The Toyota Corolla has been the best-selling vehicle in the world for a number of years. It is easy to see to why the Corolla has earned this reputation. Its low cost of entry, good fuel economy and dependability have been hallmarks of this compact sedan. On the flip side, the Corolla isn’t the most configurable vehicle on the market. It only comes as a sedan, and it’s only available with a gas engine. If you’re looking for a diesel or electric option, you’re out of luck. And while the Corolla delivers sensible attributes like a strong resale value and a history of good reliability ratings, some competing compact cars are more fun to drive. If you’re not convinced a Corolla is right for you, there are a fair number of competing vehicles to consider.
You Want the Choice of Three Body Styles: Kia Forte
A number of entries in the compact class offer two body styles, but at the moment, the Kia Forte is the only compact car that lets you choose between sedan, coupe and hatchback models. No matter which version of the Forte family you pick, you’ll end up with one the sharpest looking vehicles in the class. Helping the Forte’s case is an impressive amount of standard equipment that includes heated mirrors, power locks and mirrors, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and Bluetooth.
The Forte sedan comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 145 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. Go for the Forte EX sedan and you get a larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. Choose the 1.8-liter engine and you get the choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, while the 2.0-liter sedans come with the six-speed automatic as standard equipment. Coupe and hatchback models come with the 2.0-liter engine, and the higher Forte SX trim gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.
So what are the downsides to the Forte? It doesn’t ride as comfortably as some competitors, and some compact cars earn slightly better safety ratings. In particular, the Forte scored the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap front crash test.
The 2015 Kia Forte starts at $15,890 for the sedan, $18,950 for the coupe and $19,690 for the hatchback.
You Want a Variety of Powertrain Options: Volkswagen Golf
The current incarnation of the Volkswagen Golf is possibly the richest when it comes to powertrain choices. The standard Golf comes equipped with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. If fuel economy is your main concern, the turbodiesel Golf TDI gets 36 mpg combined and delivers quite the punch in terms of performance with 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Now if you have dreams of an electric car, the Volkswagen e-Golf boasts an electric powertrain with 115 horsepower and 199 pound-feet torque. The e-Golf’s driving range is expected to be somewhere around 80 to 100 miles. Recharging takes around 20 hours with a standard household outlet, or four hours with a 240-volt charger.
The Golf also features one of the nicest interiors in the class. It might not be as flashy as many of its contemporaries, but the Golf has a cabin that features quality construction and straightforward tech features.
So, are there any reasons to avoid buying a Volkswagen Golf? To start, the Golf is also one of the most expensive models in the class, with certain trims reaching up to $30,000. Also, the automatic transmissions available on the gas and diesel models aren’t the most refined.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf starts at $17,995 for the two-door model and $20,995 for the four-door model.
You Want a Compact Car that’s Fun to Drive: Mazda3
Mazda is known as being an automaker that instills a bit of sport into all of their vehicles, and the 2015 Mazda3 is no exception to this rule. Offered as a sedan or a hatchback, the Mazda3 can put a smile onto anyone’s face with its fantastic handling characteristics and impressive steering.
The base Mazda3 comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. An optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provides 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. The Mazda3 gets top marks in terms of fuel economy, with the 2.0-liter model returning 34 mpg combined in the sedan and 33 mpg in the hatchback.
The Mazda3 does have a few downsides consider. The big issue is with noise isolation, as a lot of road noise can enter the Mazda3’s cabin. Also, if you go crazy with the options, you could end up paying $30,000 for a fully loaded Mazda3.
The 2015 Mazda3 begins at $16,495 for the sedan and $18,495 for the hatchback.