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Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Small Sedans

In today’s Thursday Throwdown, we are looking at small, affordable sedans. Generally speaking, these are vehicles with a price point under $25,000, four doors and an eye toward efficient day-to-day driving. Most are entry-level cars and are likely to be the first new car a person purchases. They are also popular used car options for their low cost of entry and (usually) lower maintenance costs.

Our top picks are chosen for their excellence in the field overall and on specific metrics. The cars in our full list below our picks are representative of the better and more cost-effective choices in this category. These 2014 models are beginning to appear as used car and dealer demonstration vehicles now, so be sure to check the CARFAX Vehicle History Report for one you might purchase, and search our Used Car Listings to find one for yourself.

Side-by-Side Comparison Chart of Top Picks

2014 Small Sedans New $ MPG Safety (of 10)
Buick Verano $23,700 21/32 9
Honda Civic $18,190 30/39 9
Kia Forte $15,900 25/36 6
Mazda Mazda3 $16,945 30/41 10
Nissan Versa $11,990 27/36 6
Subaru Impreza $17,895 25/34 10

2014 Top Small Sedans Picks

Lowest Entry Price: Nissan Versa
Best Fuel Economy: Mazda Mazda3, Honda Civic
Quietest Ride: Buick Verano, Kia Forte
Most Refined Overall: Buick Verano, Mazda Mazda3
Most Refined Interior: Buick Verano, Honda Civic
Most Fun To Drive: Mazda Mazda3, Subaru Impreza

2014 Buick Verano

The Buick Verano is an upscale car with a low cost of entry. A luxurious interior and posh ride are the hallmarks of this Buick, though this upscale car still sports a price tag well under $25,000. That makes it a standout on our list.

2014 Buick Verano
Base price new: $23,700
Fuel economy (city/highway): 21/32 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/N/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Chevrolet Cruze

The Chevrolet Cruze is a compact car that’s most well-known for its good performance. A diesel engine option also sets the Cruze apart, though turbo lag with that engine is considerable. For efficiency, however, it’s hard to beat. A higher cost of entry means the Cruze is not as popular as some, but that higher price tag means a quality interior and good engine options.

2014 Chevrolet Cruze
Base price new: $17,520
Fuel economy (city/highway): 22/35 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

[Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Muscle Cars]

2014 Chevrolet Sonic

Although much more popular in its hatchback form, the sedan version of the Chevrolet Sonic offers a smooth ride and fun handling. The base level four-cylinder is a decent enough power plant, but the turbocharged option as an upgrade is well worth the investment for those who prefer more excitement and higher fuel economy.

2014 Chevrolet Sonic
Base price new: $14,170
Fuel economy (city/highway): 26/35 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Dodge Dart

One of the more comfortable entries in our small car throwdown, the Dodge Dart features an upscale interior and sporty handling, but the base engine is sluggish and seat adjustments are minimal until higher trims are chosen. Still, the Dart has great option packages and achieves excellent safety scores for this class.

2014 Dodge Dart
Base price new: $16,495
Fuel economy (city/highway): 25/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 5-Stars

[Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Luxury Compact Crossovers]

2014 Ford Fiesta

2014 Ford Fiesta 1The Ford Fiesta has nimble handling and a fun appeal to go with its classy looks. One of the best all-around offerings in the subcompact segment, the Fiesta has a lot of appeal for bargain buyers looking for the best bang for the buck.

2014 Ford Fiesta
Base price new: $14,100
Fuel economy (city/highway): 28/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/4/2/4

2014 Ford Focus

The Ford Focus is a great car to drive with handling superior to most in this segment. The Focus also has a well-done interior that’s comfortable for most drivers and passengers. The base engine is adequate, but turbocharged (and efficient) options are more popular.

2014 Ford Focus
Base price new: $16,810
Fuel economy (city/highway): 26/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/A/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

[Thursday Throwdown: Best Infotainment Systems]

2014 Honda Civic

The Honda Civic offers a good powertrain, great standard features and one of the highest resale values in its class. The usual Honda low-end acceleration and in-town driving excitement are there as well, adding to the Civic’s appeal. High fuel economy and a lush interior for the segment make the Civic a popular choice.

