Popular Compact Cars to Avoid and What to Buy Instead

Instead of settling for what's trendy, consider these reliable small cars that perform well in CR's tests

2020 Chevrolet Spark

Small sedans and hatchbacks might have been eclipsed by their SUV counterparts in terms of overall popularity, but as you'll see below, they’re still an attractive option for consumers looking for inexpensive transportation.

And you don't have to give up quality when buying an economy car. Although the main priority of many buyers in this segment is price, there are other aspects to consider that will make for a better ownership experience.

Here, we focus on models that are popular in their category (though they may 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.

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. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings on the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and appliances.

Sign up for CR’s Cars email newsletter to be notified when we post our latest road tests. If you’re a used-car shopper, you can click through to the model pages for information on these vehicles from older model years.

Popular Small Car to Avoid