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17 Most Fun to Drive 2015 Cars With 200 HP or Less

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/23/2015 Zach Gale

Mighty 707-hp Hellcat-powered Dodges are great, but there aren't always enough public places to safely exploit that capability before congested roads hamper your fun. Enter cars with 200 hp or less. Unlike the Bugatti Veyron, which has an instrument cluster gauge indicating how much of the car's astounding 1,000+ hp you're wasting at any given moment, plenty of cars below 200 hp compensate for their lack of power with how quickly they'll put a smile on your face.

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So take a look at our choices of 2015 model-year vehicles (and one 2016-model exception) that show there's fun to be had in driving a slow car fast and then tell us: Which of these cars would you most like to drive?

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17 Most Fun to Drive 2015 Cars With 200 HP or Less
Audi A3Fiat 500C AbarthKia Forte EXNissan Juke
BMW 320iFord Fiesta STMazda3Scion FR-S
Chevrolet Sonic RSHonda FitMazda6Smart ForTwo
Chevrolet Spark EVJeep Renegade TrailhawkMazda MX-5Subaru BRZ
Volkswagen Golf

2015 Audi A3 1.8T

2015 Audi A3© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Audi A3 The 2015 Audi A3 lineup is surprisingly expansive, with three gas engines (a fourth is likely on the way in the form of the RS 3 hatch ) and a diesel, but you don't have to upgrade from the base model for a fun experience. In fact, we found the 170-hp A3 1.8T more entertaining than the 220-hp 2.0T even though the A3 2.0T hits 60 mph in an as-tested 5.4 seconds, 1.4 seconds quicker than the A3 1.8T's 6.8 seconds.

Audi A3 1.8T - Motor Trend Perspective:

2015 Audi A3 1 8T© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Audi A3 1 8T "Though the A3 2.0T sports better performance numbers than the 1.8T, I think the A3 1.8T is the one to have if all-wheel drive isn't on your must-have list. The A3 1.8T doesn't feel noticeably slower while driving and its gearing feels shorter, making it feel perky around town. The 1.8T-equipped A3 also has lighter, more communicative steering than the 2.0T, which makes it much more fun on back roads..."

2015 BMW 320i

2014 BMW 320i© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW 320i The best-selling 3 Series line starts with a model many skip right over: the 320i. Powered by a detuned version of the 328i's turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-four, the 320i is good for 180 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. The four-door is about so much more than numbers, although its as-tested 6.7-second 0-60 mph time isn't shabby. Executive editor Ron Kiino said of a 2013 model that "the 3 Series magic is alive and well," and in a First Test review we said that the BMW still had plenty of power to enjoy the chassis. So the 320i whines a little at wide-open throttle — the car just goes to show you don't necessarily need a 240- or 300-hp BMW to have fun.

BMW 320i - Motor Trend Perspective:

2014 BMW 320i© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW 320i "When the road gets twisty, put the 320i into Sport mode and knock the transmission's slick gear selector lever to S — the car is just as entertaining as you'd expect from a BMW with 50-50 front-rear weight distribution. The steering feels a bit disconnected through the sport package's thick M steering wheel but still provides enough heft. The suspension tuning is just right, too, with the sport seats' adjustable bolsters keeping most drivers in place around turns."

2015 Chevrolet Sonic RS

2015 Chevrolet Sonic RS Sedan Parked© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Sonic RS Sedan Parked Yes, we get it: The Ford Fiesta ST is more powerful yet doesn't cost that much more than the Chevrolet Sonic RS, but there's lots to like about the sporty Chevy, too. With its as-tested 8.7-second 0-60 mph time for a six-speed manual model, it's clear Chevrolet focused on the rest of the driving experience with the Sonic RS, and we found the car a joy to fling around freeway ramps and mountain roads. Powered by a 138-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four, the Sonic RS has just enough go-fast bits to distinguish the car from lesser Sonics without beating you over the head with this car's model line-topping status.

