Cars and Drivers

30 All-Time Best 4-Cylinder Sports Cars Ever

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Creating a list of the 30 all-time best 4-cylinder sports cars ever is a bit subjective, as opinions on what makes a sports car the all-time best ever vary. Our criteria were fairly straightforward: 1. Does the car have a 4-cylinder engine, and 2. Did viewing an image of the vehicle elicit ooohs and ahhhs? Though the 4-cylinder engines of the past weren’t often thought of as suitable for sports cars, the advent of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines in the 2010s marked a significant evolution in automotive engineering. Transforming smaller engines in terms of both power and efficiency, turbocharging involves forcing additional air into the engine’s combustion chamber, allowing for more fuel to be burned which generates more power.

This technology has allowed automakers to downsize engine displacement without compromising performance. Turbocharged 4-cylinder engines have become commonplace in the sports car sector. This shift reflects an industry-wide commitment to meeting stricter emissions standards. Prepare to be wowed by what 4-cylinders gets you these days, as 24/7 Wall St. presents our list of the 30 all-time best 4-cylinder sports cars ever. Due to the subjective nature of our list, it is presented alphabetically.

Acura Integra Type R

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The Acura Integra Type R is celebrated as a great sports car for several reasons. Its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder DOHC VTEC engine is but one. The Type R variant is further distinguished by its lightweight design, responsive handling, and a close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission that contributes to its appealing driving experience. The car’s meticulous steering, sport-tuned suspension, and limited-slip differential enhance its on-road dynamics, making it a favorite for its ability to combine performance, agility, and reliability. The Acura Integra Type R’s success lies in its well-balanced engineering, providing a thrilling ride. With a base price of 31k for the 2024 model, the Integra is also accessible.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

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The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider was a splendid car due to its combination of Italian styling, lightweight carbon fiber construction, and impressive performance. The Spider’s  1.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine delivered 237 horsepower to the rear wheels, providing exhilarating acceleration. Its mid-engine layout, paired with a responsive dual-clutch transmission, contributed to sharp handling and pinpoint cornering. The open-top design allowed for a dose of wind-in-your-hair excitement, as you cruised along in style. Introduced in 2015, the 4C Spider was retired in 2020.

Alpine A110

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The Alpine A110 combines lightweight construction, faithful handling, and a winning driving experience in a sleek package. Its mid-engine layout, powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, produces a potent 288 horsepower. The lightweight aluminum chassis and agile suspension setup contribute to exceptional handling. The car’s responsive dual-clutch transmission creates a harmonious connection between the driver and the road. With its elegant design, dynamic performance, and focus on driving pleasure, the Alpine A110 presents a compelling and enjoyable 4-cylinder option. With a base price of just over $100k, the Alpine A110 is not as accessible as some of the other cars on our list.

Audi TT

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The Audi TT has a reputation for performance, efficiency, and refinement. Audi has equipped the TT with a 4-cylinder engine that delivers a balance of power and fuel efficiency, catering to different preferences and driving needs. The use of turbocharging technology in many TT models enhances power output, providing strong acceleration. The TT’s 4-cylinder engine showcases Audi’s commitment to delivering a dynamic driving experience without compromising fuel economy or technological sophistication. At 84k for the basic model, you’ve really gotta want those Lambo doors.

BMW z4 2.0

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The BMW Z4 is considered a superb sports car for several reasons. First and foremost, the Z4 boasts a dynamic and well-balanced chassis that, when paired with BMW’s engineering prowess, delivers an engaging and spotless driving experience. The 4-cylinder engine options, often turbocharged, provide a blend of power and fuel efficiency. BMW’s commitment to performance is evident in the Z4’s responsive handling, while features like sport-tuned suspension and aerodynamic design contribute to its overall efficiency. The 2024 BMW Z4’s price tag of $70K doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable in the present climate. I can’t believe I just typed that.

Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE

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The Camaro Turbo 1LE was a compelling variant that demonstrated Chevrolet’s commitment to delivering efficient, environmentally friendly, turbocharged driving machines. Equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the Camaro Turbo 1LE balanced performance and efficiency, generating 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Its track-focused upgrades, including performance suspension, Brembo brakes, and a sportier appearance package, offered an exciting entry point into the Camaro lineup. Chevrolet discontinued the 4-cylinder option in its Camaro line in 2023 and will be retiring the Camaro altogether with the 2024 model.

