In our era of turbocharging and electrification, it can seem almost weekly that a new, immensely powerful, absurdly expensive hypercar or super-sedan makes its debut. The Bugatti Bolide, SSC Tuatara, Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series and heavyweight GMC Hummer EV encompass some of the more recent additions to the high-horsepower club.
But what if you’re after big power without a big price tag to match? Let’s count down the 10 cars currently on sale in Australia with the ‘cheapest’ kilowatts.
Disclaimer: despite the performance-oriented focus of this list, you’ll find a handful of the cars on this list score well not for their outright under-bonnet muscle, but rather their affordable retail price.
All prices are correct as of publishing and exclude on-road costs, unless stated otherwise.
10. Ford Escape FWD ($196.67/kW)
Opening the top-10 is the all-new Ford Escape, which arrived in Australian showrooms earlier this month. The 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that powered base versions of the outgoing Escape has seen the axe for 2021, with all non-hybrid versions of the new-generation model seeking power from the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, developing 183kW of power and 387Nm of torque.
Pair those class-leading outputs with the entry-level, eponymously-named, front-wheel-drive ‘Escape’ variant’s $35,990 list price for a top-10-worthy $196.67 per kilowatt. The Escape is the only SUV on this list – a win for enthusiasts, or a market opportunity for an affordable performance SUV Down Under, depending on your perspective.
9. Hyundai i30 N Line hatch manual ($196.13/kW)
In ninth is the facelifted version of Hyundai’s venerable warm small hatch, the i30 N Line. Under the bonnet sits a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine shared with a range of other Hyundai and Kia products, sending 150kW and 265Nm to the front wheels through a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Despite a $2420 price hike for MY21, the i30 N Line still represents excellent value in the affordable performance car market, with the manual variant’s $29,420 plus on-road costs sticker granting it a dollars-per-kW value of $196.13/kW. Dual-clutch auto-equipped models achieve a less remarkable $209.47/kW figure.
Above: pre-facelift Kia Stinger 330S pictured.
8. Kia Stinger 330S ($196.07/kW)
In seventh place is the Kia Stinger 330S, with a price-to-power ratio of $196.07/kW.
Under the bonnet is Kia's familiar 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine, developing 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque – it's sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
However, it's worth noting the facelift launched locally in recent weeks saw Kia's flagship fastback hit with a hefty price rise, totalling $2940 in 330S guise – pushing it from second place in this list with a price-to-power ratio of $185.26/kW, to a less-impressive eighth place and $196.07/kW.
7. Hyundai i30 base hatch manual ($195.17/kW)
While the N Line might be the more performance-oriented variant of the non-N Hyundai i30 range, it’s the entry-level ‘i30’ variant that offers the most power per dollar.
Powering the ‘base’ i30 is a 120kW/203Nm 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, paired to a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Its class-competitive outputs combine with a $21,490 list price for a dollar-per-kilowatt figure of $195.17/kW.
6. Kia Cerato S ($193.66/kW)
The i30’s twin-under-the-skin, the Kia Cerato S, slots into this list in sixth place.
While in entry-level ‘S’ trim its 2.0-litre four-cylinder – related to the i30’s unit, though stripped of direct injection – develops 8kW/11Nm less than its Hyundai twin (at 112kW/192Nm), its $21,690 plus on-road costs starting price allows a price-to-power ratio of $193.66/kW.
Both hatch and sedan body styles are eligible for the sixth-place position, given they share identical list pricing.
5. Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport manual ($191.16/kW)
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated ‘Dynamic Force’ four-cylinder petrol engine, developing 125kW of power and 200Nm of torque – it’s sent to the front wheels through a choice of six-speed manual or CVT automatic transmissions.
The entry-level Ascent Sport manual’s $23,895 list price equates to $191.16 per kilowatt.
4. Ford Mustang R-Spec ($190.84/kW)
Developed in collaboration with Herrod Performance, the locally-developed special edition mates a 2.65-litre supercharger to the existing Mustang GT's 5.0-litre V8 for estimated outputs of 522kW of power and 830Nm of torque.
Drive is sent exclusively to the 275-section rear tyres through a six-speed manual gearbox, with no automatic option on offer.
Just 500 examples of the R-Spec were built, each retailing for $99,616 plus on-road costs – giving the flagship pony car a price-to-power ratio of $190.84 per kW.
3. Ford Mustang GT ($189.35/kW)
Despite the R-Spec’s 183kW power advantage, it’s the ‘regular’ Mustang GT that provides greater bang-for-buck, slotting in on the bottom step of the podium in this competition.
Under the bonnet is a naturally-aspirated, 339kW/556Nm version of the 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8, which drives the rear wheels through a choice of six-speed manual and 10-speed automatic transmissions.
Prices for the most affordable, manual-equipped GT coupe start from $64,190 before on-road costs – dividing it by the power output reveals a $189.35/kW price-to-power ratio.
Above: Chrysler 300 SRT pictured in special edition Pacer guise.
2. Chrysler 300 SRT Core ($188.43/kW)
Coming in as the runner-up is another slice of V8 Americana: the Chrysler 300 SRT Core.
Now entering its twilight years on sale, the 300 SRT remains the only sub-$100,000 sedan available in Australia with a V8 engine, namely a 6.4-litre naturally-aspirated ‘Hemi’ unit developing 350kW of power and 637Nm of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds the rear wheels.
Pairing the Hemi's outputs with the 300 SRT Core's $65,950 before on-road costs starting price results in a price-to-power ratio of $188.43 per kilowatt.
However, there's a catch: following a range reshuffle in July, the SRT Core can only be purchased via a placing an individual factory order, rather than buying a car directly off the showroom floor.
1. Toyota Camry SX V6 ($172.28/kW)
In first place is the Toyota Camry SX V6, the cheapest six-cylinder car currently on sale in Australia.
Powering the 'sport' oriented version of the Japanese brand's midsize sedan is a 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 petrol engine, developing 224kW of power and 362Nm of torque. It's sent to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic.
Combined with its sharp $38,590 price – which undercuts similarly-powered sedan rivals like the Subaru Liberty and turbocharged Mazda 6, along with smaller turbo hot hatches – the Toyota Camry SX V6 offers a price-to-power ratio of $172.28 per kilowatt, the best of any vehicle currently on sale in Australia.
Just missing out on the top 10 is one of the most highly-anticipated performance cars of the year, the Toyota GR Yaris, with a price-to-power ratio of $199.75 per kilowatt.
However, that ratio applies only to the first 1000 cars sold, which featured a discounted $39,950 drive-away sticker price – a $10,000-plus saving over the car's full $49,500 before on-road costs recommended retail price (RRP).
At the aforementioned RRP, the GR Yaris claims $247.50 per kW – quantitatively highlighting the immense value proposition offered with Toyota's initial drive-away deal.
Also deserving of a mention is the pre-facelift equivalent of the eighth-placed, base Hyundai i30: the MY20 i30 Go.
Priced from $20,440 prior to its discontinuation and price rise as part of the i30's mid-life facelift introduced locally in October 2020, the entry-level Go would have topped this list, with a $170.33/kW price-to-power ratio thanks to a carryover 120kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder.