Looking for a compact car? Here’s a comprehensive list to help in your decision-making process

There is no dearth of options in the compact cars segment today. To stand out from the crowd, cars these days have started segment-overlapping as well. You may find all the specifications of a conventional sedan in a hatchback, or vice-versa. You’ll find cars that don’t reside in the subcompact niche or the compact niche, but somewhere in the middle. With so many small cars on the market, though, choosing which one is best isn’t exactly easy. So, to make life simpler for you, here is a list of 17 of the best small cars ranked from worst to best.

2019 Nissan Sentra

Best Small Cars Ranked from Worst to Best
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This car is as generic as it can get. Although the Sentra is known for low running costs, reliability, and fairly strong build, and a rather spacious rear seat, it suffers from poor handling, zero feedback from the steering wheel, and brakes that may break your confidence.

Adding to the misery is the set of boring turbo engines, a lousy CVT gearbox, and a plane-jane cabin.

The bottom line is that the Nissan Sentra is for people who are basically looking for an entry-level car that will be used for odd-jobs, long daily drives, or those who are on a tight budget. That said, the higher trims can get quite expensive, but are significantly more upscale in terms of interior materials.

Engine 1.6-liter, four-cylinder
Power 188 horse power
Torque 177 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 27 mpg
Cargo Space 15.1 cubic-feet
Starting Price $17,800

Read our full review on the 2019 Nissan Sentra.

2019 Mini Cooper Convertible

2016 Mini Cooper Convertible
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No, the Mini Cooper is not so mini these days, but it is small enough to crack into this list.

The Mini Cooper Convertible handles well, has comfortable front seats, and looks great; but it is priced relatively high for what it offers as a package.

A lot of add-ons are available at the factory level that make this car desirable. Adding them, however, encroaches a dangerous price territory as things get expensive quick. The rear seats are good enough for kids, but an adult won’t feel very comfortable back there. There is no doubt this is a niche car, and BMW charges a premium for it (Spoiler - this isn’t the only Mini in this list).

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo
Power 189 horse power
Torque 207 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 32 mpg
Cargo Space 7.6 cubic-feet
Starting Price $26,900

Read our full review on the 2019 Mini Cooper Convertible

2019 Mini Cooper Hardtop

2014 Mini Cooper High Resolution Exterior
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The Mini Cooper Hardtop, just like the Convertible, is not for a budget-conscious customer. It is available in two-door and four-door configuration in two different trim levels. You can opt for the John Cooper Works option as well, but get ready to spend a bomb on that.

For the same price, you can get a much more accomplished car with a lot more utility.

Although looks are subjective, the overt focus on styling may put off some customers. However, this is a good car for an enthusiast and a non-family person who can afford to choose this car by ignoring the practicality aspect.

Engine 1.5-liter, four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo
Power 134 horse power
Torque 262 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 33 mpg
Cargo Space 8.7 cubic-feet
Starting Price $21,900

Read our full review on the 2019 Mini Cooper Hardtop

2019 Mini Cooper Clubman

2016 Mini Clubman
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Another Mini? Well, yes. Despite being the most well-balanced package of the lot, the Clubman made the list. In an attempt to woo the layman to the Mini brand, the Clubman kind of lost its ’Mini Cooper’ essence to an extent. It feels like a stretched Mini and looks sort of like a ripped-off wagon.

Although the rear cabin space and cargo benefit from this, the Mini Cooper Clubman does not retain the 'wow' factor of its siblings.

We don’t have the mention the exorbitant pricing and the high running costs again, do we? (Specs for Cooper S All4)

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo
Power 189 horse power
Torque 207 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 28 mpg
Cargo Space 17.5 cubic-feet
Starting Price $30,900

Read our full review on the 2019 Mini Cooper Clubman

2019 Toyota Corolla

2014 Toyota Corolla High Resolution Exterior
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The Corolla has been around for ages and has a loyal customer base and, not just in the U.S., but across the globe as well. However, the current model is running out of steam and feels too long in the tooth. Even the 1.8-liter engine under the hood feels dated and is not peppy by any means. Nevertheless, it’s a decent budget family car and comes with basic creature comforts.

If you're a tech head, the pre-2020 Corolla will disappoint you unless you go for the higher trim levels.

The touchscreen infotainment system does not even support Apple CarPlay. It is known for its reliability and strong build, but Toyota is focusing on the hatch as the sedan is all set to be replaced for 2020 with a newer model - if you can wait for the newer model, that’s probably your best move.

Engine 1.8-liter, four-cylinder
Power 132 horse power
Torque 128 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 31 mpg
Cargo Space 13 cubic-feet
Starting Price $18,700

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla

2019 Volkswagen Beetle

2019 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Final Edition Exterior
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The iconic Beetle is a fun car to drive and an absolute looker. Amongst the herd of modern, futuristic cars on the market today, the Beetle provides a breath of fresh (read as old) air with its retro, cute looks. It comes with a set of rev-friendly engines - 170 horses for the base trim - that is enough to race this little bug to some great speeds. It also comes with a five-speed manual transmission or can be had with a six-speed automatic.

