Front-wheel drive—sometimes less than ideally called wrong-wheel drive—is usually reserved for commuter cars that spend more of their time at Costco than the canyons. However, FWD can be fun! Add in a spicy motor with some go-fast bits, suspension that not only soaks up the bumps but also carves the turns, a manual transmission to make the experience more direct and mechanical, and you’re in affordable driving nirvana. Here are our five choices for some fast and furious front-drive funambulists.
As long as you can handle a slick 6-speed manual, a 252 horsepower turbocharged motor, and cat like reflexes, the ST blends the line between real-hot hatchback and economy minded commuter. Though the suspension is a bit on the firm side, the trade off is confidence while driving. You will know exactly what the Focus is doing at all times. And with ST’s averaging around $20k for a proper used version, you won’t be breaking the bank; instead you’ll be getting a lot of bang for your buck.
Find a lower mileage example and the Dodge Neo SRT-4 offers great value and lots of speed. While not the prettiest date at the dance, the SRT-4 was one of the fastest front-wheel drives cars of its generation. A stout 2.4-liter motor with a Mitsubishi turbocharger makes a modest 215 horsepower and a hearty 245 lb.-ft of torque, which is enough to propel this Neon to a top speed of 153mph. What the Neon lacks in refinement, it makes up for in performance, and possibly the ability to make you feel young again.
German engineering with British flair, the Mini Cooper S is the essential front drive fun-mobile that’s been making people happy since the 60s. While seriously upgraded for modern times, the Mini carries over a whole lot of charm while multiplying the horsepower in spades. Minis can be expensive from the factory, so a used model offers the ability to get one for a steal, or at least without the inflation of “new”. Add in a rigid, balanced chassis that’s still compliant enough to soak up those once-in-a-while potholes and you come away with an everyday go-kart.
If reliability and high-revving engines are your thing, look no further than the Honda Civic Si. Equipped with a 2.4-liter, 205 horsepower 4-cylinder, the Si is one of the tuner cars that started it all. It’s grown since the days of the Fast and the Furious, but in all the right ways. It’s modern, fully appointed and can seat four. Though, the rear seats are a bit snug. The Si is a FWD sports car that will rev to 7,000rpm (and sound good doing it) over and over again because it makes you work for the power in the best way possible by making it fun.
Though about 44-percent of Audi customers choose quattro (Audi’s proprietary AWD system), if you live in a climate where snow falling has literally “a chance in hell,” then choosing the standard front-wheel drive is the way to go. Places like California and Texas are perfect grounds for getting the most of the platform without the need for all-wheel drive. Add Audi’s great interior layout with a plusher ride than the former vehicles and you have a solid choice for quiet, safe, and spirited driving. And while the Audi is a bit more luxury than sport, if you’re not going full hotrod, it more than makes up for it.
Currently the full-time Editorial Director and Content Manager for RxSpeed.com, & contributing writer for Scout.com. He also loves photography, videography, his Shiba Inu Mia and driving sports cars.