For the past several decades, there have been two primary schools of thought when it comes to performance engineering. The first: many manufacturers felt bigger was better and relied on engine size and greater displacement to boost power and performance. The second: rather than relying on adding more, some chose to take away — less displacement, less weight, and a greater emphasis on handling. In short, there are cars that make up their times in the straights and those which make it up in the turns.
In the United States, larger engines and displacements have long been a hallmark of American automotive performance engineering, while elsewhere, smaller cars with half the power — but also considerably less weight — are generally favored over raw power and torque.
Though the lines separating these two schools of thought are blurring, there are most definitely still two camps, each of which offers its own unique driving experience. Here are 10 performance-oriented cars that fall into the small-engine, less weight category — and all offer perhaps the most fun you can have for south of $35,000. The following are not ranked by any specific measure.
1. Subaru WRX STI
The appeal of Subaru‘s WRX STI is fairly clear: horsepower in excess of 300, routed to all four wheels through a six-speed transmission courtesy of Subaru’s trademark boxer engine format, which keeps the center of gravity lower. Revered as a watered-down rally car for the road, the STI is available in four- or five-door formats, though the latter will be disappearing — much to the chagrin of WRX enthusiasts — for the 2015 model year.