Little doesn’t mean weak, as these powerful compacts can attest


POWER AND PANACHE | The Scion, above, is a dreamy sports car with as much flash under the hood as its exterior; the Fiat Abarth, below, reinvents the Italian brand with a sexy style.


CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

It’s not the size of your rocket that counts, but rather how it fits with your pocket. Properly packaged, your favorite ride can flaunt all of the right curves and deliver rapid elation. And the right subject of your desires shouldn’t always require expensive dates.
No matter who you take, or where you take him, one of these smokin’ cars should get you there with a little fun along the way.

Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ. There have been stranger bedfellows than Toyota and Subaru, but the little rear-drive sports car they produced is a dream. Subaru’s 200hp 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine delivers up to 34-MPG. Drivers can choose between six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, the latter with rev matching, paddles and Auto Sport mode to hold gears longer. A 53:47 front:rear weight balance should enable wicked shenanigans on the track. A flowing hood, fastback roofline, LED taillamps and colors like Raven, Hot Lava and Firestorm paint a pretty picture. A driver-focused interior features 300-watts of Pioneer audio, Bluetooth, and BeSpoke that connects with iPhones for personalized connectivity to Facebook, Twitter and Internet radio.
Prices start at $24,955.

2-FIAT013_035FHFiat 500 Abarth. There’s a scorpion on the side of this little ribbed rider, and that’s a hint of the sting coming from its 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo-four that delivers 160hp. An Abarth-tuned suspension, large brakes with Rosso calipers, wide tires and 17-in. alloys shod with Pirelli P-Zero tires fill its pants. Sexy visuals include twin nostrils, rear wing and Abarth logos all around. God’s leather sport seats, thick flat bottom steering wheel, Beats by Dr. Dre audio, automatic climate control and BLUE&ME hands free communications plug pleasure. Tom Tom navigation takes you there.
Feel it from $22k, including a day’s instruction from the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

3-Veloster-Hyun-36561_1_1Hyundai Veloster Turbo. This Korean three-door fling puts its heart in a 201hp 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, connected to six-speed transmissions. It’s also frugal at 27/38-MPG city/hwy. The sport-tuned exhaust note provides background music for fondling the heated leather seats and 7-in. touchscreen to control the 450-watt Dimension Premium Audio system with subwoofer and Pandora. Hyundai’s Blue Link connects POI searches, emergency assistance, and automatic crash notifications.
Veloster are dressed to impress, boasting unique fascias, 18-in. alloys, LED taillights, twin center exhausts and alloy pedals. The graphite black interior with blue accents sexes up the night.
Prices rise from $21,950.

4-SonicRS_Skateboarders13Chevy Sonic RS. Pumping more juice into the world-beating Sonic is the RS’ 138hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A stiffy suspension, 17-in. wheels and four-wheel disc brakes let drivers play all night. Dressed for fun, interiors are decked with bolstered leather and suede sport seats, aluminum pedals and motorcycle-inspired instruments with a digital speedometer your sugar daddy could read. The standard touchscreen, USB and Bluetooth connect smartphones for navigation, hands-free calling, local search via Google, live traffic updates, Pandora and Stitcher. Aggressive ground effects announce intentions.
Prices, including 10 airbags, start at $20,995.

VW Golf R. Volkswagen originated the idea of a speedy compact with the GTI and the Golf R glides one further. More sophisticated than the others in this drawer, it packs a 256hp 2.0-liter turbo engine, all-wheel-drive, six-speed manual transmission and 18-in. wheels standard. Fuel economy is rated 19/27-MPG city/hwy. LED running lamps, gloss black grille, Xenon headlights, central twin tailpipes and flared side skirts add distinction. Dual zone automatic climate control, 300-watt Dynaudio, deep leather buckets, squared-off steering wheel and aluminum sill plates are fancy.
Adaptive lights even turn Tucker-style with the steering wheel — all for a base of $33,990.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 9, 2012.