In the automotive world, size doesn’t always matter as there have been plenty of hot hatchbacks fitted with tiny engines that still offered unforgettable driving experiences. To honor those who have proven that you shouldn’t judge a car based on its engine capacity, we prepared a list with the smallest engines fitted in hot hatchbacks! (For more information, photos and detailed specs, click on the name of each model):
10. PSA Group TU-series engine – 1294 cm3
The first performance version of the french city car launched in 1987, fitted with a 1.3 liter engine, producing 95 hp (71 kW) and 113 Nm of torque. The engine was equipped with twin Solex ADDHE 40 carburettors until late 1988 and was then replaced with twin Weber DCOM 40 carburettors (like the Peugeot 205 Rallye). The 715 kg weight allowed a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 8,8 seconds and a top speed of 186 km/h (115 mph).
The 205 Rallye was engineered by Peugeot-Talbot sport, fitted with a 1294 cc engine (TU24 ) with a sports camshaft and twin Weber carburetors, producing 103 hp (76 kW) and 120 Nm of torque. The sport suspension was derived from the 205 GTI and thanks to numerous weight saving measures the car tipped the scales at 790 kg. The 205 Rally could accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 9,6 sec and could reach a top speed of 190 km/h (118 mph).
The 106 Rallye (Phase 1) launched in 1993, fitted with a 1.3 liter 8-valve engine (TU2J2) producing 98 hp (74 kw) and 110 Nm of torque. The stripped out version of the car weighted 816 kg, while the combination of a five speed manual gearbox and sporty suspension setting made it really fun to drive. The model accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 10,3 seconds and could reach a top speed of 190 km/h (118 mph). In 1996, the Phase 2 launched, fitted with a larger, 1587 cm3 engine, producing 103 hp (76 kw).
9. MG Metro Turbo – 1275 cm3
The MG Metro Turbo launched in 1982, fitted with a turbocharged version of the 1275 cm3 engine found on the base model. The engine featured an uprated crankshaft of nitrided steel and sodium-cooled exhaust valves, producing 94 hp (70 kw) and 118 Nm of torque. The 840 kg car accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 9,4 sec and could reach a top speed of 177 km/h (110 mph), while it featured stiffer suspension setting and ventilated discs at the front.
8. VW Polo II G40 and VW Polo II G40 (facelift) – 1272 cm3
The performance version of the second generation of the Volkswagen Polo (Typ 86C) was launched in 1986. The VW Polo II G40 was fitted with a 1272 cm3 engine, featuring a G-Lader supercharger and producing 115 hp (85 kw) and 148 Nm of torque. Thanks to the low weight of 830 kg, the car accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 8,8 seconds and could reach a top speed of 195 km/h (121 mph). The car featured larger brakes and stiffened suspension.
The VW Polo II G40 (facelift) launched in 1990 with a redesigned body and a multi-point fuel injected version of the 1272 cm3 engine producing 113 hp (83 kw) and 150 Nm of torque, combined with a reworked 5 speed manual gearbox. The facelifted moded accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 8,6 seconds and could reach a top speed of 196 km/h (122 mph). It featured lowered suspension, ventilated front brakes and rose-jointed steering and track control arms.
7. Honda City Turbo I / Turbo II – 1232 cm3
The Honda City Turbo launched in 1982, fitted with a 1231 cc CVCC “ER” engine producing 100 hp (74 kW) and 147 Nm of torque. The engine featured a IHI RHB51 turbocharger, Honda’s PGM-FI fuel injection, aluminium/titanium alloy head, valve covers from magnesium and an 8-bit digital control unit. The 850 kg car accelerated from 0–100 km/h in 8,6 seconds and could reach a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph).
The updated Honda City Turbo II launched in 1983, fitted with a new version of the same engine. The unit featured an intercooler, revised intake plenum, larger throttle body, a modified inlet manifold, new exhaust housings, a higher turbo compressor and raised compression ratio, producing 110 hp (81 kw) and 160 Nm of torque. Like its predecessor, it featured an independent suspensions system with progressive rate coil springs and stabilizers, as well as ventilated disc brakes at the front.
6. Fiat 1.1 FIRE engine – 1108 cm3
Fiat introduced the Cinquecento Sporting in 1995, fitted with a naturally aspirated 1108 cm3 FIRE engine, producing 54 hp (40 kW) and 85 Nm of torque. The Italian city car featured a sportier suspension with 30mm lower ride height and larger front disc brakes. It weighted 735 kg, could accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 13,8 sec and could reach a top speed of 153 km/h (95 mph). The Cinquecento Sporting and its successor, are ranked among the least powerful and the slowest cars in our database.
The updated Fiat Seicento Sporting (Type 187) launched in 1997, fitted with the same 1108 cc FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine) engine producing 55 hp (40kw) and 85 Nm of torque. Performance figures remained unchanged with 13,8 sec 0-100 km/h acceleration time and a 153 km/h (95 mph) top speed, while the suspension was lowered by 20 mm, anti roll bars were added and the redesigned body received a more aggressive bodykit. Later, the car was available with an Abarth styling kit.
