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Compact Car Buyer's Guide

By on December 5, 2014 3:35 PM
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Honda CivicFord FocusToyota CorollaChevrolet CruzeMazda MAZDA3Subaru ImprezaDodge DartVolkswagen JettaHyundai ElantraNissan SentraMitsubishi LancerKia Forte

Today's compact cars might not be quite as roomy, quiet or comfortable as their midsize counterparts, but the fit, finish and features are increasingly comparable. And even if they'll always be smaller by definition, compact cars continue to get roomier, quieter and more comfortable, making them increasingly intriguing alternatives to many larger and pricier options.

And when it comes to fun and efficiency, smaller is almost always better. Whichever direction you're leaning -- soft or sporty, showy or subtle -- there's a compact car designed with you in mind.

What's New

The Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta were updated for 2015, making them the segment's freshest entries -- that is until the next-generation Honda Civic arrives for the 2016 model year. At the New York Auto Show, Honda showed a concept that strongly hints at what the 2016 Civic might look like. At the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota announced a Corolla Special Edition for 2016.

10 Best

The compact car segment is well-represented on our most recent lists of 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000, 10 Coolest Cars Under $25,000 and 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000.

Actual Price

Most compact cars start under $18,000, but most buyers upgrade to an automatic transmission and other popular equipment, making the average price paid for a compact car right about $20,000. The average price paid for a midsize sedan, for reference, is closer to $25,000.

  • Chevrolet Cruze
    2015 Chevrolet Cruze
  • Dodge Dart
    2015 Dodge Dart
  • Ford Focus
    2015 Ford Focus
  • Honda Civic
    2015 Honda Civic
  • Hyundai Elantra
    2015 Hyundai Elantra
  • Kia Forte
    2015 Kia Forte
  • Mazda3
    2015 Mazda3
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
    2015 Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Nissan Sentra
    2015 Nissan Sentra
  • Subaru Impreza
    2015 Subaru Impreza
  • Toyota Corolla
    2015 Toyota Corolla
  • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta
    2015 Volkswagen Jetta

Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla?

The longest-running compact sedan nameplates are also the two best-selling compact cars in the country. Which is the better choice for you? Our Civic vs. Corolla comparison video might hold the answer.

Special Editions

The Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer are the only cars in this group to offer all-wheel drive, the Civic and Jetta are the only models offered with a hybrid powertrain, the Cruze and Jetta are the only ones offered with diesel engines, and the Focus is the only one offered as a much pricier all-electric car.

Resale Value Victor

The 2015 Subaru Impreza is our most recent Best Resale Value Award winner in the compact car category, followed by the 2015 Toyota Corolla and 2015 Scion xB.


Non-sedan alternatives that live in the same price neighborhood as mainstream compact cars include the Kia Soul, Jeep Patriot, Scion xB and Jeep Compass.



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