Small in size, but big on features.

Best Small Cars | CarMax

Small and compact cars are an increasingly popular vehicle choice not just among singles, but couples and smaller families alike. Featuring well-known favorites like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, plus some great newcomers like the Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Accent, there is something on the list for everyone.

Compact cars are a great option if you don't need a lot of space, but want the convenience of a vehicle that's easy to drive. Small cars are also a practical choice if you commute into a city but work just as well if you're looking to head out into the countryside for a weekend too.

To help you on your search, we've compiled a list of the 10 best small and compact cars, based on CarMax vehicle and sales data from November 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019.

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


Kia Forte

Best Small and Compact Cars: Kia Forte | CarMax

Returning to this year's list of the best small and compact cars is the Kia Forte. For the 2017 model year, the Forte had a mid-cycle refresh with updated exterior styling as well as a 2.0L four-cylinder as the base engine. The Forte comes in several trim levels and received a full overhaul for the 2019 model year. Key standard features of the 2019 Kia Forte include:

  • Eight-inch touchscreen display
  • Apple CarPlay® & Android Auto
  • Dual-zone automatic temperature control
  • Six-way manually adjustable driver seat
  • Remote keyless entry

The Forte packs a ton of great stuff into a small package. You could say that being a great small car is definitely its forte!


Hyundai Accent

Best Small and Compact Cars: Hyundai Accent | CarMax

New to our list is the Hyundai Accent. Now in its fifth generation, which debuted in 2017, the Accent offers a lot in a small package. Starting with the 2017 model, you should expect excellent standard features like power windows and door locks, a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, tilt steering wheel, and a six-way adjustable driver seat. For the 2018 Hyundai Accent, you can choose from three great trim levels including the SE, SEL, and Limited.

  • SE - Five-inch color touchscreen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth® connectivity, power side-view mirrors, six-way adjustable driver seat, and remote keyless entry.
  • SEL - Automatic headlights, heated side-view mirrors, seven-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and two USB ports.
  • Limited - Push-button ignition, power sunroof, heated front seats, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.


Volkswagen Jetta

Best Small and Compact Cars: Volkswagen Jetta | CarMax

Known for being a great compact sedan, the Jetta has evolved into a versatile option if you're looking to use it for work, pleasure, and those day-to-day errands.

The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is available in four trim levels and comes with a variety of engines including a 1.4L four-cylinder with 150 hp, a 1.8L with 170 hp, and a 2.0L with 210 hp. Entry-level Jetta trims include a five-inch touchscreen and rearview camera.

For 2018, the Jetta got a cool additional trim, the "Wolfsburg Edition"—which adds more aggressive styling—and the other four trim levels got minor upgrades as well. The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta was redesigned for 2018 and totally redesigned.

  • S - Automatic LED headlights and taillights, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, and a six-way manually adjustable driver seat.
  • SE - Adds power tilting/sliding panoramic sunroof, 16-inch black wheels, eight-speed automatic transmission, leatherette seating surfaces, and more.
  • R-LINE - Sporty front grille, rear bumper, black side mirrors, 17-inch R-Line wheels, and black headliner with two-tone leatherette seating surfaces.
  • SEL - 10-color customizable interior ambient lighting, auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, eight-inch touchscreen display, and more.
  • SEL PREMIUM - Heated windshield wiper de-icer, heated-and-ventilated leather six-way power-adjustable driver seat, and an upgraded eight-inch touchscreen with navigation.


Mazda Mazda3

Best Small and Compact Cars: Mazda Mazda3 | CarMax

Moving up one spot on our 2019 list is the fabulous Mazda Mazda3. Known for its sporty handling, the Mazda3 comes in both sedan and hatchback variants. The 2017 Mazda3 received updates to its third-generation (2013–2018) platform. You can choose between a 155-horsepower 2.0L four-cylinder and a 2.5L four-cylinder with 184 horsepower. The 2018 Mazda Mazda3 received additional updates including standard automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning.

The 2019 Mazda Mazda3 was a complete redesign . It's loaded with standard features such as:

  • Eight-speaker sound system
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • LED headlights
  • 8.8-inch infotainment screen with additional 7.0-inch instrument cluster screen


Nissan Versa

Best Small and Compact Cars: Nissan Versa | CarMax

Up three spots to number six on our list of the best small and compact cars is the Nissan Versa. All 2017 Nissan Versa trim levels, including the S, S Plus, SV, and SL, come with a 1.6L four-cylinder rated at 109 horsepower. Moving on to 2018, the Nissan Versa was available in three trim levels, the S, S Plus, and SV.

