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Redusernab Asks: What’s your favorite non-sporting car to drive in anger?

Jeff Glucker October 4, 2017 Redusernab Asks 85 Comments

Slow-car fast. It’s a mantra we can all stand by here in the Redusernab. You take a car that isn’t very quick, and you push it to its limits. Those limits arrive far more quickly than in a high-performance machine, so you’ll often find rewarding driving is closer than it seems in a car like this.

Which one is your favorite though? I remember absolutely falling in love with a Mazda2 years ago. It has to be one with a manual gearbox, mind you. From there, you have a wonderful little chassis, underpowered engine, and a slick shifting transmission in your control. I pushed harder and harder, yet the relatively small rubber at each corner never made a peep. The Mazda2 just seemed to revel in the fact that it was being flogged on a twisting back road.

What are some other examples of a non-sporting car that can provide quite a bit of fun when driving spiritedly?

  • Zentropy

    My 1987 BMW 325e, which had the miserly 2.7L “eta” engine with a whopping 121 hp, was admittedly slow (it redlined at 4700rpm), but handled beautifully. I would shortcut through the winding country on my 60-minute commute, and learned how to maintain momentum through the turns. That car taught me much more about driving quickly than did my ’66 Mercury Caliente, with its tire-smoking big-block 390.

  • GTXcellent

    Way, way, way back in high school daze, a couple of buddies and I decided we needed to be in the demo derby at the county fair – the majestic mount we found….a 1963 Impala sedan. 283 (that badly needed a valve job), Powerglide, no power brakes or steering, flat bench seat.
    Absolutely the most fun car I’ve ever driven, simply because it didn’t matter what happened to it. We’d drive the gravel backroads like Junior Johnson. In an antiquated car that was never designed for any type of handling at all (Ever try to take a fast corner in an X-frame GM product?), with every window knocked out, hand-made up turned headers, and rocking 10 ply snow tires. Far and away my favorite slow car fast.

  • SoldierofaDifferentStripe

    A classic VW beetle. Can’t hardly over-rev one, 34-50 hp only goes so fast, but you can foot to the floor in every gear and still be invisible to the badge wearers.

  • Alcology

    I have Fiesta, which is based on the mazda2. Super fun!

    • Jeff Glucker

      My favorite Fiesta is actually the 3cyl

      • Alcology

        That’s the one. It is fantastic. I keep meaning to change to ford racing suspension and do a tune because it’s so cheap, but I haven’t got around to it.

  • crank_case

    Yay – Mazda 2. As one of these is our “sensible” car, I can vouch that it’s a fun steer.

    Sad thing is though, there was a time when most small European hatches were a riot provided they did not have the VW Seal of Stodge on the front or was a Ford Escort after the MK2. The Peugeot 306 is as near to viceless a handling car as a front driver gets, and full grown adults can fit comfortably too.

    The most fun low-power hatch I’ve driven was probably an Alfa Romeo 146, it was a base model 1.4 boxer, but it handled so vicelessly and fluently and had a wonderful engine note.

    My wee Fiat Cinq was fun at low-ish speeds as the limits were so low, but you could run into understeer at any sort of speed on a decent road. It was a lot of fun in urban driving, but limits can be too low at the same time.

    • Sjalabais

      I once rented a 500 on vacation in Greece. Just a week on my own, to study in peace and escape the rain in Bergen. When I took a corner enthusiastically, the inner rear wheel lifted. It did again in the next corner. I then proceeded to take it slower, and was looking forward to getting back to my ’77 242.

      • Bean Diddlesworth

        It was marking its territory.

        • Sjalabais

          I was afraid to end my days as a mark on the Greek territory.

          • crank_case

            In fairness, if you can’t handle the mobile tripod thing, you may be not be cut out for the old school hot hatch experience. …I’ve not driven the 500, but it’s based on a Panda, and yeah it’s not the most sophisticated handling thing and a little skittish on uneven surfaces, but it’s a result of the front being softer than the rear as the power goes through the fronts.

            • bean diggelsworth

              The 500 Abarth is not sophisticated in any way, and it’s all the better for it. Acceleration is about the same as a diesel Volvo taxi wagon but it feels like its going a million and(with the optional Record Monza exhaust) it randomly pops and bangs loud enough to startle people and skips around on bumpy roads. It’s brilliant!

              Recently drove the new RS Clio Cup. Felt large and the engine was rather soulless if competent, but it’s the most lift-off-oversteery modern FWD car i’ve driven. A pleasant surprise i noticed on a wet motorway ramp.

