How many of the following phrases sound familiar to you?
“Bigger is better”
“Go big or go home”
We have heard these nuggets of wisdom repeated for years about everything from guns to cookies (at least in my house). In the automotive world, there is a strong contingent of enthusiasts that like to think that “Good things come in small packages”—they prefer to drive cars classified as “Sport Compacts”.
There are no fast and furious rules with respect to what places a car into the sport compact class. However, generally speaking, a sport compact is a small economy car (usually 4 cylinders, believe it or not) that has been improved by the owner or manufacturer to provide enhanced performance as compared to the base model of the vehicle. There are many examples of manufacturer-produced sport versions of base models, including the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Chevy Cobalt SS. In each of these cases, the manufacturer offers handling, performance and styling enhancements to a base economy car in the form of an aggressive sport package.
One of the remarkable things about the world of sport compacts is the number of owners that tweak and tune to maximize power and handling in a vehicle that may not have a blistering sport version offered by the manufacturer. One of the more popular economy cars favored by sport compact tuners, the Honda Civic, is a rather sedate economy car from the factory but is capable of truly inspired performance and handling after some attention from a knowledgeable builder. Hardcore sport compact tuners are certainly dedicated to maximizing horsepower through a variety of aftermarket parts like air intakes, exhaust kits, turbochargers and nitrous systems, but they also focus on the handling and styling of the vehicle.
Sport compacts will often include handling upgrades in the form of beefier anti-sway bars and stiffer suspension components designed to keep the car firmly connected to the pavement in both straight line acceleration and hard cornering. Suspension companies like Energy Suspension and Eibach are very popular among sport compact enthusiasts due to their wide coverage of applications and dedication to the production of quality performance parts.
In addition to “go”, sport compact drivers like some “show” for their rides. Many sport compacts wear aftermarket wheels and tires, shifters, hoods, steering wheels and a host of other cosmetic enhancements. The incredible aftermarket support for sport compacts allows each ride to be as unique as the owner.