For 2019, Nissan continued the same three trim levels but added the cool Versa SV Special Edition with standard features like:

  • 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
  • Fog lights
  • Push-button ignition
  • A seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel.

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Chevrolet Cruze

Best Small and Compact Cars: Chevrolet Cruze | CarMax

Moving up one spot from last year is the Chevrolet Cruze. The Cruze is currently in its second generation (2014 to present) and the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze offers a choice of a 153-horsepower four-cylinder or a 1.6L turbodiesel four-cylinder. It also offers a variety of features and options and comes in both sedan and hatchback layouts. For 2018, the Cruze was offered in L, LS, LT, and Premier trims. The base L comes with great standard features like:

  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration
  • Cloth upholstery
  • Rearview camera

For the 2019 model year, the Cruze received updated exterior styling, wheel design, and more interior color options.


Ford Focus

Best Small and Compact Cars: Ford Focus | CarMax

If you are looking for an incredibly versatile compact car, look no further than the Ford Focus. Available in both sedan and hatchback variants, the 2017 and 2018 Focus models are a nice option for tackling a variety of your day-to-day needs.

The front-wheel-drive 2017 -2018 Focus ST is motivated by a 252-horsepower 2.0L EcoBoost® four-cylinder and the all-wheel-drive 2017-2018 Focus RS is even more powerful with a 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder making an impressive 350 hp! The base 2017 and 2018 Focus models are nearly identical and sport great standard features like:

  • Keyless entry
  • 4.2-inch center display screen
  • Power-operated side-view mirrors
  • Automatic headlights
  • Hill start assist
  • Power front windows


Toyota Corolla

Best Small and Compact Cars: Toyota Corolla | CarMax

The Toyota Corolla deserves its spot at number three on our list of the best small and compact cars. Now in its 12th generation (2017 to present), the Corolla still delivers with an impressive list of standard features. The 2017 Toyota Corolla featured a variety of trim levels including:

  • L - LED daytime running lights, piano-black front grille, 15-inch steel wheels, 6.1-inch touchscreen display, integrated backup camera, and more.
  • LE - Adds heated power outside mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels, and automatic climate control with dust and pollen filter.
  • XLE - Power tilt/slide moonroof, 16-inch alloy wheels with dark accents, a seven-inch high-resolution touchscreen display, and more.
  • SE - Sporty front fascia with a gloss-black and mesh-pattern grille, rear spoiler, 17-inch machined-alloy wheels with black-painted accents, and more.
  • XSE - As above but also with power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade, seven-inch high-resolution touchscreen display, heated SofTex®-trimmed front seats, and more.

The 2018 Toyota Corolla and 2019 Corolla were largely unchanged, and even the base L trim level comes with a ton of great equipment. Standard equipment on the 2018 and 2019 models include a six-inch touchscreen display, Bi-LED headlights, an integrated backup camera and more.


Honda Civic

Best Small and Compact Cars: Honda Civic | CarMax

The Honda Civic is an absolute legend in the small and compact car class, and our CarMax lots are full of amazing examples of the Civic. Like the Corolla, the Civic has been around for decades and is now in its tenth generation (2016 to present). Standard features on the 2017-and-newer base LX include:

  • Automatic headlights
  • Five-inch screen
  • Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port
  • Rearview camera

The 2018 Civic has a wide range of trim options available, including two higher-performance variants, the Si and the Type R. For 2019, the Civic received a slightly redesigned front end and a few select trim updates.


Nissan Sentra

Best Small and Compact Cars: Nissan Sentra | CarMax

Topping our list of the best small and compact cars for 2019 is the Nissan Sentra. Now in its seventh generation (2013 to present), the Nissan Sentra moves up three spots to number one this year with a bevy of fantastic features across its most recent model years.

Take a look at our great selection of Sentra models and you'll find exactly what you're looking for in a small and compact car. The 2017 Nissan Sentra delivers a great list of features across its four trim levels:

  • S - Six-speed manual transmission, 16-inch wheels, halogen headlights, dual power outside mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, and more
  • SV - Continuously variable transmission (CVT), rearview camera, push-button start, intelligent cruise control, and piano-black interior trim.
  • SR - Premium cloth sport trim, 17-inch wheels, LED low-beam headlights, fog lights, chrome exhaust, and a rear spoiler.
  • SR Turbo - Adds a 188-horsepower turbocharged engine (vs. 124 horsepower in all other models). Plus manual-shift mode to the CTV transmission, sport-tuned suspension and steering, and more.
  • SL - Adds additional equipment like navigation, dual-zone temperature control, a six-way power driver seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and leather seating.

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For 2018, standard features like a rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, and a five-inch center display with Bluetooth connectivity were added. For 2019, all trim levels above the base model received an updated seven-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

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