It’s no secret that the world of cars has different classes of vehicles to cater to various needs and desires. But there are lesser-known categories that fall in between. Enter the street-legal go-karts—the perfect blend of performance and exhilaration. These stripped-down speedsters not only comply with road regulations but also provide an unmatched driving experience. Let’s explore the top street-legal go-karts available today.
What Defines a Street-Legal Go-Kart?
Street-legal go-karts are not your average road-going cars. They are lightweight, open-top vehicles that offer agile and nimble performance akin to traditional go-karts. Considered motorcycles by law, these road-legal go-karts are focused on delivering exhilarating driving experiences with minimalistic interiors, powerful engines, and track-ready suspensions. Their sleek designs make them look like they belong on a race track. While shopping for a road-legal go-kart, it’s essential to consider key elements that distinguish them from regular cars.
The heart and soul of a street-legal go-kart is its engine. It determines the vehicle’s performance and driving experience. Consider factors such as engine size, cylinder count, layout, cooling system, and forced induction. Some models use powertrains from larger manufacturers. Make sure to investigate the origin of the engine.
Street-legal go-karts come with a variety of transmission options. Manual gearboxes, sequential units, and automatic transmissions controlled by paddle-shifters are commonly used. Choose the transmission type that suits your preferences.
Apart from the vehicle’s frame, the running gear plays a crucial role in overall performance. This includes the suspension setup and braking hardware. High-quality running gear significantly enhances a go-kart’s capabilities.
Power & Performance Capabilities
A go-kart’s horsepower and torque figures, combined with its weight and gearing, give an objective measure of its performance. Consider acceleration (0-60mph) time, braking time, and top speed for a complete picture of a go-kart’s capabilities.
Street-legal go-karts are not known for their practicality. They are purpose-built vehicles, so don’t expect them to excel in grocery-getting or family hauling. However, some models offer practical features like trunks and storage compartments. Consider the level of practicality that suits your needs.
Street-legal go-karts have ultra-svelte curb weights, resulting in nimble handling and impressive power-to-weight ratios. Their low weight allows for quick acceleration.
Most go-karts feature single or dual-passenger seating arrangements. Consider the comfort and space offered by each model’s seating configuration.
Amenities & Creature Comforts
While go-karts are spartan vehicles, some offer creature comforts like stereos, infotainment displays, and air conditioning systems. Decide which amenities are important to you.
Go-karts are primarily manufactured by boutique marques, resulting in varying build quality. Research forums, blogs, and reviews to get an idea of each manufacturer’s reputation.
Consider the operational, insurance, and maintenance costs associated with a go-kart. Running costs can differ significantly between models, so factor them into your decision-making process.
The Top Street-Legal Go-Karts Available
Now that we understand the key elements to consider, let’s explore some of the best street-legal go-karts on the market:
Polaris Slingshot R
Photo: Polaris Inc.
Best Value Pick: Don’t judge the Polaris Slingshot by its looks alone. This little street demon offers an incredibly fun driving experience. Classified as a motorcycle, the Slingshot R trim features a stripped-down design with a lightweight curb weight of just 1,651 pounds. It boasts a powerful 203-horsepower engine and 144 foot-pounds of torque. Surprisingly, it offers a few handy features, including a navigation-equipped full-color 7″ display, upgradeable interiors with killer sound system options, and an optional removable top. Check out our in-depth review of the Polaris Slingshot here.
Vanderhall Santarosa GTS
Photo: Vanderhall Motor Works
Best Electric Pick: The Vanderhall Santarosa GTS is a neo-retro-styled, fully-electric roadster. This range-topping version offers spirited performance with its 180-horsepower, 132-kW electric motor. Its reverse trike design and lightweight construction allow it to go from 0 to 60mph in less than four seconds. With a luxurious hand-crafted interior and a 300-mile range, the Santarosa GTS is a striking combination of style and performance.
Morgan Super 3 Speedster
Photo: Morgan Motor Company
Best Neo-Retro Pick: The Morgan Super 3 Speedster brings a touch of retro charm to the road. With its aluminum modular monocoque chassis and Ford Dragon engine, this three-wheeler delivers 118 horsepower and a top speed of 130mph. The Super 3 Speedster also offers a wide range of customization options, allowing you to personalize its appearance and personality.
Campagna T-Rex RR 2023
Photo: Campagna Motors
Best Lightweight Pick: The Campagna T-Rex RR 2023 is a high-performance reverse trike with a complete roll-cage chassis and a suspension setup designed for incredible handling. Powered by a 208-horsepower 1,441cc inline-four engine from Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-14R superbike, this lightweight trike can go from 0 to 60mph in under four seconds. With its exotic bodywork, carbon fiber construction, and sporty features, the T-Rex RR 2023 is a thrilling choice.
Caterham Seven 620
Photo: Caterham Cars
Best Continuation Car Pick: The Caterham Seven 620 continues the legacy of the iconic Lotus Seven. This range-topping “continuation kart” features a supercharged 310-horsepower four-cylinder engine. With its curb weight of just under 1,344 pounds, it can achieve a sub-3-second 0-60mph time and a top speed of nearly 150mph. The Caterham Seven 620 combines classic styling with modern components for an exhilarating driving experience.
Ariel Atom 4
Photo: Ariel North America
Best Track-Ready Pick: The Ariel Atom 4 is a powerful track machine that is also street-legal. It boasts a turbocharged 320-horsepower engine and an impressively light curb weight of 1,312 pounds. With a 0-60mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 162mph, this little rocket offers supercar-level performance. The minimalistic cockpit puts the driver in direct contact with the road, making it a thrill-seeker’s dream.
KTM X-BOW GT
Best Overall Pick: The KTM X-Bow GT stands apart with its unique design and impressive features. It offers four wheels, a powerful 300-horsepower engine, and a top speed of 143.5mph. With its wider and lower center of gravity, racing-developed suspension, and racing-inspired components, the X-Bow GT delivers unparalleled performance and stability. Made with a carbon fiber monocoque, it combines luxury with speed, setting it apart as the go-to choice for thrill-seekers.
BAC Mono R
Photo: Briggs Automotive Company
Best Single-Seater Pick: The BAC Mono R is a highly advanced single-seater go-kart designed with no expenses spared. Its lightweight carbon composite bodywork, race-style display, and high-end componentry make it truly exceptional. With its unrivaled customization options, including a wide range of personalization choices, the Mono R is the pinnacle of performance and exclusivity.
Experience the Thrill of Street-Legal Go-Karts
Street-legal go-karts offer an exhilarating experience like no other. Whether you’re seeking value, electric performance, retro styling, lightweight agility, continuation car heritage, track-ready performance, overall excellence, or single-seater excitement, there’s a street-legal go-kart that suits your preferences. Get ready to hit the road and unleash your inner speed demon. For more information, visit Garrity Traina.