Car Advice

Top 5 Best Real-World Performance Cars with Four Seats

There are plenty of performance cars on the market but most cost the earth and plenty only have two usable seats, so, here’s our list of the top 5 best real-world performance cars with four seats.

TOO MANY of these sorts of lists go straight to the top end of town and list vehicles like the Porsche 911 and so on, but so many of those alleged four-seater performance cars have ‘rear seats’ that you might otherwise describe as small shelves with seat belts. More than that, around 99.9 per cent of us will never have the coin to splash on something like a 911 or Aston Martin when you’re looking for four seats and performance.

So, this list, as you’ll note in the title is ‘real-world’ performance cars with four seats and so we’ve tried to keep pricing down to less than $50k  where possible and included a mixture of hatchbacks (still with room for a family) and wagons.

The Top 5 Best Real-World Performance Cars with Four Seats:

  • Skoda Octavia RS245
  • Subaru WRX
  • Hyundai i30 N
  • Peugeot 308 GTi
  • Subaru Levorg GT-S

Skoda Octavia RS245 Wagon

VW might bang on about the Golf GTI and its hot hatch chops but for those who need space, practicality and affordability without the tag that they might be trying a little too hard, then the Skoda Octavia RS245 is just about perfect. This thing sits in the medium passenger segment but it’s roomier in the back than the new Commodore which rests in the large passenger segment.

2017 Škoda Octavia RS 245 Wagon.

Available as a liftback or wagon, our pick is the wagon and in RS245 trim although if you live outside the city the diesel variant might be the way to go, it can be had with either a snickety six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed DSG. The RS245 runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (also used in the Golf GTI) which makes 180kW and 370Nm of torque.

Unlike its GTI sibling, the Octavia RS245 doesn’t shout its performance credentials carrying over the standard Octavia’s clever and well laid out interior with just a touch of special here and there to elevate it beyond garden variety.

There’s bucket loads of space inside the thing both in the front and the back and the boot is big too (from 588-1718L). The ride and handling is excellent and with the DSG, acceleration is impressive. Safety features include autonomous emergency braking, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, multi-collision braking, lane assist, and more. Pricing for the Octavia RS245 runs from $45,490+ORC through to $46,990+ORC.

The Octavia RS is cheaper and misses out on some features like Adaptive Chassis Control with adjustable dampers and 9.2 high-resolution media screen and premium sound, and it isn’t quite as powerful either, but with prices starting at $39K it’s a whole lot of practical performance car for the coin.

Subaru WRX

You couldn’t have a list of performance four-seaters and not have the WRX on it. It sits near the top of the list because of its bang for buck pricing. While the Impreza and WRX have gone their separate ways as a model the thing was refreshed (along with the WRX STi) in July last year.

refreshed 2018 WRX

Subaru decided to make the bits and bobs previously only available on the WRX Premium, standard on the WRX, meaning things like dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers, tweaked suspension, heated door mirror, new-look 18in alloys and while you can still get a manual WRX our pick is the CVT-equipped variant (don’t groan); the latter gets an electric handbrake.

The manual and CVT versions have different rear suspension set-ups and, personally, I reckon the ride and handling of the CVT-equipped version is better. There’s good room inside for four with the boot offering 460 litres of storage. The update in July last year brought a new bumper and grille.

The infotainment isn’t as good as that in newer Subaru product, offering a small touchscreen without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. In terms of safety, the CVT is the better version thanks to its EyeSight system which includes AEB, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, high beam assist and more.

The engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 197kW and 350Nm of torque and permanent all-wheel drive. Pricing for the Subaru WRX runs from $39,240+ORC through to $45,640+ORC.

Hyundai i30 N

Some will argue the Golf GTI should be on this list rather than the new kid on the block, but the fact is the Hyundai gets a longer warranty (yes, VW is offering a five-year warranty on purchases until the end of the year) and it’s cheaper.

Based on the garden variety i30 (there’s plenty of room in the front and back for four and a decent boot too), the i30 N has been poked and prodded and tuned to perform; throw in some extra local tuning of the ride and handling and the package is impressive. Because the thing is all about performance there’s plenty of extra bracing and special Pirelli-designed rubber as well as adaptive dampers.

The interior has been tricked up with new sports bucket seats, race timer but there’s plenty of black plastic too; stump up for the luxury pack and you get a lot more bits of anodised trim. The infotainment system is easy to use and offers native sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 202kW and 358Nm of torque.

All the controls are nice and progressive and there’s bugger all lag and plenty of low-down grunt meaning the thing doesn’t all-of-a-sudden try and get away from you. The manual transmission and clutch are well matched for easy shifts and the handling is fun and confidence inspiring, only becoming too much if you try and manhandle the thing.

