The 4-cylinder engine has been around for most of the car’s life and is the most popular engine configuration in the automotive world. This is mainly due to the flexibility, packaging, technology and efficiency.
Most car manufacturers worldwide use the 4-cylinder in their models – from the most basic car like the Hyundai i10 to some of the most luxurious such as the Audi A8† In the US, the 4-cylinder was not widely used before the 1970s, when the oil crisis hit and car manufacturers had to build more efficient engines. After the dust of the oil crisis settled, the 4-cylinder stuck and became one of the most widely used engines in the US. Today there are 4-cylinder engines in large sedans like the Cadillac CT5 and even in traditional muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang.
While the 4-cylinder may not have the same grunt as the true American V6 or V8, it’s still good enough to give those engines a run for their money. With that, here are some of the best 4-cylinder American cars you can buy in the used car market ranked.
8 Cadillac ATS 2.0T
The Cadillac ATS was a pretty good car for its class. Produced between 2013 and 2019, it was available with a choice of two 4-cylinder and two 6-cylinder engines. The latter took the form of a 3.6-litre V6 in two modes, one of which could run on E85 fuel.
The 4-cylinders include a relatively mundane 2.5-litre and a pretty good 2.0-litre turbo. The latter produced 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque — enough to rival the V6 options in many of the ATS’s rivals. The ATS was available with a six-speed manual or a six-speed/8-speed automatic transmission – depending on the model year – and the turbocharged all-wheel drive version.
7 Pontiac Solstice GXP
The Pontiac Solstice GXP was the high performance version from the regular Solstice roadster and coupe. It was equipped with the same 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 as the Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbocharged, meaning a standard output of 260 hp and 260 lb-ft.
As with the Cobalt SS, the Solstice GXP had a dealer upgrade available that increased power to 290 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque. The Solstice GXP was relatively light, so the power-to-weight ratio was one of the best in GM’s lineup at the time of production.
6 Ford Focus ST
The Ford Focus ST was one of the favorite choices within the hot hatch segment. The original ST had a 1.7-litre engine, but for the second generation, Ford stepped it up a notch and fitted a 2.5-litre turbocharged inline-5 borrowed from Volvo.
The third generation kept the turbocharger, but changed the engine to Ford’s (then) new EcoBoost 2.0-litre, which produced 250 horsepower and sent power to the front wheels only through a six-speed manual transmission. The Focus ST Mk3 was a great hot hatch and was the last version sold in many markets before Ford decided to focus on trucks and SUVs.
5 Ford Mustang EcoBoost
The Ford Mustang has a long history in the muscle car world. Launched in 1964, the Mustang has gone through many changes over the years, including being dropped almost entirely. In 2015, the sixth-generation Mustang was launched, which was the first to be offered with right-hand drive for foreign markets.
Along with the driver’s side change, Ford added a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo to the lineup as the ‘eco’ option, especially in European markets. The engine was just a tuned version of the Focus RS engine, producing 313 hp, with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The EcoBoost is still availablealbeit slightly less powerful, and came with a 10-speed automatic.
4 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT
The Camaro 1LT is the direct competitor of the Ford Mustang EcoBoost and features a 2.0-liter turbo inline-4. The engine produces 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and goes to the rear wheels only through a six-speed manual or ten-speed automatic transmission.
The Camaro 1LT currently on sale is the first time a 4-cylinder in a Camaro . is used since the third generation. The 1LT produces more torque than the V6-powered Camaro, adding to the car’s desire.
3 Chevrolet Cobalt SS
The Chevrolet Cobalt SS was one of those rare gems in the automotive world that sparkles for just a few moments before disappearing forever. The Cobalt was a dull car and Chevrolet knew they needed to spice it up to increase sales.
GM kept the dull exterior, but upgraded the car with a 2.0-liter supercharged engine, which was available with dealer upgrades that resulted in 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Cobalt SS was GM’s first foray into the world of tuning, and the turbo version it replaced produced even more power and torque. The Cobalt SS is a brilliant sleeper and one of the coolest 4-cylinder American cars ever made.
2 Dodge Neon SRT-4
The Dodge Neon, like the Chevrolet Cobalt, was a boring car. The exterior wasn’t particularly pretty to look at, and the interior was just one color – with one of the ugliest and dullest steering wheels in the world.
Dodge then gave the car to their SRT division, who turbocharged the engine, gave the car a body kit and put a spoiler on the trunk. The result was the Dodge Neon SRT-4 – powered by a 2.4-litre inline-4 turbo engine that officially produced 230 horsepower, although independent testers determined it to be around 265 horsepower. The Neon SRT-4 was the second fastest accelerating car in Dodge’s lineup at the time of production, after the 8.3-liter Viper.
1 Ford Focus RS
The Ford Focus RS has been one of the largest hot hatches since its launch in 2002. The RS started out as a homologation to compete in rally racing, so only 4501 units were produced. The vehicle proved hugely popular and Ford created a new RS for the second generation Focus, which eventually ended up with the 345 hp RS500.
The third generation RS was the first to feature four-wheel drive and featured a specially designed 2.3-liter turbo-4, producing 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The Focus RS has been incredibly successful over the years, but Ford decided to make 2018 the last year for the RS after all, stating that the fourth-generation Focus will not have an RS model. Still, the Focus RS is one of the best 4-cylinder American cars you can buy.