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12 Best Small Cars in 2022

We Rank Every Compact Car

A small car is a solid option if you’re on a limited budget but still need a practical vehicle. Compact sedans typically seat five people and are fuel-efficient and easy to drive. Some small cars deliver sporty driving dynamics, while others are designed to be thrifty and reliable commuters. Compact hatchbacks add great cargo space to the mix. Since these are entry-level vehicles, they’re often cheaper to insure, maintain, and repair than more expensive options. (If you’re looking for the Best Subcompact Cars, Best Small Luxury Cars, or Best Small SUVs, we rank those separately.) How We Rank Vehicles

1. 2022 Honda Civic

2022 Honda Civic sedan
2022 Honda Civic / Credit: Honda
  • Price: $22,350
  • Fuel Economy: 29-36 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan; Hatchback
  • What We Like: Upscale design; composed cornering; roomy; strong engines; great gas mileage; great crash-test scores
  • What We Don’t: Not much

Honda didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to improve its highly regarded compact sedan; that’s why the 2022 Civic sedan isn’t dramatically different from the outgoing model. The car’s leaner, cleaner-looking exterior design should appeal to a wider range of buyers. It remains fuel-efficient and fun to drive.

It’s inside the Civic where shoppers will find the biggest improvements, including a sleek dashboard with a honeycomb motif and a larger, easier-to-use touchscreen.

The 2022 Civic sedan comes standard with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS). These include forward collision warning with pedestrian detectionautomatic emergency brakinglane keeping assist, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and lane departure warning.

Shopping for a Used Civic?

The Honda Civic has consistently been one of the best small cars sold in the U.S. First introduced in the 1970s, the Civic is Honda’s longest-running nameplate in this market.

Despite some frustrations over the outgoing Civic’s infotainment system, the previous-generation car was still one of the best options in a segment stacked with strong rivals. Some Civic fans lament the loss of the coupe version and sporty Si trim level, both of which disappeared with the 2021 model year.

2. 2022 Honda Insight

2021 Honda Insight / Photo credit: Honda
  • Price: $25,760
  • Fuel Economy: 48-52 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan
  • What We Like: 52 mpg; great safety scores; roomy; good crash-test scores
  • What We Don’t: Less fun to drive than the Civic

The Honda Insight was once a hatchback hybrid that looked more like the Toyota Prius, but Honda replaced it with this more spacious and upscale version. Essentially a hybrid version of the Civic sedan, the Insight provides a solid 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space and plenty of front-row passenger space, though it is tight on rear-seat headroom due to its sleek profile. Though it’s not the most agile small car, it more than makes up for it with terrific fuel economy.

The Insight also comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Touring trim adds leather seating and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Both trims come standard with the Honda Sensing suite of high-tech ADAS features.

Shopping for a Used Insight?

2022 marks the final year of the third-generation Insight, which Honda will sunset starting later this year. This third generation of the hybrid was introduced for the 2019 model year. The first generation of the Insight was sold from 2000 to 2006, and the second generation was sold from 2010 to 2014.

3. 2022 Hyundai Elantra

2022 Hyundai Elantra
2022 Hyundai Elantra / Credit: Hyundai
  • Price: $20,200
  • Fuel Economy: 23-54 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan
  • What We Like: Large interior; great gas mileage
  • What We Don’t: Not very fuel-efficient in lower trims; styling isn’t for everyone

The Hyundai Elantra has evolved from a frugal economy car a decade ago into one of the top entrants among small sedans. It’s a tremendous value, combining a low starting price with a long list of standard features. It also has poised handling and a lineup of engines that offer solid acceleration, especially the 201-horsepower unit in the N Line and 276-horsepower engine in the Elantra N. The cabin’s materials can feel low-grade at times, but it is outfitted with an easy-to-use touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto.

Shopping for a Used Elantra?

The seventh generation of the Elantra was introduced for 2021 and carries over to 2022 largely unchanged. The previous sixth-generation car was sold from 2016 to 2020.

4. 2022 Toyota Corolla

2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid / Credit: Toyota
  • Price: $20,175
  • Fuel Economy: 31-52 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan; Hatchback
  • What We Like: Hybrid model gets 52 mpg; strong reliability record; good crash-test scores
  • What We Don’t: Smaller than average; weak base engine

The Toyota Corolla is one of the best-selling compact sedans, and with good reason. It earns terrific crash-test scores, has a long list of standard ADAS features, and has a great reputation for reliability. It also features an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and Android auto.

The Corolla offers two engines. Neither is particularly powerful, but the larger 2.0-liter engine has a bit more muscle. You can also select a hybrid powertrain that delivers excellent fuel economy.

While other compact sedans have grown through the years, the Corolla has largely remained the same size. This size differential is evident, especially in the Corolla’s smaller-than-average trunk.

Shopping for a Used Corolla?

The twelfth generation of the Toyota Corolla was introduced for the 2020 model year. A hatchback version was introduced in 2019. Android Auto was added to the infotainment system in 2021. It carries over to 2022 largely unchanged.