Chevrolet Sonic RS - Motor Trend Perspective

"Driving the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS is a gratifying, engaging experience. The steering is a real find for this class. It's very well-weighted, giving good feedback without transmitting so much that it would be burdensome on long trips. And you wouldn't call the shifter short-throw by any means, but neither is it a giant lever as in a school bus. It's fun. Easy-to-find gates lead to a soft "thunk" when you land them."

2015 Chevrolet Spark EV

2015 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging Driving an electric car is a completely different kind of automotive fun, especially when you can blow the doors off most cars off the line thanks to instantly available torque. In the Spark EV's case, we liked it enough to suggest that the limited-availability EV hatch should be thought of more as a Spark SS. With 140 hp, the 2014 model boasted 400 lb-ft of torque, while the slightly lighter 2015 model gets 327 lb-ft - both model years have an EPA-rated 82-mile range. A 2014 Spark EV' acceleration from 0-60 mph comes in an as-tested 7.5 seconds, and we hope the new 2016 Chevrolet Spark and a potential EV variant keeps the fun-to-drive demeanor of the outgoing car.

Chevrolet Spark EV - Motor Trend Perspective:

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV "The Spark EV is quick out of the hole, and it's the easiest thing this side of a motorcycle to place in tight gaps in traffic. Parking usually isn't an issue either, given its diminutive size. ... The Spark handles surprisingly well, with good steering feel, and a well-dampened ride that doesn't get upset over violent bumps."

2015 Fiat 500 Abarth

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth It's all about the exhaust with the polarizing Fiat 500 Abarth, the sporty version of the cute Italian two-door hatch that undercuts the Mini Hardtop in price. The entertaining car has 160 horsepower and a Sport button that increases torque from 150 to 170 lb-ft, and the automaker has paid special attention to the way it sounds. "If the Abarth sound is your kind of ruckus and you get the cabrio," we said in a 500c review, "expect to have a big, goofy grin on your face all the time."

Fiat 500C Abarth - Motor Trend Perspective:

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth "The handling is entertaining. With stiffer springs (33 percent stiffer front and 12 percent rear than 500c Pop/Lounge), increased roll resistance, and a 0.6-inch lower ride height, the 500c Abarth encourages drivers to explore their driving abilities. The serious driver will find the three-stage stability control (on, partially on, and off) intriguing. And since the front wheels are set from the factory to -1.5 degrees for more camber gain and cornering grip, you might as well make as much use of the available tread as possible. You know, so the front tires will wear more evenly."

2015 Ford Fiesta ST

2015 Ford Fiesta ST© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford Fiesta ST Although the Ford Fiesta ST was the least powerful car in the 2014 Motor Trend Best Driver's Car competition, it still managed to place above a Subaru WRX STI, Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and BMW i8. Powered by a 197-hp, turbocharged, 1.6-liter inline-four with 202 lb-ft of torque, the Fiesta ST hits 60 mph in an as-tested 6.7 seconds, and at BDC 2014 it represented the most fun per dollar of the group. The 2015 Fiesta ST starts at $21,770 with a standard six-speed manual.

Ford Fiesta ST - Motor Trend Perspective:

2015 Ford Fiesta ST© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford Fiesta ST "The Fiesta requires no fussing around with electronic adjustments or settings. Just turn off stability control and go for it. In a great example of how front-drive street cars can handle, the rear just hints at rotation when you press hard, but it doesn't do big slides unless provoked. And it's tremendous fun when it does. 'It simultaneously feels like it's driving right on the edge of the tires, but always has plenty more grip,' said Scott Evans. Randy Pobst called it an 'overachiever.' Head honcho Edward Loh said, 'It's one of those cars that you find yourself shifting repeatedly and changing lanes in for no reason.'"

2015 Honda Fit

© Provided by MotorTrend The subcompact Honda Fit hatchback is one of the least powerful and slowest cars on this list, but don't let that fool you. The 130-hp Fit with a CVT that offers paddle shifters and a Sport mode is 1.1 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the outgoing model with a five-speed automatic, and a six-speed manual is available, as well. The Fit is a well-executed small car that led us to ask in a First Test review, "Why is this little sensible-shoes boxcar such fun to drive?"

Honda Fit - Motor Trend Perspective:

© Provided by MotorTrend"But trust me, the new Fit is more fun to road race than it is to drag race — not that anybody does either. It's just that the handling seems more remarkable than the acceleration. New rear shocks, revised suspension geometry all around, and improved bushing tuning make this a surprisingly fun car to hoon through a series of esses."

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Off Road 3© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Off Road 3 Yes, the littlest Jeep is based on a Fiat, but the Renegade in Trailhawk form is impressive. For off-road fun on the right trails, a 2015 Renegade Trailhawk might surprise with its 180-hp, 2.4-liter I-4, the automaker's Active Drive Low all-wheel-drive system, and a 0.8-inch suspension lift. Add in the Renegade Trailhawk's off-road tires, and you've got a small crossover that's got better approach, breakover, and departure angles than the larger Cherokee Trailhawk. In a short off-road course, we found the Renegade Trailhawk "shockingly capable."

Jeep Renegade Trailhawk - Motor Trend Perspective:

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Front Three Quarter 2© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Front Three Quarter 2 "The first set of soccer-ball-sized rocks was no problem, nor was the incredibly steep, rocky hill following it — that hill even saw the Renegade pick up its inside front and rear tires as I navigated the course. Those obstacles were soon followed by frame-punishing dirt troughs that the Renegade took to like a billy goat, its underside seeing plenty of sunlight as it pushed and dragged itself through. Instilled with confidence after another go, I spent my last go-around of the course switching back and forth between the Selec-Terrain's modes. While Rock proved most suitable for the particular course, Sand was fun over some of the loose dirt on the course, allowing the Renegade to hang its tail out a bit like a rally car."

2015 Kia Forte EX 2.0

2015 Kia Forte Front Side View Lights On© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Kia Forte Front Side View Lights On Surprised? The Kia Forte with the 173-hp, 2.0-liter inline-four won a 2013 comparison and placed second in a 2014 rematch against compact sedans — and it wasn't just because of the car's extensive options list. Despite an exhaust note of a "clogged Dyson vacuum," the Forte handles well and has a multi-mode steering system. We've tested two Forte EX sedans, with 0-60 mph done in 7.8-8.1 seconds.

Kia Forte EX 2.0 - Motor Trend Perspective:

2015 Kia Forte Front Side View In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Kia Forte Front Side View In Motion "The zippy little Forte also acquitted itself well on the curves of Mulholland Highway, with a ride that managed to feel firm and well-buttoned, without jiggling our giblets over the rough stuff. The Forte impressed Reynolds on the figure-eight course, demonstrating 'the Forte's solidity and refinement with a slightly nimbler feel and tremendously improved steering...'"

2015 Mazda3

2014 Mazda3 i Touring© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mazda3 i Touring You can't go wrong with the Mazda3 or, really, most of Mazda's lineup when it comes to fun under 200 hp. A base-engine Mazda3 unseated the Kia Forte EX in our most recent Big Test comparison, and for good reason — the car is a blast in town and on winding roads. Though it is a bit loud on the freeway, a 2014 Mazda3 i Touring model with 155 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission accelerated from 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds.

Mazda3 i Touring - Motor Trend Perspective:

2014 Mazda3 i Touring© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mazda3 i Touring "On the twisties, however, this engine's snarl, the chassis' agility, the best-in-test steering feel, and the well-bolstered seats earn straight As and encourage miscreant cornering behavior. Testing director Kim Reynolds was surprised the Mazda felt 'nose-heavy, yawing at a noticeably slower natural frequency' on the figure-eight course, but it managed to edge out the much quicker and more powerful Jetta by a precious tenth to win that test. And the spry Mazda3 truly shone on Mulholland Highway, prompting executive editor Ron Kiino to declare it the 'best driver here — great steering, nice ride, fun and sporty handling.'"