              • shean shuttlesworth

                Obvisouly talking about the “modern” 500, not the literally spelled out fivehundred.

            • Sjalabais

              Yeah, I agree, it had all the logic and back of a homemade soapbox. Anyway, I was on public roads, not even going all that fast, looking for the grotta of Zeus – I’m also pretty tall, so people have told me it looks like I sit in the back seat when I drive small cars. Sticking to slow, big car fast mantra.

              • crank_case

                I’m kinda trying to imagine how it would look having to fill out “Misjudged the corner while looking for the Grotto of Zeus” on an insurance form.

                • Sjalabais

                  ◽Divine intervention

                  • crank_case

                    Maybe you should have borrowed Homers Odyssey

          • Iam Bottlesworth

            There are worse ways to go.. Going out in a tiny Italian fireball listening to weird German music.. The mountain(road) calls..

            *no notifications when posting as guest and particularly no “latest comments” feature since IntenseDebate died make Redusernab a lot less functional.. might have to create a new Disqus account again.

            • crank_case

              Continuing the theme of vehicles with limits so low that driving in anger becomes becomes a bit too nuts for comfort, I’m reminded of my Dads old Daihatsu hijet 850cc (not the one pictured but exact same year and color).

              Think taking a corner too fast in a 500 is sphincter tightening? Try an empty kei van for knife edge thrills. That tiny engine could only do 70mph with the choke fully out to give it a little more fuel, so exceeding the national limit felt like doing a run at bonneville speed week.

              Even heavy braking can get both rear wheels well off the ground.

              Still totally want one.

              • bean diddlesworth

                Hory shit. USed to hear legends about doing cartwheels ina Suzuki Carry..

                I mgiht be weird but i’ve driven some high-end cars and whatnot, yet I find even a Yaris can be more fun. On the street preceived speed is much more important than actual speed; whatäs the point of going 200kph+ if it’s about as exciting as going 40kph in a Skoda 120?

                Criteria for fun street car: good engine note, low limits, short gearing, someting something. Speed is irrelevant.

                Track car? you can never have enough speed!

                HEre some unrelaitid kvaliti musik from Finland. (im going with) Sierra to NEvada

                • crank_case

                  It’s a balance, low limits can be fun, but the 90s Chimp-whee-chento and Die-that-soon? show that the other extreme is just white knuckle brown trouser moments. Grand if you’re an andrenaline junkie who likes near death experience, but I think the balance is where you have limits low enough to play with but the car is still competent and communicative enough so you have confidence to push it a bit. I think this is where the Peugeot and Alfa score points, or indeed the poster boy of slow car fast – the Miata/MX5 where even a bit over those limits is fun rather scary, though that sets its stall out as sporting from the outset.

                  • Shean Bogglesworth

                    I’m definitely an adrenaline junkie… though a risk calculating one. Yet i crushed me spine 15 years ago seeking said adrenaline and am fukt for life. completely unrelated but give this a listen or seven.

                    • crank_case

                      eeek, sorry to hear about the spinal injury, never a nice thing to live with.

                    • Dean Bigglesworth

                      WEll, it could be worse. Am not ded and the important bits still work. ADrenaline is just more expensive and difficult to find now. Today I’ll setlle for beer and music. (i have ver irregular work hours so today is friday). WHy am i explaining meself? *stay tuned for more possibly unrelated music*

              • Sjalabais

                Oh boy, now I want one just to test the reaction of people in the city when doing this. This thing just keeps going, too.

                • Bean Bogglesowrth

                  Yo I’m doin wheelies. No wait stoppies. The driftin is pretty cool, considering it’s a underpowered tiny truck that must be a bbeatch to keep going sideways…

                  Worth a listen. forget possible prejudice.

                  • crank_case

                    Well she is Dolly Partons God-daughter, some influence has had to have rubbed off.

                    • Iam Shagglesworth

                      +1 There’s a few very popular mainstream artists I’ve never cared for before stumbling on some random video. Miley’s one of em. Speaking of Dolly, MIley’s backyard sessions Jolene ain’t half bad either.
                      Was going to post something completely different but fokit, here it is

                      (Will post said completely different later in a moment)

                    • De Dedeworth

                      OKaey. Normal program will now resume

                    • Boon Boogiesworth

                      Lemme know if replying to your comment is geting annoying. No’idea if your’e email is blwing up or not. I can annoy Mr. Norway instead.

                    • crank_case

                      It’s not annoying, it’s like a really weird Eurovision song contest, but I’ve gotta go to bed, and the Norse god of wheel cocking is in an earlier time zone, so you’ll probably have to poke the east cost Americans, but I think there’s lots of them here.