Dodge Charger: Fifth Generation

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The fifth generation Dodge Charger, produced from 1982 to 1987, represented a significant departure from its predecessors. During this era, the Charger transformed into a subcompact hatchback with front-wheel drive. This generation was notable for offering 4-cylinder engines, reflecting a focus on fuel efficiency and adapting to changing market demands. Emphasizing practicality and affordability over the traditional muscle car persona, the fifth-generation Charger was marketed to a completely different demographic. The Dodge Charger nameplate was retired in 1987, not to return until the sixth -generation was introduced in 2006.

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

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The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth was a captivating Italian roadster, combining style and performance in a compact package. With its turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir 4-cylinder engine, the Abarth variant delivered an impressive 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, providing ample acceleration and a responsive driving experience. The Abarth’s lightweight design and rear-wheel-drive layout contributed to its responsive handling. The convertible top allowed for the thrill of open-air motoring. Retired in 202o, the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth captured the essence of Italian flair and performance, making it a compelling choice for those seeking a blend of style and driving enjoyment in a modern roadster.

Ford 2024 Mustang Ecoboost

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The Ford Mustang EcoBoost is the newest foal in the iconic pony lineup. The Mustang Ecoboost embraces both performance and fuel efficiency. Fitted with a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine, the EcoBoost variant generates a solid 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The Mustang EcoBoost provides exhilarating acceleration while its sleek and muscular design retains the classic Mustang aesthetic. The Mustang EcoBoost appeals to drivers seeking the Mustang’s iconic style and driving experience with the added advantage of a more fuel-efficient powertrain. With a base price starting at $30k, the all-new 2024 Mustang Ecoboost is destined to be a success.

Honda S2000

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The S2000 was the result of Honda’s commitment to creating a lightweight, reliable sports car. Introduced in 1999, the S2000 gained a reputation for its high-revving and responsive performance. The 4-cylinder engine was a pivotal component of the S2000’s appeal, with a focus on precision and balance. The S2000 is lauded for its engaging handling, open-top design, and the distinctive howl of its 4-cylinder engine. Retired in 2009, rumor has it that Honda is on the cusp of releasing an all-new, all-electric S2000 model.

Hyundai Veloster N

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The Hyundai Veloster N is a hot hatch that has garnered attention for its blend of performance, style, and affordability. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Veloster N delivers crisp, responsive handling. The Veloster N embraces its sporty character with distinctive exterior styling, including a unique asymmetrical three-door layout. With its competitive pricing and dreamy driving dynamics, the Hyundai Veloster N has earned its place among the ranks of affordable yet high-performance sports cars. Hyundai discontinued the Veloster in 2022, replacing it with the Elantra N and the Kona N.

Lotus Exige

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A precision-engineered sports car that demonstrated Lotus’ commitment to lightweight performance and razor-sharp handling, the Exige is an exhilarating ride. Powered by various 4-cylinder engines over its production history, the Exige’s race-inspired suspension, agile chassis, and aerodynamic styling contributed to its pleasurable handling. Retired in 2021, Lotus replaced the Exige with the Emira.

Mazda Miata

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Heralded as one of the supreme 4-cylinder sports cars, the Mazda Miata’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine does not boast overwhelming horsepower figures, but its responsive and rev-happy nature contributes to its reputation. The well-balanced chassis, rear-wheel-drive layout, and near-perfect weight distribution provide superb handling. Mazda’s commitment to the Jinba Ittai philosophy, which emphasizes the harmony between car and driver, is evident in the Miata. With a base price of under 30k, the Miata is one of the more affordable models on our list of the 30 all-time best 4-cylinder sports cars ever.

Mercedes-Benz AMG SL 43
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The Mercedes-Benz AMG M139 is a remarkable turbocharged inline-4-cylinder engine that has garnered attention for its exceptional performance and efficiency. Introduced in 2019, this powerplant is employed in various high-performance Mercedes-Benz models, including the Mercedes-Benz AMG SL 43. The AMG SL 43, released in the U.S. in the summer of 2023, boasts an impressive 375 horsepower.  The twin-scroll turbocharger, direct fuel injection, and advanced engineering contribute to its remarkable responsiveness. The AMG SL 43 illustrates Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is achievable with a 4-cylinder engine. With a base price of $111k, the AMG SL 43 is not the most accessible car on our list.

