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Best Compact Cars: 9 Options to Know

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You’re considering purchasing a compact car. And we don’t blame you — this category includes a wide range of prices, quality, performance and comfort. But while smaller cars do tend to have better gas mileage than mid- or full-size vehicles, they also are potentially more vulnerable in a crash, so you’ll want to find a compact car that scores well in the safety ratings.

Our picks not only received high ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and/or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), they received at least 3 stars from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) experts and consumers on Edmunds, when available.

Best subcompact cars

Subcompact cars tend to be ideal for those on a tight budget — just keep in mind that they’re also tight on space.

2019 Chevrolet Sonic sedan

$15,420 MSRP
Not yet rated by KBB experts; 4.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (1 review)
5 stars NHTSA
32 combined, 28 city/37 highway MPG

Though it has some bare-bones touches — windows you roll down by hand and manual transmission on the base model — the Sonic also comes with a standard touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, something you often don’t find on more expensive cars, including the Yaris below. The trunk is larger than other subcompacts, and you can fold down the rear seats for even more room. Though the 2019 Sonic has not yet been rated by NHTSA, it received good ratings from IIHS.

2019 Toyota Yaris sedan

$15,450 MSRP
3.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; 3.0 out of 5 on Edmunds (5 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
34 combined, 30 city/39 highway MPG

One of the smallest cars in the Toyota lineup (along with its sister liftback) it comes with standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking; unlike the 2018 liftback, however, it does not have Toyota’s Safety Sense package. It’s also one of the lowest rated vehicles, by KBB experts and consumers on Edmunds, that appear on this list. If you want more features, it might be worth upgrading to upper trim levels — unlike the 2018 model, the 2019 version comes in three trims, though none of which offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

2019 Honda Fit

$16,190 MSRP
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 5.0 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (3 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
31 combined, 29 city/36 highway MPG

Even though you can find less expensive options in this category, there are several things that set the Fit apart from other subcompacts. Honda’s Magic Seat folds in different ways to make space for cargo in a small package. The Fit also comes with Honda’s Safety Sensing suite of safety features, though it’s only standard on the EX and above, and merely “available” on the LX and Sport trims.

Best compact cars

Looking for a little more space in the trunk and in the passenger area? These are your best bets.

2019 Kia Forte

$17,790 MSRP
Not yet rated by KBB experts; 4.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (4 reviews)
Not yet rated by NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+
31 combined, 27 city/37 highway MPG

Slightly cheaper than the 2018 Forte5 hatchback — a 2019 model is expected — the Kia Forte sedan is the vehicle we focus on here. Good fuel economy and safety ratings, plus Kia’s standard warranty, make this car a standout. It also offers plenty of tech, even at the base trim level: a standard touchscreen, rear camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, forward collision warning and other driver safety aids. You should be aware, however, that a manual transmission is standard on the base model.

2019 Honda Civic Coupe

$20,650 MSRP
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.3 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (9 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
33 combined, 30 city/38 highway MPG

With two doors and plenty of trims, ranging from the base LX to the Touring version, you can truly customize this compact car. The Civic comes standard with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine that has a good mileage rating, though a continuously variable automatic transmission is the only option on the base LX trim (the Sport does have the option of a manual transmission). Though IHS did not rate the 2019 model, the 2018 coupe received good ratings. Honda also offers the four-door Civic sedan, starting at $19,450.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

$27,595 MSRP
4.1 out of 5 by KBB experts; review unavailable from Edmunds
5 stars NHTSA
27 combined, 24 city/32 highway MPG

While it’s pricier than others in its class, this four-door car comes with a newly retuned turbocharged engine for 2019. Choose between a six-speed manual, or an eight-speed automatic for an extra $1,100. And though you have to pay more for some of the best driver safety perks, like  blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, when some lower-cost rivals offer standard, you gain VW’s famous German engineering and sporty handling. Though not yet rated by NHTSA, the GTI received good ratings from IIHS.

Best luxury compact cars

2019 Genesis G70

$34,900 MSRP
Reviews unavailable from KBB experts or consumers on Edmunds
Not yet rated by NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+
25 combined, 22 city/30 highway MPG

If you’re not familiar with the Genesis name, it’s a luxury arm of Hyundai. The G70 is the smallest, least expensive Genesis model, and even though it’s a sedan, its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 252 horsepower gives it the sporty feel of a compact. The G70 has standard rear-wheel drive (or you can opt for all-wheel drive), and an automatic transmission — though you could opt for manual drive too.

2019 Audi A4

$37,400 MSRP
Not yet rated by KBB experts or consumers on Edmunds
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick
30 combined, 27 city/34 highway MPG

This is a tech-lover’s dream sedan, with the following standard features on the base Premium trim: 7-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice control system and rear view camera. It also comes with the option to step up to all-wheel drive ($42,000), and every A4 model comes with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. But don’t confuse the A4 sedan with the A4 wagon — Audi calls this model the A4 allroad, because it’s available only as an all-wheel drive vehicle.

2019 Lexus IS 300

$38,410 MSRP
4.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; not yet rated by consumers on Edmunds
5 stars NHTSA
24 combined, 21 city/30 highway MPG

This four-door sedan hasn’t changed much over the years but it’s been steady, chosen as an IIHS Top Safety Pick and above in 2017 and 2018. The base rear-wheel drive IS comes standard with a 4 cylinder engine with the option of a more powerful V6. If you step all the way up to the IS 350 Sport AWD, the starting MSRP is $46,560. Standard technology and safety features on the base IS 300 RWD include: remote start, backup camera and LED headlights.

Ways to finance the best compact car

Purchasing a compact car is a large investment, and there are many ways to finance that purchase if you can’t — or don’t want to — pay for the entire purchase in cash. Most people choose to apply through the dealership or a credit union, bank or an online lender. You could apply to multiple lenders or fill out a single online form on LendingTree and receive up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders. Either way, it’s important to compare offers and bring your preapproved auto loan to the dealer when it’s time to purchase.


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