Most Reliable New and Used Small Cars
When it comes to finding the right vehicle, bigger is not always better. If you want an affordable and efficient ride, a small car might be exactly what you’re looking for. Since today’s small cars even come equipped with modern technology, safety features, and some have all-wheel drive, they are a practical choice over a larger sedan or SUV. But not all small cars are created equal. That’s why we’re breaking down the best small cars to help you choose the best one for your needs.
What is a Small Car?The term “small car” is often used loosely. It can refer to subcompact cars, compact cars, or both. We have combined the two vehicle segments because both are worth considering given their unique advantages. If you already know which size is right for you or for more information on each vehicle category, be sure to check out our guides for the best compact cars and best subcompact cars .
Best Small CarsTo determine our list of the best small cars, we first looked at iSeeCars research of the longest-lasting cars that analyzed the mileage of 15.8 million pre-owned vehicles. While the study examined cars most likely to reach 200,000 miles, the threshold for our Best Small Cars list is 150,000 miles to provide more options for high-quality small cars. Along with finding the most reliable small cars, we also examined fuel economy and safety ratings.
|Best Small Cars - iSeeCars|
|Rank||Small Car||% Reach 150k Miles||Combined MPG||NHTSA Safety Rating (Out of 5)||Average New Car Price||Average 3-Year Old Used Car Price|
|Small Car Average||2.4%||32.5|
Next is the compact Mazda MAZDA3, which has impressive driving dynamics and is nice to look at thanks to its sporty styling. It also comes with a full suite of active safety features like automatic high-beam headlights, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and forward-collision warning.
Next is the versatile compact Honda Civic, available as a sedan, hatchback or coupe. It’s a mainstay on all lists of the most popular cars and for good reason. Along with being fun to drive with its agile handling and sharp steering, it boasts a modern design with ample legroom and a spacious rear seat. It also has a perfect safety score, above-average fuel economy and has many powertrains to choose from.
Ranked fourth is the Subaru Impreza. The compact Impreza offers standard all-wheel drive and is considered among the best AWD cars on the market. Along with being reliable, it also earns high safety scores and has standard safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. It also offers a spacious cabin and an intuitive infotainment system.
Ranked fifth is the Honda Fit, which is the highest-ranking subcompact car on the list due to its long-term reliability, high safety score, and class-leading fuel economy. Despite its subcompact distinction, the Fit has enough head and legroom to suit tall drivers, and the car’s “magic seat,” allows for more cargo space by folding up the rear seat cushions and folding down the front passenger seat.
No compact car list would be complete without the Toyota Corolla, which ranks sixth. The Corolla comes with a suite of driver assistance features like pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist. It’s among the most affordable cars in the compact category, making it a practical choice for those in the market for a reliable small car.
Ranked seventh is the subcompact Toyota Yaris, which is available as a sedan and hatchback. Along with demonstrating the Toyota reputation for reliability, it comes with a suite of standard features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and safety features such as forward-collision warning. With an average new car price tag of $18,611 it is both practical and fun to drive.
The Kia Rio5 hatchback and the Kia Rio sedan earn the eighth and ninth spots. Both subcompacts offer ample passenger space and an attractive cabin. While the Rio’s only advanced standard safety feature is a rearview camera, emergency braking and forward-collision warning can be found on higher trim levels.
Two compact Volkswagens make the list: the tenth-ranked Jetta and the thirteenth-ranked Golf. The classy Jetta boasts more cargo room than average for its class and has an intuitive infotainment system, while the iconic and spacious Golf is known for its upscale interior and sporty handling.
The compact Hyundai Elantra ranks eleventh and is available as both a sedan and hatchback. It has the lowest starting price of all the compacts on the list, and provides ample cargo space and a pleasant driving experience.
Closing out the list is the twelfth-ranked Nissan Sentra. Redesigned in 2020 with a stronger engine, this affordable compact car comes with standard safety features including forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, forward and reverse automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, and lane departure warning.
Best Luxury Small CarsSmall luxury cars are popular introductions to luxury vehicle ownership. If you want a small car with more sophistication, these are the best luxury small cars.
|Best Luxury Small Cars|
|Rank||Compact Car||% Over 150,000 Miles||Combined MPG||NHTSA Crash Test Rating (Out of 5)||Average New Car Price||3-Yr-Old Average Used Car Price|
|1||Lexus IS 350||3.3%||21.8||5||$48,518||$32,385|
|3||Lexus IS 300||3.0%||22.5||5||$43,355||$27,061|
|4||BMW 3 Series||2.6%||27.5||5||$49,887||$22,921|
|Small Car Average||2.4%|
Ranked second is the compact Volvo S60, which includes active safety features including forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, and oncoming collision mitigation. It also includes a plug-in-hybrid variant.
