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Just because your car is small, doesn’t mean that it has to be slow. In fact, some of the fastest cars on the road today are subcompacts. How so? Because their owners have modified them to the point where they can squeeze out additional horsepower and acceleration. Let’s take a look at six cars that qualify as genuine “pocket rockets.”

For the sake of argument, here are some ground rules for a pocket rocket:

The car must be a compact or smaller.

The engine must be normally aspirated; no turbo charged cars – four cylinders only.

New versions of the car must all retail for less than $20,000.

The following six cars all qualify as pocket rockets when each of the above stipulations has been met:

Dodge Neon; Ford Focus; Honda Civic; Scion tC; Subaru Impreza; and Volkswagen Golf.

Unfortunately, the Mitsubishi Eclipse retails for just above $20,000 so it does not qualify. Besides, it looks too much like a sports car; we are only examining those vehicles that are somewhat plain before being transformed by aftermarket parts.

Dodge Neon – Technically, the Neon is no longer in production as 2005 was its last model year. Still, with a 2.0L 132hp engine, the Neon remains an affordable favorite of the youth set who enjoy customizing their vehicles

Ford Focus – A lemon no more! Earlier models of the Focus were problem plagued, but the car has made significant strides in the past few years and has received Consumer Report’s recommended buy label too. The stubby ZX3 produces 136 horses with its 2.0L engine

Honda Civic – Redesigned for 2006, the Civic has been a fan favorite for over thirty years. Its teeny 1.8L engine pushes out an impressive 140 horses. The new Civic is a far cry from the “pregnant roller” skate look of the first Civics. Owners are grateful.

Scion tC- Unlike its two boxy brethren, the tC is sleek looking and has a rocket demeanor. With a 2.3L under its hood, the tC has the second largest engine of any car in this class. You net 160 horses with the Scion.

Subaru Impreza – The biggest car in this class has the most powerful engine, a 2.5L boxter engine producing 173 horses. Very competitive with larger and more powerful cars, but a favorite among “pocket rocket” fans nevertheless.

VW Golf – A 2.0L 115hp drives the Golf, but the car’s light weight allows for it to buzz down the highway at a fairly good clip.

Favorite ways of squeezing out additional power for pocket rocket owners include installing the following aftermarket parts:

Reusable air filters; top providers include: K&N and Green.

Cold air intake systems; favorites include: K&N, AEM, and Airaid.

Cat-back exhaust systems; leading manufacturers include: Magnaflow and Vibrant.

Performance chips; Hypertech and Jet Chips lead the way.

Performance level increases are measured in horsepower, thrust, and acceleration. Depending on the parts installed and model selected, improvements can range from slight to significant. Regardless, all six models have the potential of becoming true pocket rockets and that is part of the thrill in owning one.