If high speeds and raw power aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of fun to be had with a small engine. Cheap, economical and generally easier to maintain, 1-litre engine cars are perfect for new drivers, and there’s a great selection of classics available that fit the profile.
Morris Minor 1000
Few British-made cars can top the cheeky charm of a Morris Minor, and the 1000 packs plenty of value in a small size. Introduced in 1956, this two-door saloon brought a few updates to the Minor formula, including a one-piece windscreen and larger 948cc engine. From 1962 the engine got an even bigger upgrade to 1,098cc, adding a bit more power to match the Minor’s already solid handling. The Traveller estate variant, with its solid ash frame, is the ideal choice for anyone gearing up for a road trip or two.
Debuting in 1961 with a 997cc engine, the Mini Cooper represented an unusual foray into performance cars – and one that paid off, with Mini Coopers winning the Monte Carlo Rally no less than three times during the 1960s. Its more powerful brother, the Cooper S, featured a 1,071cc engine. Minis have always emphasised tiny dimensions but feel surprisingly roomy inside, and the Cooper and its variants are no different.
You can’t really talk about 1-litre classics without the Nova getting a look-in: known as the Corsa overseas, it first came to the UK in 1983, going through a wide range of engine sizes from 1-litre to 1.6l throughout its production history. While they might look a little unexciting in comparison to today’s sleeker superminis, they’re still known as sturdy, reliable little cars that are ideal “starter classics” for anybody on a budget.
A quirky classic with a pedigree going back to the Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite, the sporty MG Midget initially packed a 948cc A-series engine, which was later replaced with a 1,0988cc in 1962. They were produced with incrementally larger engines up to the Midget 1500 in 1974, and – while somewhat prone to rust and engine problems – they’re still the starter sports classic of choice for many. A well-kept example is a joy to drive.
Want to turn heads? This Italian city car looks like nothing else out there, and with a teeny-tiny engine – from 479cc to 594cc – and a wide range of variants, this diminutive powerhouse has a lot to offer. It was produced from 1957 to 1975, with sports models made by Abarth and Giannini. It’s also the holder of a number of long-distance travel records – which bodes well for its reliability.