2014 Honda Civic
Base price new: $18,190
Fuel economy (city/highway): 30/39 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Hyundai Accent

The Hyundai Accent is comfortable and has plenty of cargo space. Its interior is better than average, but lacks many of the technology options some might consider a must in today’s market. In terms of performance, the Accent has a better base-level engine than many competitors in this segment.

2014 Hyundai Accent
Base price new: $14,645
Fuel economy (city/highway): 27/38 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/P/A/G/G, NHTSA – 4-Stars

[Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Sports Cars and Convertibles]

2014 Kia Forte

2014 Kia Forte - mural 3 AOA1200pxThe redesigned Kia Forte is a great-looking car with a variety of option packages. Two engine options are available, with the more expensive one being a well-tuned 2.0-liter engine that most will find sporty.

2014 Kia Forte
Base price new: $15,900
Fuel economy (city/highway): 25/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/3/5/4

2014 Kia Rio

The Kia Rio is more docile than the Forte, but makes up for it with a host of features and the best warranty in its class. The Rio is one of the few compact cars on the market with a freeway-ready base engine and relatively quiet interior.

2014 Kia Rio
Base price new: $13,900
Fuel economy (city/highway): 27/37 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/M/A/G/G, NHTSA – 4/4/5/4

[Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Affordable Full-Size Sedans]

2014 Mazda Mazda3

The Mazda3 is more akin to a pricier sports sedan than a car that starts at less than $20,000. With an upscale interior, great handling characteristics and a strong engine, the Mazda3 is a top choice for drivers looking for excitement and bang for the buck.

2014 Mazda Mazda3
Base price new: $16,945
Fuel economy (city/highway): 30/41 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – TSP+, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

The Lancer is Mitsubishi’s go-to small car with a unique look and wide breadth of trim options. At its base level, the Lancer is below par in most respects with a dated interior and substandard ride. It is one of the few on our small sedans list to achieve a Top Safety Pick rating in crash testing.

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer
Base price new: $17,195
Fuel economy (city/highway): 26/34 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 4-Stars

[Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Compact Crossovers]

2014 Nissan Sentra

2013 Nissan Sentra SL - park left side 800pxAOAA roomy back seat, a comfortable driving position and a good on-road disposition set the Nissan Sentra apart from many others in the segment. A low cost of entry and an optional smart continuously variable transmission (CVT) are a boon (boosting fuel economy to 30/39 mpg). The Sentra’s base four-cylinder is not a freeway goer, however, and crash test results for the car are just above average.

2014 Nissan Sentra
Base price new: $15,990
Fuel economy (city/highway): 27/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/4/5/4

2014 Nissan Versa

A best-seller in the segment, the Nissan Versa sports the lowest cost of entry, a versatile cabin and a relatively quiet ride. Its engine may struggle at higher freeway speeds, however, and the standard features and interior materials in the base Versa reflect its cheap price tag. Yet the Versa is popular thanks to that low price and its good value proposition.

2014 Nissan Versa
Base price new: $11,990
Fuel economy (city/highway): 27/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/3/4/4

[CARFAX Finds: V8 Muscle Cars]

2014 Subaru Impreza

The only vehicle in our Throwdown to include all-wheel drive as standard, the Subaru Impreza is a roomy little car with a good back seat and better than average interior fittings. Although Subaru is known for being spartan, the Impreza is still well-appointed. The Impreza also achieves very high safety ratings for the class.

2014 Subaru Impreza
Base price new: $17,895
Fuel economy (city/highway): 25/34 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Toyota Corolla

2014 Toyota Corolla S - PBHS2 AOA1200pxThe new Toyota Corolla offers simplicity and reliability, with more trim options and packages than ever before. Its dead-wheel handling and noisy CVT, however, detract from its otherwise solid look and feel. The CVT boosts fuel economy to 29/38 mpg, though, making the Corolla worth considering if fuel economy trumps driveability for you.

2014 Toyota Corolla
Base price new: $16,800
Fuel economy (city/highway): 27/36 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

[CARFAX Finds: Midsize Pickup Trucks]

2014 Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta  offers contemporary exterior styling and four engine choices, making it one of the most versatile buys in the small car segment. It is also one of the only vehicles in our Throwdown with a diesel option.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta
Base price new: $16,895
Fuel economy (city/highway): 23/29 mpg
Crash test rating: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

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