In an automotive universe where utility vehicles, crossovers and electric vehicles dominate the landscape, there’s still plenty of old-fashioned fun to be had for lovers of traditional high-performance cars.
The Detroit Three automakers are still cranking out Chevrolet Camaros, Dodge Challengers and Ford Mustangs, including some variants with more than 750 horsepower. It’s like 1970 all over again, but supercharged.
For aficionados, right now is a Golden Age of high-performance sport compacts — cars that are fast, nimble, affordable and in most cases, available with manual transmissions.
Even though the original film to celebrate sports compacts — “The Fast and the Furious” — is already more than two decades old, thoroughly up-to-date models continue to come to market, which is great news. Here are five examples.
The hype surrounding Acura’s newly reintroduced sport compact is strong, with the automaker referring to the Integra as “a premium performance gateway for a new generation.” While that might be a little overwrought, there’s no doubt that the car is a key model for Honda’s upscale performance division.
Fans of “The Fast and the Furious” are of course older, and the Integra will remind them of their youth, while being large enough and comfortable enough to carry their families. Now a four-door hatch, the 2023 Integra offers buyers a choice of three trim packages, as well as a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable unit. The lone offering under the hood is a turbo 1.5-litre-four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower driving the front wheels. Acura has added plenty of technology features, too.
New for 2022, the fifth generation of Subaru’s most potent all-wheel-drive performance car features a 271-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or an automatic. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, of course.
Also new for 2022 is a top-of-the-line trim package called the GT, which includes electronically controlled dampers (shocks) that the driver can set to Comfort, Normal or Sport settings. The WRX GT is available only with Subaru’s new automatic transmission, which includes an eight-speed manual mode. Note that the WRX STI is no longer available, so the WRX is the top model.
Toyota GR Corolla
The newest kid on the sport-compact block is also one of the most potent. Toyota announced in April that it would build a limited-edition high-performance 2023 GR Corolla powered by turbocharged 1.3-litre three-cylinder that produces 300 horsepower.
This all-wheel-drive beast comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and drivers can adjust how much power is distributed to the front and rear wheels. There GR Corolla arrives next year.
Hyundai Kona N
Korea-based automaker Hyundai has elevated its performance image in recent years with ‘N’ variants of some of its popular sedans and crossovers. That said, the Kona N is new for 2022. The compact crossover is designed to provide a substantial performance upgrade over the base Kona. Under the hood is a 276-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that’s backed by an eight-speed paddle-shift transmission.
Honda Civic Type-R
It won’t be officially unveiled until shortly before it goes on sale this summer, but the 2023 Honda Civic Type-R is already breaking records. In March, the Type-R development vehicle ran a lap at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan in 2 minutes and 23.12 seconds, a track record for a front-wheel-drive car.
Although Honda has not released detailed product specs on the upcoming Type-R, the previous 2021 model was powered by a 306-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder connected to a six-speed manual gearbox. Expect the 2023 model to also have aerodynamic enhancements to set it apart from base Civics.