Ranked fourth is the sporty compact BMW 3 Series that boasts a comfortable cabin and includes the iDrive infotainment system with a digital assistant. It also has comfortable seating and a spacious trunk.
The compact Audi A4 ranks fifth and comes with many tech and safety features in its stylish interior. The Audi A4 comes with standard technology features including a 10.1-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Rounding out the list is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which has among the nicest interiors in the compact luxury car class. The C-Class has a number of common standard safety features including forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring. It also has not-so-common features like driver attention monitoring, crosswind assist and Mercedes Pre-Safe, which closes the windows and tightens the seat belts when it detects an imminent collision.
AWD Small CarsOf all the best small cars noted above, these are the vehicles that are available with all-wheel drive. These small but mighty all-wheel drive cars are equipped to handle all-weather conditions. The disadvantages are that they are more expensive and not as fuel efficient as their front-wheel drive (FWD) counterparts. Our guide breaks down the differences of FWD vs. AWD to help you decide which drive type is best for you.
|Small Cars With AWD|
|Small Car||Average New Car Price||Average 3-Year-Old Used Car Price|
|Lexus IS 350||$48,518||$32,385|
|Lexus IS 300||$43,355||$27,061|
|BMW 3 Series||$49,887||$22,921|
|Volkswagen Golf SportWagen||$24,665||$15,862|
|Volkswagen Golf Alltrack||$27,798||$19,422|
Cheapest Small Cars: Used Small Cars by PriceThe best used small cars can be found across a variety of budgets. And because these cars are proven to last, used versions are still a smart long term purchase. Here are the best used small cars that can be found at multiple price points.
Best Used Small Cars Under $10,000
If you are looking for a used car under $10,000, here are the best compact cars to choose from:
|Used Small Cars Under $10,000|
|Small Car||Average Used Car Price|
|2011 Honda Civic||$7,992|
|2013 Mazda MAZDA3||$8,248|
|2011 Volkswagen Golf||$8,843|
|2015 Hyundai Accent||$8,952|
|2015 Kia Rio5||$9,162|
|2015 Toyota Yaris||$9,431|
|2013 Toyota Corolla||$9,540|
|2013 Volkswagen Jetta||$9,558|
|2013 Honda Fit||$9,584|
|2015 Nissan Sentra||$9,593|
|2011 BMW 3 Series||$9,776|
|2015 Hyundai Elantra||$9,900|
Here are the best small used cars under $15,000:
|Used Small Cars Under $15,000|
|Compact Car||Average Used Car Price|
|2017 Kia Rio||$10,537|
|2017 Hyundai Accent||$10,576|
|2017 Toyota Yaris||$10,921|
|2017 Kia Rio5||$11,550|
|2017 Nissan Sentra||$12,288|
|2015 Subaru Impreza||$12,698|
|2015 Honda Civic||$12,777|
|2017 Hyundai Elantra||$12,832|
|2013 BMW 3 Series||$13,081|
|2015 Volkswagen Golf||$13,383|
|2017 Volkswagen Jetta||$13,694|
|2011 Lexus IS 350||$14,066|
|2017 Toyota Corolla||$14,296|
|2015 Toyota Prius||$14,415|
|2017 Honda Fit||$14,452|
|2015 Volvo S60||$14,516|
|2017 Mazda Mazda3||$14,695|
Here are the best small used cars under $20,000:
|Used Small Cars Under $20,000|
|Small Car||Average Used Car Price|
|2017 Volkswagen Golf||$15,417|
|2017 Honda Civic||$16,440|
|2015 BMW 3 Series||$16,426|
|2013 Lexus IS 350||$16,728|
|2017 Subaru Impreza||$17,397|
|2017 Chevrolet Volt||$17,875|
Bottom LineIf you want a small car, there are many reliable options to choose from. These cars are practical because they have a lower starting price than their larger counterparts along with having better gas mileage. If you think a compact or subcompact car is right for you, consider the models above to help you find the safest and most reliable car to suit your needs and budget.
If you’re interested in a new or used small car, be sure to check out iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine. It uses advanced algorithms to help shoppers find the best car deals and provides key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report. Filter by price, fuel economy, drive type, and other parameters to find your next vehicle.