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8 Used Compact Performance Cars

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
February 28, 2011
4 min. Reading Time

The world of compact performance cars has grown substantially since the 1990s. One of the most iconic compact performance vehicles ever produced was the Honda Civic Si, a model that is still available today. The Honda Civic Si has soldiered on through the years as the embodiment of what a sporty compact car should be: a high-revving, high horsepower machine with a responsive suspension system, attractive styling and an affordable price. It remains a formidable option for performance-seeking used car buyers.

Let’s take a look at some of the best used compact performance cars that have followed in the Honda Civic Si’s footsteps, and also examine what a used Honda Civic Si still has to offer those interested in a comfortable daily driver infused with a streak of excitement.

01. Used Honda Civic Si

The most recent generation of the Honda Civic Si to be found on the used car market first hit the streets in 2006 and offers identical styling and power when compared against the current model. A used Honda Civic Si can be found in both coupe and sedan editions, and each features the same 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, which is the largest displacement motor available in any Civic model. More impressive than its size is the fact that this motor revs up to 8,000 rpm, which results in a horsepower rating of 197 ponies. The 2.0-liter unit also produces 139 lb-ft of torque, and the Civic Si can hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just a tick over seven seconds.

Additional performance gear provided with a used Honda Civic Si includes a rear spoiler, a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip front differential.


02. Used Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart was first introduced in 2009 as a bridge between the Lancer Evolution super sedan and the entry-level Lancer economy car. The Lancer Ralliart makes use of a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that is turbocharged to provide 237 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of twist. Available exclusively with all-wheel drive, the Ralliart model also comes with a unique twin-clutch automated manual transmission (which Mitsubishi calls TC-SST) that is controlled by steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

In addition to the ability to sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 5.8 seconds, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart also offers solid handling thanks to its sport suspension system as well as an aggressive body kit and the availability of a Recaro Sport package that provides body-hugging driver and passenger seats.


03. Used Mazda MAZDASPEED3

The Mazda MAZDASPEED3 has been offered since 2007, but the most potent version of the sport compact car available on the used market is the generation that debuted in 2010. More dramatic bodywork heralds the additional potency of the freshest package offered underneath the 2010 Mazda MAZDASPEED3’s skin. Based on the MAZDA3 hatchback, the used MAZDASPEED3 comes with a 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is good for 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Matched with a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip front differential, this engine allows the MAZDASPEED3 to rip off zero to 60-mph times in the neighborhood of 6.3 seconds.

All used Mazda MAZDASPEED3’s also come with an updated suspension system for 2010 that significantly improves handling and stability.


04. Used Volkswagen GTI

The Volkswagen GTI hatchback is another longtime player in the compact performance car segment, with the latest used editions hailing from the 2010 model year redesign. Unlike some of its competitors, the Volkswagen GTI is not entirely focused on blazing acceleration, preferring to mix a comfortable ride and excellent road manners with its 200 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A turbocharger helps this motor generate 207 lb-ft of torque, and two transmission choices can be found in used editions of the Volkswagen GTI: a traditional six-speed manual unit and an advanced dual-clutch automatic manual that also features six forward gears. Zero to 60 miles per hour in the GTI takes about six seconds with the dual-clutch gearbox.

In addition to the go-fast goodies found in used Volkswagen GTI models, the vehicle also offers available luxuries such as HID headlights, a navigation system and a leather seating package.


05. Used Subaru Impreza WRX

The most recent generation of the Subaru Impreza became available in 2008, and with it came a fresh take on Subaru’s WRX compact performance model. A used Subaru WRX combines the brand’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system with a rally-bred 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that grinds out 224 horsepower and 226 lb-ft of torque, with 2009 and up models gaining a boost to 265 horses and 244 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choice is restricted to a five-speed manual, and 60 miles per hour arrives in five and a half seconds.

It is possible to find sedan and hatchback editions of the used Subaru Impreza WRX, and the vehicle also comes with a stiffer suspension setup than what is found on standard Impreza models. Other differences include aerodynamic body improvements and 17-inch alloy wheels.


06. Used Chevrolet Cobalt SS

The Chevrolet Cobalt SS may have stopped production in 2010 but this turbocharged compact coupe has continued to offer significant value for used car thrill seekers. Although older versions of the used Chevrolet Cobalt SS made use of a supercharged drivetrain, in 2008 the vehicle’s 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine gained a turbocharger that helps it to generate 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Sent through a five-speed manual transmission to the front wheels, this output is good enough to give the Cobalt SS a zero to 60-mph time of 5.8 seconds.

Other improvements that help to separate a used Chevrolet Cobalt SS from other Cobalt models include Brembo brakes, special 18-inch wheels, a lower sport-tuned suspension system and a number of styling tweaks both inside and out.


07. Used Dodge Caliber SRT4

The Dodge Caliber SRT4 was only produced for two model years – 2008 and 2009 – but it glowed brightly during its brief time on the sport compact stage. A used Dodge Caliber SRT4 provides compact hatchback practicality combined with 2.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is tuned to generate 285 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is entrusted with marshalling this power and directing it to the front wheels, where it gives the Caliber SRT4 the ability to race to 60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds.

Other unique features to be found in a used Dodge Caliber SRT4 model include a computer screen that displays performance-related information such as acceleration times and braking distances, as well as a functional air scoop, bigger brakes and sport seats.


08. Used MINI Cooper S

A used MINI Cooper S provides a premium take on the sporty compact car formula. Like many of the vehicles on this list, the MINI Cooper S offers turbocharged performance, with the most desirable models hailing from 2007 and onwards. Although there have been some slight changes in engine output from year to year, in general the MINI Cooper S has been able to squeeze 172 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque out of its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. While this might not sound as impressive when compared against other compact performance cars, the light weight design of the Cooper S allows it to hit 60 miles per hour in just 6.5 seconds when launched from a standstill.

It is possible to find both hatchback and convertible editions of the used MINI Cooper S, and transmission choices for the vehicle include a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic with manual paddle shifting capability.



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