5. Autobianchi A112 Abarth 70 and Lancia Y10 Turbo – 1050 cm3
The updated version of the Autobianchi A112 Abarth launched in 1976, fitted with a new naturally aspirated 1050 cm3 engine with a double barrel carburator, producing 70hp (51kw) and 85 Nm of torque. The car that weighted 700 kg, accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 11,5 sec and could reach a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). Starting from 1982 this car was also badged as Lancia A112 in some markets outside of Italy.
The Lancia Y10 Turbo launched in 1985, fitted with a turbocharged 1050 cc engine producing 85 ps (63 kw) and 123 Nm of torque. The engine featured sodium filled exhaust valves, electric fuel pump and Digiplex electronic ignition. It boasted a supercharging system from Formula 1 in miniature with intercooler, bypass valve, and thermostatic valve. As a result, the 790 kg car accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 9,5 seconds and could reach a top speed of 180 km/h.
4. VW Up! GTi 1.0 TSI – 999 cm3
The only car on the list that is currently on sale, is the Volkswagen Up! GTi, launched in 2017. The A-Segment hot hatchback is fitted with a turbocharged three cylinder 999 cm3 (1.0 TSI) engine, producing 115 hp (85 kw) and 200 Nm of torque, combined with a 6 speed manual gearbox. The design of the engine features include a dual overhead camshaft driven by a toothed timing belt, turbocharger with electric wastegate control, an intake manifold module with integrated charge air cooler and an exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head. The goal of VW Group’s engineers was to create the spiritual successor to the Golf I GTI – and spec-wise it seems they made it. Thanks to the 1070 kg weight and the power upgrades, the the Up! GTI accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 8,8 seconds and can reach a top speed of 197 km/h (122 mph). Being true to its roots, the car also features a stiffer suspension setting with lowered ride height, larger brakes, closer ratio of the electro-mechanical power steering and louder exhaust system.
3. Daihatsu Charade GTti – 993 cm3
The third generation of the Daihatsu Charade (G100) debuted in 1987, together with the top of the range performance GTti version. The 993 cm3 twin-cam fuel injected intercooled turbo engine, produced 101hp (74kw) and 130 Nm of torque while the car weighted 782 kg. Thanks to the power upgrades over the base version, the GTti accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 8,2 sec and could reach a top speed of 185 km/h (115 mph) being, at the time, the most powerful and the fastest production car with a 1.0 liter engine.
2. Autobianchi A112 Abarth 58 – 982 cm3
The A112 was a supermini introduced in 1969, developed on a shrunken version of the Fiat 128’s platform which subsequently underpinned the Fiat 127 and Yugo models. In 1971, a sportier version of the car was launched – the Autobianchi A112 Abarth 58, fitted with a 982 cm3 engine tuned by Abarth. It featured an increased stroke, a twin carburetor, a new camshaft and a new exhaust system, producing 58hp (43kw) and 74 Nm of torque. That may not sound a lot today, but it was more than enough for a car weighting 690 kg. The car accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 13,5 sec and could reach a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). In 1975, the A112 Abarth 58 was replaced by the updated A112 Abarth 70 (seen in the 5th place of our list) – which featured a larger 1050 cm3.
1 – Nissan Micra K10 Super Turbo – 930 cm3
We though we had it all right when we stumbled across a rare but really interesting hot hatch from the late 80’s that wins the first place on our list. The Nissan Micra K10 Super Turbo was launched in 1989, limited to 10,000 units as a homologation special. The car was fitted with an all aluminium four cylinder eight-valve 930 cm3 engine (MA09ERT) that featured both a supercharger and a turbocharged, producing 110hp / 81kw and 130 Nm of torque. Thanks to a limited slip differential, the car could accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 7,7 sec, could run the quarter mile in 15,5 sec and had a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph).
BONUS: Japanese Kei Cars < 660 cm3
The Cuore TR-XX Avanzato R is a Japanese Kei car launched in 1994 from Daihatsu, with an engine capacity of just 659 cm3 in order to comply with the regulations. The inline-4, DOHC 16 valve turbo engine produced 65 hp (48 kw) and 100 Nm of torque. The Japanese car only weighted 700 kg , accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 10,9 sec and could reach a top speed of 158 km/h (98 mph). Numbers do not give justice to this sporty little thing that featured unique toe-control arm rear suspension, disc brakes and even a limited slip differential.
Another great example of a hot Kei car is the Suzuki Alto Works, launched in 1987, based on the second generation Suzuki Alto with a three cylinder 547cc engine producing up to 63 PS (47 kW)! During the next decades other versions followed with larger engines up to 658cc, based on the third, forth and fifth generation of the Alto. Today, the Suzuki Alto VIII Works is based on the eighth generation of the mode with a modern three-cylinder 660cc engine producing 64 PS (47 kW) and 95 Nm of torque, featuring the whole package of aggressive bodykit, stiffer suspension, alloy wheels and larger brakes.