When the time comes to purchase a new car, you must consider all your needs and think about the true cost of owning a vehicle. If you want to make a choice that will cost you as little as possible in the long run, finding a small, fuel-efficient vehicle is one of your best options. The smaller the engine and wheelbase, the more economical the car will be.
While the new car market is fairly saturated with large, gas-guzzling SUVs and hybrid or electric cars, there are still automakers manufacturing economical compact automobiles. Many of them offer outstanding gas mileage and a myriad of high-end features. By knowing what is available in this segment and what it has to offer, you can choose the right car for you and your needs.
2023 Toyota Corolla
When you think about economy cars that are built to last and offer years of reliable service, the Toyota Corolla should be one of the first vehicles that come to mind. With years of development and an array of standard safety features, the Corolla is a great option for people looking for practicality in a relatively attractive package. The 2023 Corolla is more powerful than it has ever been before with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 169 horsepower through a continuously variable automatic transmission.
The interior of the 2023 Corolla is streamlined and simple with soft-touch materials and a high-quality build. It features an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity that can be controlled with the touchscreen but also features numerous switches and buttons for easy use. You also get a host of standard safety features including forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking.
2022 Hyundai Elantra
Hyundai has been well known for creating dependable, economic vehicles that come with an extensive warranty that is designed to protect you and your vehicle from any issues for many years. The Elantra is Hyundai’s compact sedan and its unique styling and high-end feel make it perfect for commuters and small families. The powertrain options include a four-cylinder engine putting out 147 horsepower and a hybridized 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 139 horsepower.
Inside, the Elantra has a futuristic, modern look that feels minimal but is packed with features. It features an LED strip that runs across the dashboard for ambient lighting and all controls are driver-focused for easy use. The Elantra features a large 10.3-inch digital gauge display and an 8-inch center display infotainment system with plenty of analog buttons and switches. There are also many standard tech features like Wi-Fi connectivity and full smartphone connectivity.
2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI
If you are looking for a hot hatchback that is packed with performance and designed to be as fun to drive as possible, the Volkswagen Golf GTI could be a great option. The GTI is one of the most performance-oriented compact cars on the market and has enough power for almost any application or type of driver. The turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 241 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque for a snappy, responsive feel on the gas pedal. The GTI is also available with either a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or a six-speed manual. Even the automatic transmission is quick with a zero-to-60 time of just 5.1 seconds.
The Golf GTI’s interior is incredibly modern but still designed to be as practical as possible. It features a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster as well as a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The visibility, which has been an issue in past model years, has also been improved with a low cowl. It also comes with a set of standard safety and driver-assistance features including automated emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.
2022 Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra is a stylish and unique-looking small car with practical features and enough comfort for commuting and long trips. The Sentra features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 149 horsepower through Nissan’s continuously variable automatic transmission, which is designed to simulate actual gear changes, unlike most CVTs. This results in a more traditional feel and easier driveability than other cars in this segment. The fuel economy on the Sentra is comparable to less powerful engines with 29 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.
The Sentra’s interior is where it really shines and sets itself apart from the crowd. With modern styling and a sleek, contemporary feel, it is anything but boring. One of the most important features is the comfortable Zero Gravity front seats, which are designed to keep you comfortable for many miles at a time. The base model of the Sentra features a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but this can be upgraded to eight inches if you are looking for a little more space on the screen.
2023 Subaru Impreza
With availability as either a sedan or a hatchback, the 2023 Subaru Impreza is a versatile vehicle and is one of the best small cars available on the market. With Subaru’s signature all-wheel drive and a sporty feel, this is a fantastic option for people who want a little fun to go along with their practical compact car. The Impreza comes with a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine putting out 152 horsepower and 142 pound-feet of torque. While this might not be much in the way of power, the responsive feel and quick acceleration make it incredibly enjoyable to drive.
Inside, the Impreza is roomy and very user-friendly with intuitive climate control and a well-thought-out design. There is plenty of legroom in the front seat and even the rear seats are comfortable and designed for long trips. The 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system can be upgraded to 8 inches and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
2022 Volkswagen Jetta
The Volkswagen Jetta may be in the compact category but it feels more like a midsize car both on the inside and the outside. For the 2022 model year, the Jetta has received a small redesign that gives it a little more of a sleek look and a lot more in the way of cargo space and room for passengers. The 2022 Jetta is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 158 horsepower and although it is not as powerful as some other vehicles in its category, it is available with a manual transmission, which can add a little more fun to the driving experience.
The interior of the 2022 Jetta is designed to offer as much room as possible for both cargo and passengers. If you want to go with some of the higher trim levels, you can add features like customizable ambient lighting and wireless charging. The touchscreen infotainment system features Volkswagen’s Car-Net software, which supports gesture controls for things like swiping and zooming, making it much more useful than most other touchscreen systems.
