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What's behind our small car Ratings?

CR’s Ratings include road test results and safety information. Reliability and owner satisfaction Ratings are based on surveys of millions of subscribers.
See how we test
We look for:
  • Overall Score
    The Highs, Lows, and Overall Rating refer to the model and trim line that we tested. A model earns the "CR Recommended" label by Consumer Reports when it has performed well in our tests, our subscriber -survey data indicate that it should be at least average in reliability, and has performed at least adequately in any government and/or insurance-industry crash tests or government rollover test, if tested. There are several reasons why a model would have no designation: It wasn't tested recently; it didn't test well; it did poorly in a crash test or tip-up in the rollover test; it has a below-average reliability record; it'S too new to have reliability data; or we have insufficeint reliability data.
  • Predicted Reliability
    Predicted reliability is our forecast of how well a model is likely to hold up derived from our latest Annual Car Reliability Survey. We averaged a model's Used Car Verdict for the newest three years, provided the model did not change significantly during that time. Refer to Reliability History for more detailed explanation.
  • Owner Satisfaction
    Indicates percentage of owners surveyed who would definitely purchase the same vehicle again.
  • Accident Avoidance
    A composite score of CR's test results for braking performance, emergency handling, acceleration, driving position, visibility, and seat comfort. Braking and emergency handling carry the most weight.
  • Overall (Mpg)
    Overall MPG (overall mileage) is CR's measurement based on a realistic mix of highway, country-road, and city driving.

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Recommended small cars

See the models that perform well in our tests, and meet our standards for reliability and safety.
  • Buying Guide
  • Reliable Used
Small cars can be affordable, fun, and thrifty, though they can vary widely in practicality, price, and performance. The best overall small sedans excel in all those attributes, and top our Ratings for the category.

Small car buying guide

For tasks such as commuting, running errands, and zipping around town, a small car is often the most practical choice. In recent years, automakers have lavished more attention on packaging to maximize interior space. Most compact cars today have the rear seat room you might expect in a midsized car of only a few years ago, while smaller subcompacts still have reasonable space for two in back.

Many small cars have tall roofs, providing generous head room and an airy feel to the cabin. In particular, hatchbacks can be especially practical. Fold down the rear seatbacks and lift the hatch, and you can have similar interior functionality to a small SUV. The Honda Fit is a good example of clever use of space. Its fuel tank is far forward, freeing up space for rear seating and luggage. The lesson here is that practical considerations can benefit greatly by smart design.

When it comes to sporty cars, small is beautiful. Small cars are inherently light and nimble”two qualities that count a lot for spirited driving. Small sporty cars are commonly front-wheel drive, though there are rear-wheel drive choices, such as the BMW 2 Series, Mazda Miata, and Subaru BRZ, that are particularly rewarding. For those faced with winter traction challenges, there are a few models with all-wheel drive, such as the Subaru Impreza.

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