Leave your turtle shells and banana peels at home

If you’re into cars and going fast (and for some reason, I suspect you are), you owe it to yourself to get a session in with a real, honest racing kart. Notice I’m not saying the word “go-kart.” That’s because a go-kart is something you drive at the carnival, something just this side of bumper cars in terms of adrenaline production. No, I’m talking about racing karts, some of the most terrifying, violent machines you can pilot without a permission slip from the military or Bernie Ecclestone. And while racing karts are a hoot on the track, their performance potential is off limits everywhere else. So what do you do if you want kart-like fun, but in a road-legal package? Well, we’ve got 10 solutions for you right here.

The criteria for this list are straightforward. To be considered, each car has to have the traditional kart-like characteristics. It’s gotta be small, lightweight, agile, and uncluttered in its engineering and design. Oh, and it’s gotta be fun, too.

Sound good? Then grab your helmet and driving gloves, and read on.

Continue reading for TopSpeed’s Top 10 Karts For The Road.

TopSpeed’s Top 10 Karts For The Road

Mazda MX-5

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Exterior
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Ah, yes… the Miata. The classic pick for cornering fun on the cheap. You can almost always find Mazda’s iconic roadster taking a spot on lists like this one, and for a very good reason. It’s because the zoom-zoom brand did it right with this one straight from the start, forgoing the siren song of moar power in favor of a lower curb weight and greater handling polish. The philosophy of the MX-5 has always been about melding the car and driver into a single, cohesive unit, and for that, we’re thankful.

Read the full review here.

Lotus Elise

2016 Lotus Elise Sport
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Without a doubt, Lotus is one automaker that gets it when it comes to the whole kart-for-the-road thing. The Elise is a prime example of this, coming equipped with two doors, a mid-mounted four-cylinder engine, effortless tossability, and not much else. It’s a stripped-down, no-nonsense approach to motoring, and although it might look like a little exotic, you can pick up a used example for roughly the same price as a well-equipped compact commuter.

Read the full review here.

Ariel Atom

TopSpeed's Top 10 Karts For The Road High Resolution Exterior
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The Ariel Atom 3S is insanity pushed to a whole new level.

Speaking of stripped down and no nonsense, the Ariel Atom takes Colin Chapman’s famous ethos about simplification and lightness to an extreme. This thing is basically an engine and four wheels, with some metal pipes and a seat bolted in between. Because after all, who needs doors, windows, and a roof when all you wanna do is go fast? You can get yours with a variety of powerplants, but if you’re truly insane, we suggest the 500-horsepower Atom V8. Straightjacket sold separately.

Read the full review here.

Honda S2000

2006 Honda S2000
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2006 honda s2000

The H Badge has a long history of offering up inexpensive, fun-to-drive performance cars, and the S2000 could be considered one of the high points. Produced between 1999 and 2009, the front-engine, RWD S2K is a very real alternative to the old MX-5 standby. One of its most interesting features is a screaming inline four-cylinder engine, which is capable of revving up to an eye-popping 9,000 rpm.

Read the full review here.

Toyota MR2

2002 Toyota MR2
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toyota mr2

While mid-engine, RWD sports cars are notoriously difficult to tame, the Toyota Mister Two is often considered one of the most pucker-inducing models to ever roam the streets. However, if you can master the snap oversteer, this budget-friendly slot car has what it takes to please. Production started in 1984 and ended in 2007 after three generations, which makes pricing on the used market pretty affordable. Just make sure yours wasn’t pulled from a hedge.

Read the full review here.

Porsche Boxster

2017 Porsche 718 Boxster High Resolution Exterior
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Porsche introduced the Boxster in 1996 as an affordable mid-engine roadster, and essentially saved itself from financial ruin in the process. These days, the model is a cornerstone of the Stuttgart lineup, and older examples are hitting the used market in a big way. And that means enthusiasts can pick one up and have their fun without the associated premium markup usually associated with a Porsche badge, making it an ideal candidate for kart-like fun.

Read the full review here.

Caterham Seven

2017 Caterham Seven 310
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U.K.-based automaker Caterham has been making the Seven since 1973, and over the course of the past four decades, the formula has more or less been refined to perfection. Here’s how it works – engine ahead, power behind, and roughly 1,200 pounds of weight underneath. It’s everything you need, and nothing you don’t. You can get yours in a variety of power levels, from the 80-horsepower Seven 160, up to the ludicrously quick 310-horsepower Seven 620R.

Read the full review here.

Alfa Romeo 4C

2014 Alfa Romeo 4C High Resolution Exterior
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While certainly one of the more expensive options on this list, the 4C is no less deserving of its spot. This model was Alfa’s reintroduction to the U.S. market, and it makes a good first impression on a new generation of enthusiasts with its carbon fiber frame, jaw-dropping exterior style, and a curb weight just over 1,000 kg (2,300 pounds). Think of it as a Lotus Elise instilled with the soul of Italy.

Read the full review here.

KTM X-Bow

2014 KTM X-Bow GT High Resolution Exterior
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You gotta love a vehicle named after a medieval weapon of war. But while the name is a bit of a throwback, the X-Bow is anything but old school. Under the skin is a carbon fiber monocoque chassis planted by Formula 1-derived pushrod suspension, while the striking exterior panels offer up very usable downforce while on the move. And although it’s quite expensive compared to its primary competitors, the X-Bow offers plenty of speed in return.

Read the full review here.

BAC Mono

2016 BAC Mono
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If you dig the X-Bow, but you think it’ just too soft for your taste, the BAC Mono is the answer. This thing is pure race car through and through, but somehow, it’s allowed on public roads. Making it go is a 300-horsepower naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, which is enough grunt to propel the Mono to 60 mph in less than three seconds. Overkill? Probably. But that’s how we like it around here. Just don’t expect to bring one home with anything more than pocket change.

Read the full review here.

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