2015 Mazda6

2014 Mazda6 I Touring Front Side View In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mazda6 I Touring Front Side View In Motion The Mazda6 is a two-time comparison-test-winning midsize sedan that delivers a driving experience more exciting than pretty much everything else in its class. It's also as attractive as it is fun to drive. With 184 hp from a 2.5-liter inline-four, the Mazda6 is also one of the quicker players. Although a six-speed manual is also available, we've tested the Mazda6 with a six-speed automatic hitting 60 mph in 7.4-7.7 seconds.

Mazda6 i Grand Touring - Motor Trend Perspective:

2014 Mazda6 I Touring Side Motion View© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Mazda6 I Touring Side Motion View From Scott Evans: "Engine's got plenty of zip. Never had to floor it, and it never felt weak or made the car feel heavy. Everything about this car is smooth and fluid. The way the steering comes off center, the way the suspension eases the chassis into corners, the way the throttle picks up, the way the brakes engage, the way it handles transitions. It's perfect."

2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2015 Mazda MX 5 Miata 25Th Anniversary Edition Front Three Quarter View In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mazda MX 5 Miata 25Th Anniversary Edition Front Three Quarter View In Motion The MX-5 Miata is the soul of the Mazda brand and comes closer than almost anything else on the road to achieving driving nirvana. A rear-drive sporty roadster in the tradition of classic British drop-tops, the MX-5 Miata adds better reliability and a top that can be fastened in less than 5 seconds. And even if you go for a still-on-dealer-lots 2015 instead of the incoming, redesigned 2016 model, the 158- to 167-hp 2015 MX-5 Miata promises fun on any road, whether you go for one of the two manual transmissions or even the six-speed automatic.

Mazda MX-5 - Motor Trend Perspective:

2013-mazda-mx-5-miata-club-front-three-quarters-7© Provided by MotorTrend 2013-mazda-mx-5-miata-club-front-three-quarters-7 "...The Mazda doesn't take itself too seriously in the tight, twisty canyons. The roadster allows the driver to set his or her own pace — it's just as fun and rewarding to drive at two-tenths as it is at the limit. Everything, from its engine, to its small size, worked to make the Miata a blast on the back roads. Even the body roll we first noticed on the figure eight helped make the experience that much more enjoyable for the driver because, as Lago pointed out, it makes the driver feel like they're on the world's driest waterslide."

2015 Nissan Juke

2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD Look behind the 2015 Nissan Juke 's disconcerting front styling, and you'll see a playful compact crossover. The car's 188-hp, turbocharged, 1.6-liter inline-four is paired to a CVT or a six-speed manual, and the Juke offers a drive-mode selector that adjusts the throttle, steering, and, if you selected the CVT, transmission response settings. The 215-hp Juke NISMO RS model is beyond our 200-hp cap, but even as a standard model, the Juke, a car we once called "freakishly fun," is ready for a canyon run whenever you are.

Nissan Juke - Motor Trend Perspective:

2011 nissan juke sl front three quarters© Provided by MotorTrend 2011 nissan juke sl front three quarters "Zooming around slower traffic and, amazingly, through some of the region's best canyon roads never failed to be entertaining. The 188-horse, 1.6-liter heart and CVT needed loads of prodding and "manual" shifting, but even still, the Juke put a lot of so-called 'sporty' compacts to shame when it came to oomph and sticky handling."

2015 Scion FR-S

2015 Scion FR S© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Scion FR S The 2015 Scion FR-S isn't a sporty version of a mainstream car — it's a performance-oriented two-door that, along with the mechanically similar Subaru BRZ, attracts some of the most dedicated driving enthusiasts around. Although some have been waiting for a more powerful version since the rear-drive FR-S arrived, the naturally aspirated, 200-hp version is a fun drift machine thanks to the way it's been engineered, plus the fact that it's rolling on tires shared with the Prius.