5. 2022 Mazda3

2022 Mazda3 Hatchback
2022 Mazda3 Hatchback / Credit: Mazda
  • Price: $21,150
  • Fuel Economy: 26-31 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan; Hatchback
  • What We Like: Upscale design; great handling; available 250-hp turbo engine; good crash-test scores
  • What We Don’t: Not as spacious as rivals

The Mazda3 punches well above its weight in terms of cabin quality. The fit-and-finish and clean, elegant layout give some luxury cars a run for their money. The infotainment system is clearly inspired by BMW’s iDrive and even includes a rotary dial in the center console. This setup has issues, and things as simple as using the radio can be a bit confusing or distracting. 

There are multiple engines offered. The range-topping turbocharged 4-cylinder puts out up to 250 horsepower when using premium fuel. This powertrain complements the fantastic handling abilities, which strike a perfect blend of refinement and agility.

Shopping for a Used Mazda3?

The current generation of the Mazda3 was introduced for the 2019 model year. In 2020, it gained a number of standard safety features. In 2021, its engine lineup was expanded to the current offerings. The previous generation Mazda3 was sold from 2014 to 2018.

6. 2022 Volkswagen Jetta

2022 Volkswagen Jetta / Photo credit: Volkswagen
  • Price: $20,365
  • Fuel Economy: 33-35 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan
  • What We Like: Good price; roomy cabin; simple design; fast GLI trim; good crash-test scores
  • What We Don’t: Not as upscale as top rivals

In some ways, Volkswagen Jetta prioritizes quantity over quality. The higher-ranked compact sedans on this list offer better interior materials, and the Jetta certainly doesn’t have the driving dynamics of the Mazda3. But the Jetta provides plenty of room for passengers and their gear.

It also has easy-to-use controls, including its intuitive touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can opt for wireless versions of these connectivity features, as well as wireless device charging and a fully digital instrument panel.

The standard 158-horsepower 4-cylinder engine does a decent job getting the Jetta around town, but the 228-horsepower engine in the GLI feels more fun. The Jetta also has strong crash-test scores and a decent amount of standard ADAS features, though some of the optional features (such as adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams) are standard on rivals.

Shopping for a Used Jetta?

Volkswagen has been selling the Jetta since 1979. The current, seventh-generation model was introduced for the 2019 model year. In 2021, the infotainment system was updated, including the addition of available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

7. 2022 Hyundai Ioniq

2022 Hyundai Ioniq / Photo credit: Hyundai
  • Price: $23,600
  • Fuel Economy: 52-59 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Hatchback
  • What We Like: 59 mpg; available in hybrid and plug-in hybrid; large cargo area
  • What We Don’t: Not as nice as rivals

The Hyundai Ioniq is a slightly more affordable hybrid alternative to the Toyota Prius. It is available in hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. There was also a full-electric version, which has been discontinued for 2022.

The most efficient version is the Ioniq Blue, which returns 58 mpg city and 60 mpg highway. The plug-in can go up to 29 miles on electric power and returns 52 mpg when that range is depleted. The Ioniq provides a generous 26.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. 

The Ioniq’s interior is not as nice as the Prius’, but the layout is far more conventional. It also comes well equipped with standard features such as an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a long list of standard ADAS features.

Shopping for a Used Ioniq?

The Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and electric variants were introduced for the 2017 model year. The plug-in hybrid was introduced in 2018. In 2020, the Ioniq received a styling update, inside and out. The electric version was discontinued for the 2022 model year.

8. 2022 Toyota Prius

2021 Toyota Prius
2022 Toyota Prius / Credit: Toyota
  • Price: $24,625
  • Fuel Economy: 49-56 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Hatchback
  • What We Like: 52 mpg; large cargo area
  • What We Don’t: Small back seat; weak engine

The Toyota Prius is the standard-bearer for the hybrid car segment. It combines bold styling with a practical cabin and impressive fuel economy. The Prius is available with an eAWD system that adds an electric motor to power the rear wheels. The downside is that its engine makes just 121 horsepower, and drivers can certainly feel it.

Most trims come with an intuitive 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The range-topping Limited swaps that out for an 11.6-inch touchscreen in a portrait layout. This larger screen is confusing and loses Android Auto capability. No matter which trim you select, the Prius has a tight rear seat thanks to its sloping roofline. For 2022, Toyota adds the Nightshade trim to the lineup with plenty of dark accents.

Shopping for a Used Prius?

The Toyota Prius has been on the market since 2001. The current fourth-generation model was introduced for the 2016 model year. The massive touchscreen became available in 2018 and the interior and exterior were updated in 2019. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay became standard features in 2020. Any model from 2019-2021 will look similar to the 2022 shown above.

9. 2022 Nissan Sentra

2022 Nissan Sentra / Photo credit: Nissan
  • Price: $19,610
  • Fuel Economy: 32-33 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan
  • What We Like: Solid all-around; upscale interior in higher trims; low base price; good crash tests
  • What We Don’t: Lackluster performance

The Nissan Sentra looks like a slightly downsized version of its big brother, the Altima midsize sedan. The result is a sharp-looking sedan with a decent amount of cabin space (though it is tight on trunk space) and an upscale interior design. The modern dash is capped off by an easy-to-use touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also comes standard with a generous list of high-tech ADAS features.