MG Midget

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The MG Midget earned its reputation as a decent little 4-cylinder roadster through its charming simplicity, engaging driving dynamics, and timeless design. Produced between 1961 and 1979, the Midget’s lightweight construction, lively handling, and engaging performance informed its stellar reputation. The compact dimensions, responsive steering, and rear-wheel-drive layout contributed to the Midget’s enjoyable driving experience. Powered by a modest yet reliable 4-cylinder engine, the Midget had a top speed of 93 mph. Its affordability (approx. 20-25k in 2024 U.S. greenbacks), combined with classic British roadster styling, made it a popular choice among those looking for an accessible driving experience in a compact and charismatic package.

Mini Cooper S

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The perfect blend of retro charm and contemporary flair, the Mini Cooper S is a fabulously fun and well-rounded 4-cylinder car. The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine known for its peppy performance, makes the Mini Cooper S a joy to maneuver in urban environments as well as winding roads. The car’s fuel efficiency and compact size further contribute to its practicality. Still in production, the 2024 Mini Coopers offer a 3-cylinder engine. However, the rumor mill is saying that the 3-cylinder option will be discontinued for 2025.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

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The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, affectionately called the Evo, is recognized for its rally-bred roots and dynamic capabilities. Equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and an advanced all-wheel-drive system, the Evo delivers exceptional power and handling. The Evolution series has a rich history in rally racing, and this influence is evident in its exact steering and impressive traction on various road surfaces. Produced between 1992-2016, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII (2003-2005) was the first Evo model available in the U.S.

Nissan 240SX (S13)

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Produced from 1989 to 1994, the 240SX S13 is celebrated for its lightweight chassis, rear-wheel-drive configuration, and well-balanced dynamics. Powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, the S13 provided a solid foundation for aftermarket modifications, earning it popularity among those who sought to customize and enhance its performance. The 240SX S13’s affordability (original base price of $13.5k), coupled with its potential for modification and drifting (aka rolling donuts), has solidified its status as a cult classic.

Opel GT

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The Opel GT, was a captivating sports car produced between 1968-1973 and 2007-2009. Known for its sleek, distinctive design and sporty performance, the Opel GT was inspired by the Chevy Corvette. Featuring a distinctive fastback style with pop-up headlights, the GT housed a variety of 4-cylinder (and 3-cylinder) engines, under its hood. Its low-slung stance and incredible handling, coupled with its eye-catching aesthetics have rendered the Opel GT a classic, exhibiting Opel’s ability to blend style and performance in a compact sports car package.

Pontiac Solstice GXP

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With its striking design and engaging performance, the Pontiac Solstice GXP is the epitome of the American roadster. At the heart of the Solstice GXP is a potent turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, delivering an exhilarating 260 horsepower to the rear wheels. The distinctive clamshell hood and pronounced fenders, capture the nostalgia of a bygone era.  While the Pontiac brand is no longer in production, the Solstice GXP is celebrated for its blend of style and performance. Produced from 2005-2010, the Soltice shared a platform with the Saturn Sky.

Porsche 718 Cayman

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Of the 30 all-time best 4-cylinder sports cars ever, Porsche is one of the most unlikely entrants. Though the idea of a 4-cylinder Porsche is not the first thing to enter one’s mind, with its 4-cylinder engine, the 718 Cayman, is a dynamic and precision-engineered sports car in the Porsche lineup. The turbocharged 2.0-liter or 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine options deliver a remarkable combination of power and efficiency. Its mid-engine layout provides exceptional balance and handling, allowing drivers to navigate corners with confidence, and turning any linger doubters into believers. Yes, Virginia, 4-cylinder Porsches exist- and they’re amazing! With a base sticker price of $70k, the 718 Cayman is remarkably affordable – for a Porsche.

Renault Megane RS

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The Renault Megane RS, is a dynamic hatchback, powered by a  4-cylinder engine. The Megane RS delivers impressive power and torque for the ultimate driving adventure. Its sport-tuned suspension and all-wheel steering make the Megane RS a joy to maneuver, in tight urban settings as well as on long, leisurely country drives. A prominent rear spoiler, alloy wheels, and an exquisitely appointed interior emphasized the Megane RS’s fusion of performance and comfort. Production of this incredible vehicle ceased in 2023, edged out in favor of Renault’s new e-car models.

