Popular Compact Cars to Avoid and What to Buy Instead

Consider these reliable small cars that perform well in CR's tests

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Small sedans and hatchbacks might have been eclipsed by SUVs in terms of overall popularity, but as you’ll see below, they’re still an attractive option for consumers looking for either inexpensive transportation or a more affordable luxury option.

And you don’t have to give up quality when buying an compact car. Although the main priority for many buyers is price, there are other aspects to consider that will make for a better ownership experience, including fuel economy; interior flexibility; a small, parking-friendly footprint; and just the desire to not own a big car.

Here, we focus on models that are popular in their category (though they might not be the top sellers). Then we present two alternatives.

  • A better choice: another vehicle that sells well but has a higher Overall Score.
  • An under-the-radar alternative: a better-scoring model that doesn’t sell as well, in case you aren’t concerned with following the crowd.
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The better choices and under-the-radar alternatives are vehicles recommended by Consumer Reports, meaning they’ve scored well in our road tests, have good reliability ratings, have key advanced safety equipment, and performed well in crash tests.

Some of these models include our new Green Choice designation, which highlights vehicles with the cleanest emissions. You can read more about Green Choice here.

If you’re a CR member, this article and the list below are already available to you. But if you haven’t signed up, click below and become a member to access this list and all our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Used-car shoppers can click through to the model pages for information on these vehicles from older model years.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.