But, the Beetle is bidding farewell, and 2019 is the last year for you to pick one, as no 2020 model is being planned.

The Beetle hasn’t changed much lately, so any model from the last decade will provide the same fun and driving dynamics as long as it’s in decent condition and has been properly maintained.

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged
Power 174 horses
Torque 184 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 30 mpg
Cargo Space 15.4 cubic-feet
Starting Price $20,900

Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Beetle

2019 Kia Forte

2019 Kia Forte Exterior
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The Kia Forte is a clean-looking car that will age gracefully. Just like any other South Korean model, the Forte comes with an impressive list of standard features and safety equipment. The top trim comes with an infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The dash and center console look sweet, and the car offers tons of storage space inside the cabin.

The seats, however, are placed on the lower side, making ingress and egress difficult, especially for the elderly. The sloping roofline eats into the headroom at the rear, making life a living hell for tall folks. Although the performance specs seem adequate on paper, the car takes a lot of time to build some steam. So, if you are the pedal-to-the-floor kind of a driver, look elsewhere.

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder
Power 147 horses
Torque 132 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 35 mpg
Cargo Space 15.3 cubic-feet
Starting Price $17,790

Read our full review on the 2019 Kia Forte

2019 Subaru Impreza

2017 Subaru Impreza High Resolution Exterior
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The Impreza, much like the Nissan Sentra and the Kia Forte, serves as a strict family car. The 152-horsepower engine is mated to either a five-speed manual or a CVT, and the combination will not suppress the adrenaline rush of the heavy-footers. However, the standard all-wheel-drive system makes sure the ride is supple and comfortable.

The Impreza comes with a host of safety and convenience features including a touchscreen infotainment system, but the cabin is dull.

A peppier engine and livelier interior could help Subaru sell more of the Imprezas.

Engine 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Power 152 horse power
Torque 145 pound-feet of torque
Fuel Economy (Combined) 27 mpg
Cargo Space 12.3 cubic-feet
Starting Price $18,600

Read our full review on the 2019 Subaru Impreza

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Best Small Cars Ranked from Worst to Best Exterior
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As a hatchback, the Corolla has hit the sweet spot.

The Corolla hatchback is very well-designed on the inside and is sufficiently powered under the hood.

It is quite spacious for a hatchback with a lot of interior storage space. In terms of styling, we would say that there are better cars on the market. The Corolla sells on its goodwill and reliability. And, one could argue that the 168-horsepower engine is fun to drive and has enough to keep the enthusiasts interested - as long as tons of power isn’t what they are looking for. It is also quite fuel-efficient. One grouch is that the sloping roofline cuts in the headroom and the cargo space. If these are not deal breakers for you, then the Corolla hatchback will fit your bill quite well.

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder
Power 151 horse power
Torque 168 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 34 mpg
Cargo Space 18 cubic-feet
Starting Price $20,000

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

2019 Hyundai Elantra

2019 Hyundai Elantra - Quick Review Exterior
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The Hyundai Elantra is getting better and better with each passing year. The car looks quite smart, except for that horrid grille up front. Just like its cousin, the Kia Forte, the Elantra also suffers from the sloping-roofline-syndrome that affects the headroom of the rear passengers. On the inside, the Elantra is well-spec’d and comes with features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated seats, and a host of active-safety features.

The 147-horsepower engine is a little disappointing, but it is not a slouch by any means.

For the penny-savers, switch to Eco mode, and you will see the car achieve fuel economy figures of up to 43 miles per gallon on the highway.

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder
Power 147 horse power
Torque 132 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 32 mpg
Cargo Space 14.4 cubic-feet
Starting Price $17,100

Read our full review on the 2019 Hyundai Elantra

2019 Hyundai Elantra GT

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT – Driven Exterior
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The Elantra GT cannot be described as a version of the standard Elantra; it is more than a spin-off. The GT is offered with a different set of engines under the hood. The top-of-the-line GT is powered by a 1.6-liter unit that produces 201 ponies. It even comes with its own unique suspension setup and is mated to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. Although it’s a fairly light car, it feels planted on roads at high speeds.

The interior looks similar to the standard Elantra at first glance, but there are many differences that include the new sport seats and color stitching, among other things.

It even offers an eight-inch touchscreen system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All-in-all, this is a worthy substitute for the Volkswagen GTI.

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder
Power 161 horse power
Torque 150 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 28 mpg
Cargo Space 24.9 cubic-feet
Starting Price $19,400

Read our full driven review on the 2019 Hyundai Elantra GT

2019 Chevrolet Cruze

2016 Chevrolet Cruze High Resolution Exterior
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Although the Corollas and Elantras got different mentions in this list because of the stark differences, the Cruze hatchback and sedan get a single mention as they have no other difference apart from the different body styles.

Step into the Chevy, start driving, and you will realize how silent this cabin is.

The car feels stable and rock-solid at high speeds. A diesel mill was even added last year and it delivers 52 miles per gallon! The interior is spacious and comes with basic creature comforts to keep you happy. However, it takes a hit in terms of safety features, so that’s something to keep in mind. Surprisingly, the Cruze is being canceled this year even though a facelift was rolled out recently.