Saab 9-2X Aero

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The Saab 9-2X Aero, a unique collaboration between Saab and Subaru, resulted in a sporty compact with distinctive Scandinavian design cues and Japanese engineering expertise. Essentially a rebranded version of the Subaru Impreza WRX, the 9-2X Aero reflects Saab’s design influences through its distinctive front grille and interior details. Under the hood, the Aero variant housed a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, blending the practicality of a compact hatchback with a touch of Saab’s characteristic styling and driving dynamics. Thanks to its unconventional styling, in concert with its limited production (2004-2006) have created a niche following for the 9-2X.

Subaru BRZ

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The Subaru BRZ is the result of a collaboration between Subaru and Toyota. Powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine, the BRZ’s rear-wheel-drive layout and lightweight design contribute to its exceptional handling and balance. Its sporty design complements the performance-oriented nature of the car. Whether on the track or the open road, the Subaru BRZ captivates drivers who seek a well-balanced, driver-focused 4-cylinder Sports car. A. 2024 MSRP of $30k makes the BRZ even more captivating. The BRZ shares a platform with the Toyota 86.

Subaru WRX STI

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The Subaru WRX STI, a high-performance variant of the iconic WRX, commands attention with its rally-inspired pedigree and exhilarating performance. Powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine, the STI generates potent power and torque, channeled through Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Renowned for its rally-bred capabilities, the WRX STI excels in dynamic driving situations, with its sport-tuned suspension and impressive traction. Whether on the rally stage or the open road, the Subaru WRX STI captivates those who crave a combination of performance and rally-ready style. At a mere $32.7k the 2024 WRX STI is priced to sell.

Toyota MR2

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The Toyota MR2 is a compact, 4-cylinder sports car that was immediately embraced for its mid-engine layout and lightweight design. Over its three generations, the MR2  delivered a blend of performance tempered with efficiency. The MR2’s distinctive pop-up headlights and responsive handling contributed to its sporty aesthetic. Produced from 1984 until 2007, the Toyota MR2 remains a beloved classic, cherished for its role in bringing affordable mid-engine sports cars to a broader audience.

Toyota GR Supra 2.0

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The Toyota GR Supra 2.0 is a perfect balance of performance and accessibility. Fitted with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the GR Supra 2.0 delivers an amazing 255 horsepower. The rear-wheel-drive configuration, precise steering, and well-tuned chassis contribute to the Supra’s tight handling.  With a base MSRP of $47.5k, the 2024 GR Supra caters to drivers seeking an exciting and accessible entry into the world of sports cars.

Triumph TR4

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The Triumph TR4 is a classic British sports car that exudes timeless charm and performance. A sporty roadster, the TR4 featured a  2.1-liter inline-4 engine that delivered a combination of power and agility. The TR4’s responsive rack-and-pinion steering and well-tuned suspension provided a smooth, comfortable ride. With a focus on open-top motoring, the TR4’s convertible design added to its allure. A collector’s dream, only 71,000 TR4s were produced between 1961-1965

Volkswagen Golf GTI

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The Volkswagen Golf GTI, a pioneering hot hatch (aka sporty hatchback), has become an automotive icon, celebrated for its perfect blend of practicality and performance. The GTI (Grand Touring Injection)  supplies the everyday usability of the Volkswagen Golf in a sportier package.  Equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the GTI’s precision steering, well-tuned suspension, and slick handling make it a joy to navigate through city streets or down long and winding roads. The GTI’s distinctive exterior, featuring a signature red stripe on the grille and alloy wheels, adds the sporty touch Introduced in 1975, at the Frankfurt (Germany) International Motor Show, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was an instant sensation. With a base price of $32k, the VW Golf GTI is one of the more accessible all-time best 4-cylinder sports cars ever.

Volvo S60 Polestar

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The Volvo S60 Polestar represents a collaboration between Volvo and Polestar, Volvo’s performance partner. The S60 Polestar is powered by a twin-charged 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, tuned by Polestar to produce an astounding 455 horsepower and 523 lb-ft torque. The front-wheel-drive hatchback features sport-tuned suspension, providing an agreeable ride. The S60 also reflects Volvo’s commitment to safety, incorporating advanced safety technologies alongside its sporty attributes. Introduced in 2012, the 2024 Volvo S60 Polestar can be yours starting at $52k.


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