Compact Cars to Avoid

Many top sellers in the world of compact cars aren’t as impressive as we might think. Here are a few compact cars to avoid, as well as some alternatives.
Written by Alex Reale
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on Apr 12, 2022
SUV owners
are the current tastemakers in the world of
car buying
, there are plenty of us who like a more travel-sized vehicle. 
If getting reasonable parking and not carrying around too much stuff is your jam, the compact car may be the way to go. But be careful—some best-selling compact cars may not be getting consumers the bang for their buck that they want. 
Check out these alternatives to three popular compact cars.

Establishing the rubric

Consumer Reports (CR)
breaks it down for us, using their typically scientific research methods. They pick three compact cars that are good sellers (the big twist being that selling well doesn’t actually tell us anything about quality) and profile each one. Each car then gets two alternatives, a “better choice” and an “under-the-radar” that could replace the offending compact car. 
The better choice is a fellow good seller, but does better on CR’s battery of tests (which gather data on reliability, safety, and owner satisfaction, culminating in a score out of 100.) The under-the-radar choice scores well but doesn’t necessarily sell well, a strange combination that may only make sense to those happy contrarians, Kia Soul owners.

Corralling the Corolla

First we have the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, a picture of which might as well be next to “ubiquity” in the dictionary. The Corolla, which costs between $20,915 and $24,965, gets the thumbs down for doing poorly on reliability surveys by owners. CR also doesn’t like its noisy engine and small backseat, but they concede that 36 miles per gallon is pretty good.
CR’s better choice is the 2022 Subaru Impreza, which does in fact impress. The Impreza, which goes for anywhere between $18,795 and $26,395, scores a full 30 points higher on CR’s scale. This means that it scored well on road tests, and owners also report high reliability and satisfaction. CR praises the look and feel of the Impreza driving experience.
And if you’re looking to swim upstream, the under-the-radar choice for the Corolla is the 2022 Mazda 3, which costs between $20,800 and $34,400. The Mazda has a slightly more polished feel that is reflected in the higher price tag, although CR does note that the infotainment system could be easier to navigate.

A pianissimo Forte

Our next contender is the 2022 Kia Forte, which costs between $19,090 and $24,490. Unfortunately it scored an abysmal 39 on CR’s scale. Owners reported poor reliability and an uncomfortable ride. But if you can put up with a questionable suspension, you could get 34 miles to the gallon.
The better choice is the 2022 Hyundai Elantra, which is about $19,950 to $33,400. CR gives the thumbs up to the Elantra’s overall driving experience—great fuel economy, uncomplicated controls, and pleasantly predictable braking. A couple of complaints were made about engine noise and ride feel, but overall the Elantra is a winner.
For something a little off the beaten track, try the 2022 Nissan Sentra, which costs between $19,610 and $22,200. CR enjoys pretty much everything about this car, highlighting the handling, safety features, and braking performance in particular. The Sentra isn’t quite up to snuff with its parking brake and headlight technology, but those are perhaps small quibbles.

Bonus: luxury compact cars

And if you want advice about the world of
luxury compact cars
, CR has you covered there, too—avoid the expensive, less reliable 2022 Cadillac CT5, and try instead the intelligent 2022 Audi A4, or the impressively powerful 2022 Infiniti Q50. You’ll feel oh so holier than thou.
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