Convenient daily drivers.

Best Small Cars | CarMax

If the convenience of smaller size is what you need for around-town driving and narrow city parking, small and compact cars have a lot to offer. They're ideal for navigating crowded urban roads, making them a good choice if you live or commute in the city. And nowadays many come well equipped with high-tech features and amenities to make your drive that much smoother.

To help you on your search, we've compiled a list of the 10 best small and compact cars for 2020 shoppers, based on CarMax sales data from August 1, 2019, through January 31, 2020.

  1. Subaru Impreza
  2. Mazda Mazda3
  3. Kia Forte
  4. Volkswagen Jetta
  5. Chevrolet Cruze
  6. Ford Focus
  7. Toyota Corolla
  8. Hyundai Elantra
  9. Nissan Sentra
  10. Honda Civic


Subaru Impreza

Best Small and Compact Cars: Subaru Impreza | CarMax

If you want a compact car without sacrificing cabin space, the Subaru Impreza is a strong contender. Now in its fifth generation starting with the 2017 model year, the Subaru Impreza is a compact car with passenger room comparable to that of many larger cars. All-wheel drive comes standard on all 2017 to present models, which will give you a bit of extra confidence when the road is less than cooperative. You can choose between a four-door sedan or hatchback body style as well as from four different trim configurations, each coming standard with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine delivering 152 hp. Other features you can expect on 2017 to present models include:

  • 16-inch steel wheels
  • Heated front seats
  • Eight-inch touchscreen display
  • Leather upholstery
  • Power-adjustable driver seat
  • Automatic climate control


Mazda Mazda3

Best Small and Compact Cars: Mazda Mazda3 | CarMax

Distinguished by its upscale interior and smooth handling, the Mazda3 is a compact car that can comfortably seat you and four others while getting you where you need to go in style. Now in its fourth generation, 2017 and newer Mazda3s come standard with plenty of tech features and all model years boast four different trim levels. The standard powertrain includes a 2.5L four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission delivering 186 hp. Highlights of the 2019 model year include:

  • LED exterior lighting
  • 8.8-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth® connectivity
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Power-adjustable driver seat
  • Heated front seats


Kia Forte

Best Small and Compact Cars: Kia Forte | CarMax

If you're a discerning driver that likes having choices, the Kia Forte is the car to look out for. The Kia Forte is now in its third generation which started with the 2019 model year. And since 2017, the Forte has been offered in four different trim levels, each equipped with a 147-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine and a choice between a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. With 2019 models you can expect a series of tech and driver-assistance features, such as:

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-inch touchscreen
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Power-adjustable driver seat


Volkswagen Jetta

Best Small and Compact Cars: Volkswagen Jetta | CarMax

Featuring a roomy cabin and ample cargo space, the Volkswagen Jetta is a great choice if you're looking for some extra space on the inside without going larger on the outside. 2017–2019 models are available in five different trims and come equipped with a 1.4L four-cylinder turbocharged TSI® engine generating 147 hp as standard. In addition, you can expect an intuitive and user-friendly infotainment system as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity standard with all models. Meanwhile, 2017–2019 models offer these standard features:

  • LED headlights and taillights
  • 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Sunroof and leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Leather upholstery


Chevrolet Cruze

Best Small and Compact Cars: Chevrolet Cruze | CarMax

If you see yourself behind the wheel of a car that doesn't just give you a comfortable, roomy interior but also an attractive exterior design, the Chevrolet Cruze is worth a test drive. 2017–2019 models come in five different trim configurations and starting with the 2018 model year, a turbodiesel engine is available as an option, in addition to the standard 1.4L four-cylinder engine. Standard features on 2017–2019 models include:

  • Remote locking/unlocking and air conditioning
  • Front-center armrest
  • Six-speaker audio and LED running lights
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Synthetic-leather upholstery

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Ford Focus

Best Small and Compact Cars: Ford Focus | CarMax

With the Ford Focus, you can expect sporty steering paired to an abundance of tech features. 2017–2018 models come in four trims with the base S trim powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 160 hp. The Focus is also offered both as a sedan and a hatchback, giving you plenty of options to choose from, and all trims come standard with front-wheel drive. Some of the most notable standard features for 2017–2018 models include:

  • 60/40-split folding rear seats
  • Voice controls
  • Cruise control
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Eight-inch entertainment screen with SYNC® 3 as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility


Toyota Corolla

Best Small and Compact Cars: Toyota Corolla | CarMax

The Toyota Corolla, now in its 12th generation, is a great choice if you are looking for a compact car that's as spacious as it is comfortable. 2017–2019 models feature 97.5 cubic feet of overall passenger volume (without the moonroof), giving friends and family in the back plenty of space. Models from 2017 to present come available in six trim levels, with each trim boasting plenty of standard tech features to make your daily commute a more pleasant experience. With 2017–2019 models you can expect the following:

  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Keyless entry
  • Available Sport driving mode
  • Eight-way power-adjustable driver seat
  • Heated front seats
  • Available moonroof


Hyundai Elantra

Best Small and Compact Cars: Hyundai Elantra | CarMax

Featuring a modern and attractive exterior, the sixth-generation Hyundai Elantra is a compact sedan that can comfortably get you and four other passengers where you need to go in style. And the Elantra is not without options; 2017–2019 models are available in six different trim levels, with a choice of engines including a 2.0L four-cylinder, a 1.6L four-cylinder, and a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder that you'll find on the Eco trim. Keep an eye out for 2017–2019 models that include standard features like:

  • Rearview camera
  • Five-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Automatic headlights
  • Lane-keep assist and forward collision warning
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Heated front seats


Nissan Sentra

Best Small and Compact Cars: Nissan Sentra | CarMax

The Nissan Sentra is a car that despite its conveniently small size, works hard to meet all your needs. The Sentra is currently in its seventh generation which started in 2012, and 2017–2019 models aim to give you plenty of options so you can find just the right car for your daily drive. Sentras from these model years are currently available in six trims, with the base trim level powered by a 1.8L four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed manual transmission. If you're after a car packed with advanced driver-assistance features, look for the SV Special Edition package which can be found as an option on 2019 models. But regardless of what trim you go for, you can expect great standard features on 2017–2019 models like the following:

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Power-adjustable driver seat and heated front seats


Honda Civic

Best Small and Compact Cars: Honda Civic | CarMax

Parked at the top of the list of the best small and compact cars for 2020 shoppers and definitely worth your consideration is the Honda Civic, which is now in its 10th generation (2015 to present). Not only can you look forward to excellent handling and dynamic performance the moment you're behind the wheel, but you also get to enjoy a wide spectrum of powertrain options to choose from. On top of that, you have even more choices, like five trims levels and sedan, coupe, or hatchback body styles. 2015–2018 models boast a wide range of technology and 2019 to present Honda Civics come standard with the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features. Some of the most appealing standard features for the 2017–2019 models include:

  • Automatic climate control
  • Lane departure warning and lane-keep assist
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Eight-way power-adjustable driver seat
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror

Shop for the best small used cars for sale near you

Small and compact cars have a lot to offer. They are easier to maneuver in city traffic while still offering a spacious and comfortable interior for your daily commute.

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Unless otherwise noted, information relating to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.

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