Scion FR-S - Motor Trend Perspective:

2015 Scion FR S© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Scion FR S "The FR-S attacks the canyons and wants you to drive it as if you were outrunning Ray Lewis in the dark. It's just not as happy cruising along at anything less than a frantic pace. The Scion is more focused, more serious, and wants to be pushed at the limit, nothing less. ... The Scion is perfect for autocross and track days, or alternatively for someone who wants a ton of fun, but who can only afford one car."

2016 Smart Fortwo

© Provided by MotorTrend The smart fortwo inspires smiles and laughter from some passersby, but the new 2016 model has been seriously improved, starting with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Although the car has less than 100 hp from its three-cylinder engine, it only weights around 2,100 pounds, so it's plenty quick enough to dart in and out of traffic. Nothing we can say about the little Smart car speaks to its improved driving experience as much as Jonny Lieberman's admission in a First Drive review that the car put a smile on his face. "I never thought I'd say anything of the sort [about a Smart Fortwo]," Lieberman wrote, "but here we are."

Smart Fortwo - Motor Trend Perspective:

2016 Smart ForTwo© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Smart ForTwo "...I strapped into the more potent, turbocharged version and, dude, it's pretty fun to drive. Much more so than I thought possible for any vehicle sporting the Smart badge. Shocking news, I know. I'm betting Smart's going to have a little hit on its hands here in America. Like sex, fun sells. If you're still not convinced, remember that like a Porsche 911, the Fortwo is both rear-engined and RWD. Add a powertrain worth a damn and that's a recipe for sporty fun."

2015 Subaru BRZ

2013 Subaru BRZ© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Subaru BRZ When Randy Pobst describes a car as "extremely enjoyable and satisfying," we take notice, and that's exactly what happened when the 200-hp, rear-drive BRZ took first place in a 2012 six-car comparison. The balanced Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S were designed to inject more passion into the automakers' lineups, and that's exactly what they've done. A hotter BRZ is on the way, but it upgrades much of the driving experience except the engine.

Subaru BRZ - Motor Trend Perspective:

2013 Subaru BRZ© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Subaru BRZ "The Subaru BRZ is a special car. This much is obvious after just a few turns on a curvy road, where a delicate balance between the steering, throttle, shifter, and tires emerges. It offers a pervasive sense of control, allowing you to place the tires within millimeters of your intended target. The engineers' focus on a low center of gravity is evident: Every movement the BRZ makes seems to start below ground level."

2015 Volkswagen Golf

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI The 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year is excellent no matter what variant you're considering. Skip the 200-hp-plus Golf GTI and Golf R models, and besides the EV, you're left with a surprisingly quick TSI model with a turbocharged, 170-hp, 1.8-liter inline-four and of course the TDI's 150-hp, turbodiesel, 2.0-liter inline-four with 236 lb-ft of torque. The Golf feels solid — it's a well-built car that deserves a place on the shopping lists of those seeking a compact and well-rounded car.

Volkswagen Golf - Motor Trend Perspective:

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI "No matter which Golf variant we jumped into, we emerged with smiles on our faces. And while each obviously catered to different priorities, they all share the same solid build quality, taut structure, and remarkable ride that make them feel like a premium vehicle in an entry-level segment. ... The TSI's 1.8-liter turbocharged I-4 must vie for the title of best standard engine in its segment, sharing the same EA888 series design as its GTI sibling. Moreover, its six-speed torque-converter automatic shifted quick enough to have more than one editor wondering if it were actually a snazzy twin-clutch auto."

What's your favorite fun to drive 2015 car with 200 hp or less?

17 Most Fun to Drive 2015 Cars With 200 HP or Less© Provided by MotorTrend 17 Most Fun to Drive 2015 Cars With 200 HP or Less
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