Horsepower don’t make or break a car, even on a sports car. In fact, horsepower contributes no more than 20 percent to a car’s character.
Don’t believe it? Google up Koenigsegg test driver’s Robert Serwanski’s and his ‘slow’ Mazda MX-5 harassing cars with 3 times more power on the Nurburgring.
The dynamics of a cars is influenced by many factors, and power is just one of the many factors. Others include steering, weight and weight transfer, and even tyres.
Before you decide on which sports car/hot hatch/sports sedan to buy, it is important to ask yourself what you are looking for.
Unless your objective is to set a new lap record on Sepang, judging a car solely on its power will set you on a narrow path, and you never know what you’re missing out.
A good driver’s car interacts with you like it’s an extension of your hands and feet. You may not run the fastest, but the car is part of you and that makes you happy, and for emotional products like sports cars, happiness is all that matters.
Yours truly has driven all types of superfast machinery – the fastest is still the 585 PS Mercedes-AMG GT R around Germany’s Bilster Berg circuit, which is laid out like a mini-Nurburgring, when I was with my previous publication.
It makes for great bragging talk but you know what other cars I’ve had just as much, if not more fun with? A 5-speed manual Perodua Kelisa and a three-cylinder BMW 118i.
My other memorable fun drives, as you would see later, are just silly cars that no self respecting enthusiast driver will want to own, but at the same time, these are silly fun drives that you should experience at least once in your life.
Here’s WapCar’s list of five slow cars that are surprisingly fun to drive. We try to avoid the usual suspects and some of the models you see here can be downright silly but hand on our heart, we are being very honest here. You should try it.
Isuzu D-Max Single Cab
Surprise! Yes it’s a commercial truck used by neighbourhood pasar malam stall operators.
You want to do childish powerslides on a wet road? You want to try drifting around corner but don’t want to crash and end up as Youtube's next biggest hit?
Here’s a little secret – the Isuzu D-Max Single Cab (and only the Single Cab) does all that, at speeds so slow that if you do crash, you should just do the world a favour and remove yourself from the roads.
When Isuzu engineers developed the D-Max Single Cab, they expected users to overload the truck. Just take a look at how the Thais load their trucks. So without any cargo, the D-Max Single Cab’s long (and empty) deck becomes very tail happy, thus giving you lots of cheap, silly fun.
It's also manual and rear-wheel drive. You can see where this is going.
All you need is a slightly damp patch of road, rev it, dump the clutch and the rear tyres will snake and hop as it struggles to gain traction. Turn the steering wheel ever so slightly and it slides around a corner easier and better than many drift cars.
The lightweight 1.9-litre aluminum block engine helps its handling too.
Another pasar malam car. Unlike the Isuzu D-Max, the Nissan NV200 is front wheel drive so it doesn’t do silly powerslides, even when the rear is unloaded.
Its 1.6-litre petrol engine however, is taken from the now discontinued Nissan Latio but unlike the Latio, the NV200 uses a five-speed manual.
Funny how a simple change of transmission can change the character of the engine. When paired with a three-pedal setup, the engine exhibited a rev happy character that wasn’t immediately obvious in the 4-speed automatic Latio.
It’s also surprisingly nimble, making it fun to chuck into corners. The rev happy engine also makes you want to work the manual transmission even more. You wouldn’t want to drive this daily, but ferrying tyres to the race track have never been this fun.
Progressing to something less mindboggling, the Mazda 2 probably the cheapest fun car to buy right now. It’s agile, fits around snugly like a perfect fitting glove, the Mazda 2 embodies everything about Mazda’s Jinba Ittai philosophy of driving pleasure.
The tiny 1.5-litre engine isn’t fast but the body is light and when you steer into a corner, you feel the car’s changing motion in your hips – now that’s a hallmark of a proper fun to drive car.
The C-HR has one of the best steering rack for any SUV. It’s an electric assisted unit that’s light when parking but weighs up considerably at higher speeds.
On the move, the steering feels very much like an old school hydraulic assisted unit. It’s precise and delivers excellent feedback to the driver.
The chassis strikes a very good balance between comfort and body control, so good that we wished MINI would take some cue here.
What it lacks in outright power, it makes up for it with its excellent handling.
Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ
You can’t call it a sports car or a performance car if it makes less power than a pick-up truck or your accountant’s Volkswagen can you?
However 20 years later, when every other car is electrified and drives itself, the world will look back at the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins as the last of a proper driver’s car.
No all-wheel drive, no turbocharging, no driving aids, nothing to corrupt the purity of its experience, the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ is an old school sports car made at the tail-end of the new age.
There will be another Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, but they won’t and can’t make it like this anymore. This one’s a keeper.
History won’t look back at an AMG A45 and say “Oh how we missed not having yet another mega hatch that’s so easy to drive any kid can now go fast,” but we will want something that we can no longer have.