Engine 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 137 horse power
Torque 240 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 37 mpg
Cargo Space 13.9 cubic-feet
Starting Price $18,000

Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Cruze

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Best Small Cars Ranked from Worst to Best Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Jetta is a household name not only in the U.S. but across the globe. This versatile car is now improved and comes with all the electronic shenanigans one can expect at this price point.

The Jetta is now built on the same MQB platform that underpins many Volkswagen cars including the Golf.

This may seem very unlike Volkswagen, but the Jetta is offered with just a single powertrain. The 147-horsepower four-cylinder is mated to either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed is obviously more fun to drive, but the auto box isn’t bad either. Because of the humble power figures, the Jetta does not give you a push-in-the-seat feeling when accelerated hard. The Jetta offers all the customer-luring features like Full-LED exterior lighting, state-of-the-art infotainment system, etc. All-in-all, a car that has a bit for family folks, enthusiasts, and tech-lovers alike. (Specs for SEL Premium Automatic)

Engine 1.4-liter, four-cylinder
Power 147 horse power
Torque 184 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 35 mpg
Cargo Space 14.1 cubic-feet
Starting Price $18,800

Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

2019 Hyundai Veloster

2019 Hyundai Veloster Exterior
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The Veloster is one fun hatch to drive. With its sorted driving dynamics and sporty avatar, the Veloster has a lot going in its favor. The last-gen model was criticized for the aggressive center-back action of the steering wheel and ill-tuned suspension setup.

Hyundai has worked on both these flaws without compromising the handling aspect.

The rich interior and a strong feature list make the Veloster a good package overall. The car comes with a seven-inch touchscreen system, wireless charging pad, and lots of storage spaces around the cabin. If you’re looking for something even hotter, Hyundai offers the Veloster N with 275 ponies at your disposal.

Engine 1.6-liter, four cylinder
Power 201 horse power
Torque 195 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 30 mpg
Cargo Space 19.9 cubic-feet
Starting Price $18,500

Read our full review on the 2019 Hyundai Veloster

2019 Mazda 3

Best Small Cars Ranked from Worst to Best Exterior
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The Mazda 3 is a perfect blend of elegance and simplicity. In terms of exterior design, Mazda has done a great job to keep the car simple without making it look dated. The contemporary design, coupled with a strong set of engines make the Mazda 3 an irresistible option. The car offers a six-speed manual transmission as standard on the 155 horsepower engine and a six-speed automatic transmission as option on the 184-horse powertrain.

This car has great driving dynamics and stays planted at high speeds.

If there is something Mazda could improve on, it would be the cramped rear space and the poor infotainment system. But overall, the Mazda 3 is a great package and will please everyone.

Engine 2.5-liter, four-cylinder
Power 184 horse power
Torque 185 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 35 mpg
Cargo Space 20.2 cubic-feet
Starting Price $18,100

Read our full review on the 2019 Mazda 3

2019 Honda Civic

2016 Honda Civic
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Need we say anything about this Japanese legend? The Honda Civic is one of the rare cars that has tasted immense success in all its avatars - the two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and four-door hatchback body styles. It even offers an array of potent powertrain options to choose from.

No matter which Civic you choose, you will get the perfect driving dynamics, precise steering feel, solid chassis, and sharp handling without compromising on cabin comforts.

It also offers an excellent fuel economy of 34 miles per gallon combined. On the inside, the Civic comes with a busy cabin. Some may find it too cluttered, but others may think it looks like a cockpit. There is nothing to write home about in terms of cargo space, though. In terms of features and safety, the Civic ticks all the boxes. The only con for the Civic is the base engine that kills the car’s reputation. Other than this, it is one of the most well-packaged cars available on the market today.

Engine 1.5-liter, four-cylinder
Power 174 horse power
Torque 162 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 33 mpg
Cargo Space 11.9 cubic-feet
Starting Price $19,500

Read our full review on the 2019 Honda Civic

2019 Volkswagen Golf

2018 Volkswagen Golf Exterior
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The Volkswagen Golf takes the cake here. This car has been around for as long as most of us can remember and, much like the Civic, it comes with various body styles and avatars. There is the regular Golf hatchback, Golf SportWagen and the Alltrack, Golf GTI, e-Golf, and Golf R.

From an engine that produces 147 horses to an engine that churns out 288 horses; the Golf has something for every potential customer.

Another reason why this car has topped the list is because it keeps evolving. Something that Volkswagen could work on with respect to the Golf is the pricing; especially the Golf R. At a starting price of $41,000, the Golf R has a set of different rivals altogether. Other than that, it comes with a spacious interior for its size and decent cargo space in all body types. The Golf is arguably the most well-spec’d car in its price range on the market today. Be it in terms of technology, safety, or exterior looks; the Golf has it all covered.

Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder
Power 228 horses
Torque 258 pound-feet
Fuel Economy (Combined) 28 mpg
Cargo Space 22.8 cubic-feet
Starting Price $22,000

Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Golf

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