The Sentra comes with a 149-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. It provides decent acceleration at low speeds but has a hard time at highway speeds and makes a lot of noise along the way. The CVT feels sluggish unless you hit the Sport button, which is nearly hidden on the shifter. The Sentra has a smooth enough ride over bumps in the road, though it is not very responsive in corners.

Shopping for a Used Sentra?

The current generation of the Sentra was introduced for the 2020 model year, so any 2020 or 2021 model will look similar to the 2022 shown above. In 2021, a Wi-Fi hot spot was made available and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto became standard. The previous generation was sold from 2012 to 2019.

10. 2022 Kia Forte

2022 Kia Forte / Photo credit: Kia
  • Price: $19,090
  • Fuel Economy: 26-35 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan
  • What We Like: Low price; large trunk; available 200-hp turbo
  • What We Don’t: 4-star NHTSA crash-test score

The Kia Forte combines solid value with handsome styling that’s been updated for 2022. The base engine is just fine for getting around town, but it is paired to an unrefined continuously variable transmission. The optional 200-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder is much livelier.

The Forte features solid build quality in the cabin and it comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto. Be aware: By opting for the larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, you lose the wireless connectivity for these features. 

The Forte provides 15.3 cubic feet of trunk space, which is great for the class. It also has two rows of adult-friendly seating. It comes standard with a handful of high-tech ADAS features, but many that are standard on rivals (automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert) are only optional on the Forte.

Shopping for a Used Forte?

Kia has sold the Forte since 2010. The second-generation Forte was sold from 2012 to 2018. The current generation was introduced for the 2019 model year and has been refreshed for the 2022 model year.

11. 2022 Subaru Impreza

2022 Subaru Impreza / Photo credit: Subaru
  • Price: $18,795
  • Fuel Economy: 25-32 mpg*
  • Body Styles: Sedan; Wagon
  • What We Like: Good crash-test scores; standard all-wheel drive (AWD); low price
  • What We Don’t: Weak engine; poor fuel economy

The Subaru Impreza is the only car on this list that provides standard AWD. It’s also one of the few small cars to still offer sedan and wagon versions as well as a standard manual transmission. The optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is smoother and returns better fuel economy, but getting a manual transmission with AWD is a rare combination. Unfortunately, they receive power from an anemic 152-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. It also lacks the fuel efficiency you’d expect from an underpowered engine.

The Impreza features a function-over-form cabin with lots of hard plastics that are designed for an adventurous lifestyle. The cabin also provides two rows of spacious seating. The wagon provides up to 55.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded and 20.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats. The sedan version offers up to 12.3 cubic feet, which isn’t great for the class.

Shopping for a Used Impreza?

The current generation of the Impreza has been on the market since the 2017 model year. In 2020, Subaru made the EyeSight suite of driver assistance features standard equipment. The previous generation of the Impreza was sold from 2012 to 2016.

12. 2022 Mini Cooper

2022 Mini Cooper Hardtop 2 Door
2022 Mini Cooper Hardtop 2 Door / Credit: Mini
  • Price: $23,400
  • Fuel Economy: 26-32 mpg*
  • Body Styles: 2-dr Hatchback; 4-dr Hatchback; Convertible
  • What We Like: Fun to drive; unique retro style
  • What We Don’t: Expensive; so-so mpg; small back seats

The Mini Cooper does things a bit differently from the rest of the small-car set. That puts it at a disadvantage in this practicality-minded ranking. It’s tight on rear-seat space, not particularly fuel-efficient for its size, and pricer than most other cars on this list (especially in higher trims). However, what it lacks in functionality, it makes up for in personality and performance.

The exterior styling is iconic, and the cabin features unique touches such as the aeronautically inspired gauges. It also has an 8.8-inch touchscreen nestled in a large, circular bezel. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are part of a $1,000 navigation package, making it the only car on this list in which you have to pay extra for these connectivity features.

The standard engine is a 134-horsepower turbocharged 3-cylinder mill that makes for decent acceleration in this small car. The range-topping 228-horsepower 4-cylinder engine in the JCW makes it a terrific performance machine, but the mid-tier 189-horsepower engine in the Mini Cooper S is the right balance of performance and comfort.

Shopping for a Used Mini Cooper?

To the untrained eye, one generation of the modern Mini Cooper could be mistaken for another, but there are actually three generations of the nimble runabout. The current generation was introduced for the 2014 model year. In 2019, Apple CarPlay and wireless device charging became available. A number of driver assistance features were made standard in 2020. The car was refreshed for the current 2022 model year.

How We Ranked These Small Cars

At Carfax, data and value drive our vehicle rankings. In order to choose the best compact cars, we looked at passenger space, cargo space, performance, and crash-test scores from IIHS and NHTSA, as well as each vehicle’s overall quality and value. Our rankings are based on the latest 2022 models, but since many of these vehicles have remained unchanged from earlier years, our insights apply to used models as well.

*We cite the EPA’s combined mpg range for each vehicle, which takes into account the mpg for both city and highway driving.

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