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Some cars might look small, cute and harmless, but pack a ton of firepower underneath their bonnets! Never judge a car by its size.

10 Jun 2022

In Singapore, we are familiar with the COE system, which basically splits the cars into two categories - cars with engines up to 1,600cc (and/or 130bhp) belong to Cat A, and cars with engines above 1,600cc (and/or 130bhp) which belong to Cat B. Typical economy-oriented cars, small hatchbacks and the likes tend to come with smaller engines that conform to the lower-priced Cat A COE.

But you shouldn't simply assume all smaller-sized cars to fall into that category. You see, in order to go fast, you'll want something that is small and light, and if possible, packs a ton of power. And this isn't exactly a new idea - the Shelby Cobra dreamed up by Carroll Shelby back in the 1960s was just that, a lightweight roadster with a large V8 crammed into the front end.

Here are some interesting small cars with large engines shoehorned into their front (or rear end in the case of the Renault Clio V6).

Alfa Romeo Brera V6

The Brera is a beautiful coupe with a big heart
Well, it is technically a mid-sized coupe, but the beautifully designed Brera isn't exactly something that you'll expect to pack a 3.2-litre V6 engine. With its all-wheel drive system, the Brera isn't the lightest car - in fact it weighs 1,630kg. Even so, with 256bhp, it is able to get from zero to hundred in 6.9 seconds, not too shabby!

The all-wheel drive system is also designed to make the car feels closer to a rear-wheel drive most of the time, resulting in a delightful-handling machine which doesn’t suffer from traction and torque-steer issues.

Audi RS3

The RS3's is a compact Audi that performs like a strong, tough giant
Based on the A3 which is available in either a hatchback or sedan form, the RS3 is a compact Audi that has been blessed with a unique, large and powerful engine. While the compact Audi A3 is typically powered by smaller-sized in-line four engines, the RS3 has a 2.5-litre in-line five turbocharged engine from its initial iteration till the latest.

With Audi's signature quattro all-wheel drive system, the RS3 has no problem putting down gobs of power to propel it at a ludicrous pace. With the latest RS3, Audi included a fancy RS Torque Splitter rear differential, which further improved its handling and performance. This is one compact car that you wouldn't want to mess with.

BMW M2 Competition

With the heart of an M3 within a smaller, lighter body, the M2 Competition sure is potent
When BMW updated its naming conventions, the 2 Series took over the place of BMW's 1 Series coupe which was the smallest sized coupe within BMW's lineup. BMW has actually been putting large engines in small cars for quite a while - the 135i and 1M Coupe also had 3.0-litre engines.

The M2 Competition is basically equipped with the same engine that is found in the larger M3 and M4, which results in blistering performance with 405bhp and 550Nm of torque. Getting to license-revoking speeds takes just a blink of an eye with the M2 Competition - this compact BMW is definitely worthy of the M badge.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG

5.5-litre V8 within a compact roadster - pretty insane if you ask us
The SLK Class is Mercedes-Benz's smallest compact roadster. Like most of Mercedes-Benz's lineup, it is available with a different engines, ranging from 1.8-litre up to the massive 5.5-litre V8 found in the SLK 55 AMG.

The SLK 55 AMG was available since the SLK's second generation, starting out with 355bhp and eventually producing 416bhp in the latest iteration, which was introduced in 2012. With such power in a small and relatively light body, it is able to complete the century sprint in merely 4.6 seconds and continues on to an electronically limited 280km/h. Pretty insane for a compact roadster!

Golf R32

While the engine cover says V6, the VR6 is an entirely different beast
Volkswagen has an engine that's quite unique - coined as the VR6. You can think of it as a V6 engine with an extremely narrow bank angle which allows it to run a single cylinder head and has a form factor quite similar to an in-line four engine. This means that a VR6 engine can be easily packaged into the engine bay of small compact cars, such as the Golf.

The Golf R32, as its name suggests, is equipped with a 3.2-litre VR6. There were two iterations of the R32, based on the Mk4 and Mk5 Golf, after which they were replaced by the Golf R which derives its power from a 2.0-litre in-line four engine instead. While the Golf R32 isn't extremely fast, it does have a large and unique engine that produces an amazing soundtrack - just go on YouTube to have a listen.

Renault Clio V6

Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive hatchback. Enough said
The Clio V6 is a spiritual successor of the Renault 5 Turbo. Both are hatchbacks that have their engines situated behind the driver. Yes, the Clio V6 is a hatchback that has a mid-engine and rear-wheel drive layout that is not much different from what you'll normally find in supercars such as those by Ferrari and Lamborghini!

At the time of its launch, the Clio V6 Phase 2 was the most powerful production hot hatch in the world, producing 252bhp from its 2.9-litre V6 engine! That said, the Clio V6 is a really rare car, which means the chances of spotting one in the wild is very slim. However, it seems that we might have a unit or two that are unregistered, in the hands of collectors here in Singapore.
Want a car that has a strong, large engine? Check out these cars with engine larger than 3.0-litre available for sale!

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