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We headed north out of Los Angeles for our fifth comparison test of the 2015 model year, following a circuitous route that included some coastal cruising through Malibu, high speeds on Interstate 5, and meandering mountain roads that brought us back to the coast and down through Santa Barbara. By the time we returned home the following day we'd put more than 400 miles on seven compact cars, and our feel for the segment was stronger than ever.

For this year's head-to-head evaluation we tapped the Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Jetta—all of which were updated for 2015—plus the Mazda3, Dodge Dart and the two segment staples: Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Our comparison tests are different from most in that we keep the focus on comparison, not competition. We don't pick winners and losers because the right choice for one buyer is the wrong choice for another. For instance, our editors probably recommend the Honda Civic more than any other car here, but many of us would buy a Mazda3. Similarly, while the Toyota Corolla is the third best-selling car in the country, the Subaru Impreza can be a far better choice for those who face seriously inclement conditions on an annual basis. Our goal here is not to tell you which small car to buy, but to make it easier for you to decide which is best for you.

With that in mind, let's move on to the findings of our 2015 Compact Car Comparison. You can start with a favorite, but don't be surprised if you end up with a new one.

In order of sales volume through the first part of 2015:

Toyota Corolla

The best-selling nameplate in the history of the world, the latest Corolla is more emotionally appealing than ever.

Check out Corolla
2015 Toyota Camry Midsize Sedan

Honda Civic

Even in its last model year before a full redesign, the Honda Civic is still showing others how it's done.See more Civic

2015 Honda Accord Midsize Sedan

Ford Focus

Not quite as roomy or practical as the others, the Focus is a sportier, more stylish alternative to the typical compact car.

Explore Focus
2015 Chrysler 200 Midsize Sedan

Volkswagen Jetta

With turbocharged power and European roots, the Jetta is both more fun and more mature than many of its peers.

Look at Jetta
2015 Hyundai Sonata Midsize Sedan

Mazda3

The always fun and stylish Mazda3 is now efficient and tech-savvy, too.

Get to know Mazda3
2016 Mazda Mazda6 Midsize Sedan

Dodge Dart

Sporty looks, a rich interior and one of our favorite infotainment systems.

Learn about Dart
2015 Subaru Legacy Midsize Sedan

Subaru Impreza

Standard all-wheel drive remains the Impreza's key competitive advantage.

Research Impreza
2015 Subaru Legacy Midsize Sedan

 

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