                    • Iam Outofbeer

                      Eurovision? Let’s finish with this, then… Not Eurovision AFAIK bout might as well be. See you in a month or three.-

  • Kiefmo

    The Merc remains languid and smooth no matter how you beat on it. The end result of attempting to drive it in anger is that you’re no longer angry because of it’s calming effect.

    Honestly, our old Odyssey was a hoot to drive angry. Turn off the VSA, start pushing it, and it shrank in size.

    You could readily convert rubber to smoke. It would happily step the tail out around a sharp turn with an appropriately sharp flick. On an abandoned stretch of interstate, it would glide right up to the speed limiter and cruise there like it was made for it. The engine was snappy in response and had a great high-rpm growl. The multiclutch automatic still shifted sharply even at its advanced age, and with so many of those miles driven enthusiastically.

    It’s replacement Pilot is a substantially duller steed. There’s no way to elicit even the slightest tire chirp because even with the VSA off, the VTM system pre-emptively engages the rear axle before you even touch the accelerator. The safety advantage is that in 1st gear maneuvering, it grabs the road and throws itself around in ways the Odyssey never could due to being traction limited.

    However — we haven’t had a real winter since buying the Pilot. I’ll report back if any shenanigans are possible once the white stuff hits the ground.

    • Amoore

      Odys are so fun to drive hard. I “borrowed” my mom’s once and took it on a mountain road romp and nothing beats that tight, accurate steering matched to a singing VTEC. I can see why she loves “her van” so much and why, even as her friends are getting new Odys and Siennas, she still keeps around our old ’05.

      • Kiefmo

        We wound up driving through Deal’s Gap in our ’05 Ody about two years ago. I worked it hard enough to scare the missus while being a complete asshole and not giving the sportbikes an easy pass. She made me slow down to preserve her sanity and the tires.

    • Jeff Glucker

      “The Merc remains languid and smooth no matter how you beat on it. The end result of attempting to drive it in anger is that you’re no longer angry because of it’s calming effect.”


  • pj134

    I’ve had an NF Sonata for about 8 years now so by default…

    I’ve only blown up one motor so far!

    • Jeff Glucker

      My wife (then girlfriend) had an EF or EF-B in college… I drove it like it was a rally car.

      • pj134

        I’ve likened my driving style to treating it like a rental.

        • bean diddlesworth

          I’ve enough mechanical sympathy to feel bad for trashing a rental.. So I dont’ät. Even if it’s a 35k mile fleet-only last gen V6 Impala, and that broke down after a day of driving anyway.

          • pj134

            That’s why the NF Sonatas were the prizes of a rental fleet. Also the reason I bought one. They came back fine no matter who had it or what it went through. Camrys and Accords with the same mileage at the same place I worked at would look wrecked by comparison to a sonata with the same mileage. They might be the best beaters in the world.

        • Sjalabais

          My kids told their kindergarten teacher that our van “sounds like a motorcycle”, but “only when daddy drives”. My local reputation has been broken since.

          • Diggle Digglesworth

            Time to don some fast sunglasses from the nineties, drill some holes in the exhaust and slowly drive up to the kindergarten playing this on full volume? Be the Cool Dad(tm), If the license plate is not rattling it’s not loud enough

          • pj134

            I’m pretty sure the best justification to owning a slow car is that you can take it to it’s limit everyday. Kudos to you for driving your van how it deserves to be driven.

  • Alff

    Mk1 Volkswagens were great in this regard.

    • Jeff Glucker

      Ooh yeah, those are awesome for sure

  • neight428

    We had one of these in my family in the mid-90’s. It had a 5-speed manual and didn’t weigh much. It would hoon.

  • Sjalabais

    My Honda Stream is surprisingly competent on winding mountain roads, mostly because of its excellent steering feel, the gear shifter right next to the steering wheel, and a very revvy engine. But, seriously, I hardly ever encountered a car that wasn’t entertaining to punish. Some Citroëns can be annoyingly stoic and ill-steered, some American made cars feel like trying to solidify a cream cake (our Camry among them), but if you’re looking for joy in driving, you’ll find it.

    • Amoore

      A Mazda 5 that I rented last weekend was simply stunning, amazing steering and so little body roll. At half a mile of elevation, though, it had to be revved forever to get anywhere and power only decreased as I went uphill. Still, slow car fast, right?

      • Sjalabais

        I hear you. The Stream smells burned clutch when you keep it at 5-7000 rpm uphill. Never meant to be treated like that.

