10 Most Popular Small Cars
Modern compact cars are offered with most of the same amenities found on larger and more expensive models, but in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package. This buyer’s guide to the 10 most popular* small cars in America provides a quick overview of each of the best-selling models, including pricing; quality, reliability, and appeal ratings; fuel economy; safety ratings; and cargo volume.
1. Honda Civic
Redesigned for 2016, the Honda Civic is offered as a coupe or sedan, with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder or a turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and with a manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission. Trim levels, depending on the body style, include LX, LX-P, EX, EX-T, EX-L, and Touring.
2. Toyota Corolla
Toyota keeps it simple when it comes to the Corolla. Available only as a 4-door sedan (a 5-door hatchback joins the lineup in 2017), trim levels include L, LE, LE Eco, and S. All have a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, and the LE Eco receives special engine tuning that produces better fuel economy.
3. Nissan Sentra
Available only as a sedan, the Nissan Sentra is sold in S, SV, SR, and SL trim levels. A version of the Sentra S, designated the FE+ S, is designed to maximize fuel economy. A 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine is installed in all of them, paired with a continuously variable transmission except in the Sentra S, which comes with a standard manual gearbox.
4. Ford Focus
Ford offers a Focus for just about everybody. The 4-door sedan comes in S, SE, and Titanium trim levels, while the 5-door hatchback is available in SE and Titanium trims, along with sporty SE, performance RS, and pure electricvariants. Power output ranges from 160 to 350, and the RS features all-wheel drive.
5. Hyundai Elantra
For 2017, Hyundai redesigns the Elantra sedan, while the Elantra GT hatchback is carried over from the previous year. Sedans are offered in SE, Eco, and Limited trim levels, while the 5-door Elantra GT comes in a single trim level. Engine choices for the sedan include a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, while the GT comes with a more powerful 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Manual or automatic transmissions are available. A turbocharged Elantra Sport sedan arrives in the fall of 2016.
6. Chevrolet Cruze
During the first part of 2016, Chevrolet carried over the old Cruze and named it the Cruze Limited. The redesigned Cruze was a late debut for 2016. The new Cruze is offered in L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels, each equipped with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with either a manual or automatic transmission.
7. Kia Soul
A 5-door hatchback that is just an all-wheel-drive system away from qualifying as a crossover SUV, the Kia Soul is offered with a choice between two 4-cylinder engines and an all-electric drivetrain. Gasoline variants come in Base, Plus, and Exclaim trim levels, while the Soul EV is offered in EV-e, standard, and Plus trims.
8. Volkswagen Jetta
Providing the comfort and trunk space of a midsize sedan while having the size and price of a small car, the Volkswagen Jetta spells value. It comes only as a 4-door sedan and with a range of turbocharged engines or as a gas-electric hybrid. Trim levels include S, SE, Sport, SEL, and SEL Premium, as well as sporty GLI and Hybrid variants.
9. Kia Forte
Kia offers the Forte in coupe, hatchback, and sedan body styles. Sedans come in LX and EX trim, while coupes are offered in EX and SX trim. Hatchbacks are offered in all three trim levels. Three different engines are available, too, including a 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder for the SX.
Buy a Mazda 3 and you must decide between a sedan and hatchback body style; a 155-horsepower and a 184-horsepower engine; and manual and automatic gearbox. You also have a choice of three trim levels: Sport, Touring, or Grand Touring. All are stylish, and all have a rather cramped back seat.