Fun topic! In my opinion, shifter karts simply can’t be beat. The Stock Honda is the reigning champ in my book as far as bang for the buck, and that probably holds true even more so, now that many are transitioning away from this package.
Personally, I made the shift (see what I did there ) from the stock Honda to the Iame 175 SSE, and the performance difference alone is enough to convince me that was the right choice.
If outright $$$ are a constraint, then it seems like the KA/VLR provides some nice bang for the buck. I don’t have any experience with either of these, but I’ve heard good things in terms of both performance and reliability.
If you’re newer to the sport, or have a tighter budget, you can’t argue with the fact that there is great racing in the LO206 category. At my home track, NCMP, they routinely have 40+ karts in the class. I’d be bored to tears with the lack of power, but large classes pretty much guarantee that you’ll always be racing for position on track.
In summary, it all comes down to what you want to spend, but I’d certainly encourage those that are curious to take the plunge on a well-maintained shifter package. You simply can’t beat it in terms of performance for the money, especially with the Stock Honda. I made the switch from Tag about 10 years ago, and it’s been no looking back since.