  • needthatcar

    My FX16 (not the one pictured in my avatar, but a street version. Best car in the world. It begs you to drive it spiritedly. It has only 108 HP, but it’s got more character than a parking lot full of modern four-wheeled appliances.

  • Is this a trick question? This is a trick question, isn’t it?

    • Vairship

      Yes. Because there’s always Terrifying at Two MPH:

      • I don’t drive the KV “in anger” so much as I do “in panic.”

        Honestly, though, it’s usually fine up to about 15 mph.

        • Sjalabais

          During my classifieds-routine I found this:

          Isn’t 18500$ for a common Velorex pretty stiff?

          • The 435-0 is considerably rarer than the three-wheelers, so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that’s the going rate these days.

  • Bean Diddlesworth

    Probably the VW Up! / Seat Mii / Skoda Citigo trio. 75hp in a ~950kg car. Rorty little three cylinder and a decent chassis. Put three guys in one and blast around backroads mostly keeping the throttle pinned to the floor yet barely exceed the speed limit..

    A Mazda 2 is a massive, lumbering beast compared to those, but that too is fun even with the 90hp engine and auto. Even a 100hp 1.3l Yaris with the CVT is fun on small roads.

    Winter? My Volvo 740. Most definitely the slowest car i’ve ever driven. 0-100kph about 23s, or in other words it does the 1/4mile in 23s with a trap speed of 100kph..

    The 500C Abarth is a riot, and while not really fast it probably still doesn’t qualify as slow, either.

  • Maymar

    Because my Mazda2 has been already used (twice), I have to go back a little further,to another (almost)Mazda. I had a ’93 Escort sedan that was probably driven by an elementary school teacher in a previous life 88hp with a 4spd auto, and light blue on light blue), but because it was light and eager, it was a blast (and could also oversteer, which was a revelation to me at the time).

    • My 93 Escort was a 5 speed 5 door with 13″ steelies and it was surprisingly fun.

  • Papa Van Twee

    I had a 1997 Saturn SL1. With a 5 speed and good tires, it was a hoot to drive angry.

  • All of them. Exploring the lift off oversteer of an empty van, stoic straight ahead understeer of any FWD box (exception was the Focus, the rear axle did something nice at turn-off), and the throttle-induced turn of a 944 on wet roundabouts – always something to learn.

  • Here’s a massive surprise for y’all.

    I vote for the 1997 Rover 825 Si Fastback.

    It doesn’t so much attack corners as tack and gybe in them. The sensation is very much like sailing in a sizeable and fairly powerful yacht, and it instils the same degree of seasickness in my wife.

    It’s fairly fast, too, and grips gamely despite the occasionally precarious lean angles. Huge fun.

    • Fresh-Outta-Nissans

      I’ve recently been converted: Accords are always faster than you. And always resting on their door handles.

  • oldcarjunkie

    The Mazda 2 is a great one – I owned a Spirited Green one for five years. Another good one was the first generation Nissan Micra. Love to be flogged. Super flimsy body made it very light. I added some “big” 13″ rims and tires from a Civic.

    • beand Diggllesworth

      would upvote if i had a an accoubnt. Clooeague had a mint one owneer Micra of that gen.. complete awith 10+ yuears od studded winter tyres that looke d like new but had absolutely no grip whatsoeever because dryy and hard.

  • duurtlang

    Peugeot 205. I own 3 of the little critters (+ the 406 coupe parked behind the white one), but my favorite to drive angry is the only one that’s got a 2 digit hp number. The others are too capable. My old ’86 205 base model has these 145 narrow tires that must’ve been made in the late 90s. So they’re narrow and hard and provide zero grip. The suspensions is wallowy, unlike in my 205 GTi and CTi. Throttle response is instant. Steering is manual. The shifter is fun. The chassis is communicative. Brakes aren’t boosted (okay, that’s a downside). The whine from the transfer gears from the integral transmission is almost addictive. It’s so bare bones that it has no clock, you have to open the windows to adjust the mirrors and despite having at least 1 ashtray it has no cigarette lighter socket (in a French car from the 80s!). Did I mention it weighs a mere 750 kg (1650 lbs) ‘dry’?

    Why is it fun to drive angry? Because it’s satisfying to drive at legal speeds. Legal speeds inside a city. You can take a turn with squealing tires while following a casually driven Prius.

    • din bigilsworth

      I guess a bse Sandero is the only thing that can even get anywhere near the level of an 80’s hatch. No radio, crank windows, no ac; only EU mandated fatey features as standar.d.