2022 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic has long been known as the go-to practical car if you are looking for something reliable and easy to maintain. The 2022 Civic is redesigned and has emerged as a much more mature-looking and developed vehicle than it has previously been known. The 2022 Civic is available with two different powertrain options including a 2.0-liter four-cylinder putting out 158 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 180 horsepower. Transmission options include a continuously variable automatic transmission and a six-speed manual that can come with the hatchback version of the Civic.
Inside, the 2022 Civic features bold lines and a clean look that is very meticulously designed. With a mesh covering for the air vents, the dashboard is sleek-looking and incredibly well put together. There is also plenty of storage space and cubby holes for all your belongings, which is ideal on commutes and long trips. The tech features include a standard 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system and standard features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
2022 Kia Forte
If you are looking for the feel and style of a luxury car with the MSRP of a compact sedan, the Kia Forte is a fantastic option. It is a sporty, high-end-feeling vehicle with enough features to suit almost any need. The Forte comes with two different options for engines: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder putting out 147 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 201 horsepower if you are looking for a little extra power. If the standard engine doesn’t fulfill your need for speed, the turbo version has a zero to 60 time of just 6.7 seconds.
The interior of the Kia Forte is minimally designed and clean looking with high-quality materials that seem much more high-end than what you would expect from something in this price range. Even the most basic model comes with a large 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and wireless smartphone compatibility. It also comes with standard safety features including automated emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.
2022 Honda Insight
If you are looking for the feel and reliability of a Civic but want better gas mileage and a more eco-friendly powertrain. One of the crowning achievements of the Insight is the fact that it manages to combine fuel economy with fun acceleration. The Insight features a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine that is combined with an electric motor to produce 151 horsepower. This powertrain has a zero-to-60 time of just 7.7 seconds, which is more than quick enough for a fun driving experience. This hybridized engine has an EPA-estimated fuel efficiency of 55 mpg city and 49 mpg highway.
The interior of the Insight strikes a balance between comfort and practicality. It is slightly more premium-feeling than the Civic with a fully customizable digital gauge cluster and roomy rear seating. This combination of comfort, economy, and dependability makes it one of the best compact cars available on the market. It also features a user-friendly touchscreen infotainment system and a suite of standard safety features like forward-collision warning and lane-keeping assist.
2022 Nissan Versa
The 2022 Nissan Versa can ride that middle line between sporty driveability and practical reliability. As a subcompact vehicle, it is perfect for city driving and has a fun, responsive feel that you might expect from something much more powerful. The FWD Versa features a four-cylinder engine putting out 122 horsepower through a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. While the Versa may not have the power of some other vehicles in its class, its smooth ride and tight steering make it a blast to drive no matter what you are using it for.
The interior of the 2022 Versa is mature and well-designed with quality materials and soft-touch surfaces for a much more high-end feel than you might expect. There are plenty of available options including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats. The Versa comes with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with enough knobs and switches for easy control while driving. It also comes with standard automated emergency braking and a suite of optional features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
2023 Acura Integra
Acura has long been known as the luxury division of Honda but the 2023 Integra shows that the brand has finally come into its own. As an entry-level luxury vehicle, the Integra is a great choice for people who want comfort and style without the massive price tag. Under the hood is a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder putting out 200 horsepower with a front-wheel-drive configuration. The Integra has a zero-to-60 time of just 7 seconds for a quick, responsive feel that makes it incredibly fun to drive.
Although the price tag of the Integra is relatively low, the interior has a high-end feel and lots of quality materials. It comes with a standard 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with complete smartphone connectivity and a 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster. The 2023 Integra also comes with a host of safety techs including automated emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
2022 Chevrolet Spark
For those looking for something different, the 2022 Chevy Spark is a subcompact car with a hatchback body and an incredibly low starting price. If you need a vehicle for city driving or short commutes, the Spark is a fantastic option. It comes with a small 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine putting out just 98 horsepower but its small size makes it zippy enough to be a fun ride around town. Even at highway speeds, the Spark has a relaxed feel that is very easy to get used to.
Even though the interior is incredibly small and the price tag is low, the cabin of the 2022 Spark doesn’t feel cheap or low-quality. The driving position is closer to a crossover with an upright feel and the seats are fairly comfortable, even with so little legroom. With a standard 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the tech is comparable to other cars in its category and includes a host of available safety features like a lane-departure warning.
If you need a small car for errands or commuting, it is important to know what is available and what your best options are. By understanding the compact vehicle market and knowing what the best options are, you can choose a vehicle that will offer you many years of quality service. In many cases, you can even find something that will be a joy to drive no matter how short your trips are.