In terms of safety, you get a five-star NCAP rating and autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, a bunch of airbags (seven) and more. Pricing runs from $39,990+ORC through $44,990+ORC.

Peugeot 308 GTi

The Peugeot 308 GTi isn’t often mentioned in the same breath as vehicles like the Golf GTI or even the new Hyundai i30 N. Sure, it’s a ‘softer’ hot hatch compared with something like the GTI or i30 N but it’s still capable of delivering thrills on a twisting road while being usable for a family every day.

Peugeot 308 GTi

One of the ‘good’ things about the 308 GTi, depending on your point of view, is that it offers a sophisticated take on the warmed-up hatch. It doesn’t shout its name. But there are a couple of quirks you’ll need to get used to, like the infotainment unit which doubles as the control for climate control…tapping at a screen to adjust the temperature isn’t a whole lot of fun and the system itself can be a little laggy. That said, this will likely be updated when the 308 GTi catches up with the rest of the updated 308 range.

Rather than trying to snap off your neck, the 308 GTi accumulates speed effortlessly via its 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. It makes 200kW and 330Nm of torque so it’s no lightweight. But it isn’t cheap at almost $50k although at the time of writing Peugeot was offering deals of around $45k.

Like Hyundai, the 308 GTi is only available with a six-speed manual transmission and that’s entirely in-keeping with the hot-hatch nature of the thing.

Peugeot has thrown its whole active safety list at the 308 GTi, including blind spot monitoring, active lane keep assist, driver attention alert, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, head-up display and more. Peugeot also offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Subaru Levorg GT-S Spec B

Long called the spiritual successor to the much-loved fourth-generation Liberty GT, the Levorg is also very closely related to the WRX. But thanks to its wagon body it’s a whole lot more practical as a fast family car.

MY17 Subaru Levorg GT-S Spec B.

On both size and performance, the Subaru Levorg is considered the spiritual successor to the fourth-generation Liberty GT with very similar dimensions. The Levorg measures 4690mm long (vs 4720mm for the fourth-generation Liberty wagon); 1780mm wide (vs 1730mm), and 1490mm high (vs 1470mm). Despite being shorter than its spiritual predecessor, the new Levorg offers more room inside thanks to the fact it’s both wider and higher.

The GT-S Spec B variant (see picture below) is easily the best looking of the there variants thanks to its STi fripperies but the Levorg in general looks slick enough that it doesn’t blend easily into the background.

The Levorg Spec B sits at the top of the tree and was developed in Australia as a cost-option for the Levorg GT-S. It adds the following to the Levorg GT-S package and sees pricing rise to $52,890+ORC from $48,890+ORC for the Levorg GT-S:

  • STI shift knob;
  • STI front spoiler;
  • STI side spoiler;
  • STI rear under spoiler;
  • STI rear side under spoiler;
  • STI 18-inch black alloy wheel;
  • STI front tower bar;
  • STI red push button start; and
  • STI roof end spoiler.

The leather seats in the Levorg GT-S Spec B, like the GT-S, have contrast stitching and are comfortable and supportive. The back seats offer decent room for two adults or two children in child seats with good head, shoulder and legroom.

The boot space despite the overall dimensions being smaller is just 10 litres shy of the fifth-generation Liberty wagon at 522 litres with the rear seats up and these can be folded down from the boot via push buttons, or from the seats themselves via a pull-up toggle mounted on the shoulder of the seat back. Fold down the rear seats and the boot grows to 1446 litres.

Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontal-opposed (Boxer) four-cylinder petrol engine that makes 197kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2400-5200rpm – it’s the same engine that runs in the WRX. It’s mated exclusively to the same CVT that sees service in the WRX, meaning it offers between six and eight preset ratios depending on the driving mode selected. It offers a claimed combined fuel consumption of 8.7L/100km.

Where the GT-S collapses into ruts at the front before leaping up in the rear, and just feels hard and poorly damped, the GT-S Spec B doesn’t. Rather it feels firm instead of hard and so while you hear the car hitting bumps and ruts in the road, the body reacts with more control and composure from front to rear. The pick of the three variants are the entry-level GT and this GT-S Spec B; the GT-S feels unresolved.

Like the rest of the Levorg range, the GT-S Spec B gets a five star ANCAP rating, seven airbags as well as permanent all-wheel drive, traction and stability controls with active torque vectoring from side to side to minimise understeer, as well as the ability to shuffle torque from front to back as required. The GT-S Spec B also runs Subaru’s latest-generation EyeSight system.

Question: What vehicle would you include on this list?


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.