      • Maymar

        Base Micras are pretty much at that level as well (except they have a radio), at least for the Canadian market.

        • Toaster

          A base level Citroen C1 comes without radio, power steering or central locking, just a 68HP 3-pot and a five speed manual.
          Since its just a weird looking… weirder looking Toyota Aygo, it gets less french points though.

  • Troggy

    An LWB Hiace. Mid 90’s or so, about 400,000km on the clock. No mods except for softer low profile tyres and ‘Roo bars for extra momentum. I track it. That was not a typo. This is what I drive at a racetrack.

    It’s the motorcycle recovery van at the track where I volunteer as a marshal. It’s also the course car, so I get to do a lot of laps. Over a busy 4 day race meeting I might do about 150km on track (that’s about 50 laps of a 2.9km track). It can make for some very hectic driving when race control wants an incident cleaned up RIGHT NOW so he can get on to the next event ASAP.

    One lap I might be doing 140km/h down the back to get to an incident as quickly as possible, the next lap I might be nursing a couple of broken-down sidecars back to pits at crawling pace.

    I’ve become so familiar with this old bus that I can drive the rings off it if I have to. I can terrify hardened professional racers on sighting laps while discussing the race lines for each corner and giving track condition reports to race control over the radio as I slide it around wet corners. Best job in the world.

  • Fuhrman16

    Another vote here for the Mazda 2. They are brilliant little cars.

    Another slow car that was surprisingly fun to drive was my Renault Encore. It only had 65hp, but being a base model car, it weighed under 2000lbs and had manual steering so it was super toss-able.

  • ptschett

    I nominate my 1996 Ford Thunderbird LX with the 2V, SOHC, non-(because pre-)PI, 4.6L engine… good for all of 205 HP and 280 lbf-ft of torque… on the stock wheels with 215/70R15 tires. For a while I thought it’d be better with Lincoln Mark VIII wheels & 225/60R16’s; that period ended shortly after I graduated from college. I learned things from that car that I use today in my Challenger with twice the power but shod with similarly-overwhelmed 245/45R20’s.

  • Rover 1

    The first FWD car we owned that had lift-off oversteer, a Chrysler Alpine, (as they were marketed here).
    The first FWD car with throttle adjustable handling that I’d driven from back when European cars really did have a dynamic advantage. A blown headgasket resulted in the original clattery 1442 engine and four speed making way for a later model, used, 1600/five speed which was just as clattery, but better at speed with the extra gear. Just like this one in a local museum. The same locally made alloys and bright orange, and no doubt rust.

  • I’ve mostly owned non-sporting dailies and I’ve hooned them all. The 318ti was probably the most rewarding. My Mazda3 hatch was more fun, but in S trim I’d consider it a sporting model. My 1980 Chevy Monza and 1993 Escort we economy cars with just a little sporty edge as well.

  • Harry Callahan

    “Drive in Anger” ?

    –Not wise, ever!

    • Sjalabais

      Next up:

      Redusernab Asks: What’s your favorite non-sporting car to drive wisely?

      • Harry Callahan

        Last time my buddy “drove in anger”….he was correctly arrested.

        • Alff

          A man’s got to know his limitations.

          • Harry Callahan

            Made my Day!

  • peugeotdude505

    That’s all you really need. A/C would be nice in the summer though

  • SlowJoeCrow

    The first generation VW Sciroccos were fun to drive, even with 70HP since the handling was good and they were pretty light for the time.
    I also really enjoyed driving an 86 Austin Metro rental car, because it really did handle like a Go Kart and it had the “big” 1275 engine in very basic trim,

  • boxdin

    I’m not a toyota guy, but the Yaris and the IQ look like a lot of fun. Yaris wins its class in races and the IQ is toyota version of the smart car and I read somewhere it was pretty cool.
    Old school Fiestas are cool too, anything larger is out of this class.

  • Douche_McGee

    The favorite slow car I’ve had was my ’13 Honda Fit base.

    I got a big nail in the tire at something like 33 miles on the odometer, so I replaced the stock low rolling resistance 175/65/15s with a set of 195/60/15 General Altimax.

    The handling was pretty sharp, I even took it on my favorite back road route and it performed great. But the 116hp made it “dull as fuck” to live with every day. I was flooring it everywhere, and still managed an avg of 34mpg for the few months I had the car. Traded it in on an ’06 Miata Grand touring lol.

    I also liked the ’09 Accent hatch I had for a bit. We the same power as the Fit, but it seemed a lot quicker

  • cap’n fast

    almost any rental. R is for race and L is for lose. Right?