With fuel prices worldwide still setting records and the muscle car renaissance fading, sports car tuners are turning up their noses at V8 muscle in favor of tuning high-revving, big boost-ready 4 cylinder pocket rockets big on style and attitude.
To make this exclusive-to-Associated Content list of top 5 sport compact 2010 tuner cars, the cars had to have met certain criteria, listed as follows:
I. 4 Cylinders, Turbo or Naturally Aspirated
Every car on the best 2010 aftermarket tuner car list has either exclusively or as on option a 4 cylinder engine. With 4 turbos and an air-breather, these cars push between 161 and XXX304 horsepower before the bolt on and conversion parts even begin flying in and out of the garages. Still, we are talking about sport compact tuning here, where the motor is nothing but a perfectly-tailored blank canvass.
II. Servicable Back Seat
The reason why other several other worthy sport compacts were left off this tuner car list is that they lack a back seat that can actually comfortably fit a couple of adults for any distance of travel. While we’re not talking BMW 7 Series room by any means, all of the cars here can fit four adults without any elbow mashing or knees to the back of the drivers seat right in the middle of a downshift into 4th gear on the highway.
III. Less-than-exorbitant Price Tag
The hardest of hard in the sport compact tuner scene drop tens of thousands of dollars into their cars, so why put a price cap on a list of pocket rockets? Most car tuners buy an inexpensive hot hatch or small coupe or sedan they can afford cash or with a low monthly payment, then add to and modify them as money allows. The cars on this list carry approximate MSRP tags of between $18,000 and $25,000.
Without any more BS, here are the choices in order from really friggin’ awesome to the best-of-the-best.
#5. 2010 Scion tC
#4. 2010 Honda Civic Si
#3. 2010 Mazdaspeed3
#2. 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T
#1. 2010 Subaru WRX
2010 Scion tC
The tC, amazingly, has changed very little since its inception as a 2005 model. While there are certainly more capable cars that could have made the list, the 2010 Scion tC stands tall at number 5 for two primary reasons: point-of-entry price for tuners and sheer beauty.
At a base price of only $17,670, the tC is cheaper than other small coupes with its sporting capabilities. Best of all for those tuners who don’t have the gumption to buy a brand new car and then immediately void the warrantee, Toyota offers an unmatched factory tuning and customization program from TRD (Toyota Racing Development). Pricey, sure, but the tC TRD program takes a hot little hatch even further into tuner sport compact territory.
2010 Honda CIvic Si
Honda has been building “Si” (stands for Sport Injection models of its Civic cars since way back in 1985, and gradually the Civic Si has climbed in power, price, technology and weight. The 2010 Civic Si as a tuner car is chunky by 1985 standards, but with its whole host of modern safety equipment it will have to do.
The highlight on this car is Honda’s excellent 197 horsepower naturally aspirated K20Z3 engine, with similar output to many 2.0t versions on the market. The latest-generation Si also gets a limited slip differential to help overcome some of the limitations front wheel drive offers.
It may not have the classic Si style, but the 2010 Civic Si is still a beast from the factory, before tuners even get their hands on it.
While it costs $6,000 more than a 2010 Scion tC, the Mazdaspeed3 is still an even better performance bargain. Perhaps its most brag-worthy feature on the tuner scene is the new DISI 2.3 liter motor. The “DI” means direct injection, where fuel flows directly into the cylinder without traveling through an air-and-fuel-mixing manifold first.
The result is 263 horsepower and the ability to control timing down to an infinitesimal amount, helping produce a turbocharged car that feels and drives like a naturally aspirated car. Still, overboosting cars with direct injection is still an unproven science, so use caution if 263 horses is not nearly enough.
2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T
A Hyundai, you say? A Hyundai displaces a handful of other cars that did not make the grade? Take a long look at the new Korean rocket if you are in the market for an import tuner. For more info on just what makes the Genesis Coupe 2.0T so special, see my Associated Content exclusive “Why Late-Model Hyundai Tuning Makes Great Sense”.
With RWD, fully independent sport-tuned suspension (ahem Ford Mustang V6) and a turbocharged 2.0 liter turbo motor co-developed with Mitsubishi, the Genesis Coupe also has body lines that will turn heads and yet look more classic than overly-flashy. The 2.0T is the way to go if you like big turbo power in a RWD sports coupe for only $22,000, but the 300 horsepower V6 is only $3 grand more…
Winner: 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX
The 2010 Subaru WRX is still king of sub-$25,000 import tuner cars. When the latest-generation Subaru WRX was deemed too soft, Subaru bit back at critics by upping horsepower to a whopping 265, not-so-accidentally 2 more than the Mazdaspeed3. While 10 grand more will get you the WRX STi, a car that turns in faster lap times than a lot of $100,000+ sports cars, the standard WRX is still a big performance bargain.
What makes this car better than a Genesis 2.0T or a Mazdaspeed3 from the tuner standpoint? It is the only car on this list featuring AWD, with engine internals and transmission ready for lots of boost without too much fuss. Want a turn-key track day car ready for garage tuner magic? The WRX can’t be beat