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Hottest four-cylinder cars

June 10, 2010 |  8:00 am

Automakers are paying a lot of attention to four-cylinder engines because many  analysts expect gasoline prices to resume an upward push once the economy picks up steam.

Auto-pricing-information company Kelley Blue Book says auto enthusiasts won’t be disappointed with the performance-oriented, fuel-efficient four bangers that are hitting the market. MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop 2

Kelley looked at a variety of offerings and concluded that the “variable valve and/or camshaft timing and direct fuel injection” engines typically employ turbocharging to get extra zip.

"Many car shoppers may be surprised at the sheer number of performance-oriented new cars available today that boast 'only' a four-cylinder engine," said Jack Nerad, Kelley’s market analyst. "Even more surprising is the amount of power and performance elicited from many of these four-bangers, providing a satisfying alternative for enthusiasts who also may be looking to save a little cash at the gas pump."

Kelly’s top picks in the four-cylinder performance category include the Audi TT/TTS, the Mazda Mazdaspeed 3, the John Cooper Works version of the Mini Cooper S, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR/MR and the Subaru WRX/STI.

-- Jerry Hirsch

Photo: John Cooper Works Mini S. Credit: Mini USA