely. This is the one to pick up if you like a bit of luxury on the drive, but don’t want to skimp on solid handling or putting some zip on the wheels.
Renault Sport Clio V6 (Phase 2)
Listen, this one is the most impractical addition to this list. It isn’t made for getting through everyday life, but it is also quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to the hot-hatch market.
This is a mid-engine car built for speed, with 188kW of power and 252 horses ready to go at all times. It has two seats, exactly no room for anything that isn’t the driver, and a roll cage. You don’t find a lot of on-road cars with a built-in roll cage, but that’s what makes this one so interesting! The Phase 2 model (produced between 2003 and 2005) hits 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, and will take you to an incredibly fun top speed of 246km/h.
I love this car because it is, once again, fairly unassuming. The performance hiding under the bonnet is belied by its tiny frame and friendly appearance, so you can enjoy screaming along any highway you like in what – for some people – constitutes a souped-up Suzuki swift.
Porsche 911 Carrera S
If you’ve ever been in the driver’s seat of a Porsche, then you know why this one is on the list. Porsche consistently delivers on a luxury driving experience, with smooth shocks and responsive acceleration making all of their models a genuine joy to drive. Now, if we’re talking cute with a kick, you can’t look past the 911 Carrera S.
Built with a top speed of almost 300km/h, this car takes the word “nifty” and flips it on its head. The rear engine on the Carrera delivers a back-weighted centre of gravity which, in combination with the 2.9-litre V6 engine, rips up the road beneath your tires. From dead still to flying along at 100km/h takes just 4.2 seconds, but it will still happily wind its way through an urban landscape. For a road car, that speed is insane.
Furthermore, the signature Porsche touches are undeniably present. This beauty of a beast marries traditional luxury with modern sporting technology, and its tiny frame hides the roar of something much, much larger. Get behind the wheel, you won’t regret it.
Lotus Elise Sport 220
Finally, we come to a car designed for peak performance, precision, and perfection. The Sport 220 is a cappuccino-sized car that hints at a solarpunk aesthetic, and it lives up to its reputation as the culmination of Lotus’ centurial efforts.
The finely-tuned 1.8-litre supercharged engine takes you from zero to one hundred in 4.2 seconds, delivering a power-to-weight ratio of 235 horses per ton. Double wishbone suspension makes cornering a breeze, minimal body roll and a gorgeous exhaust that backdrops every moment of acceleration. Being tightly-wound is typically an insult, but in this car’s case, it’s one of the best compliments out there. Coiled like a spring and constantly ready to launch itself forward, you can consider this beauty at your beck and call when on the road.
The sweeping curves deliver an incredibly aerodynamic performance, helping you to slice through air resistance at any speed up to its 230km/h maximum. Despite the speed, you’re constantly cocooned in its detailed interior. The real question here is not “How does such a cute car get so much power?”. The question is, why aren’t you already behind the wheel?
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