With gas prices staying low, now is a good time to invest in a small car and reap the savings. If you’re not sure where to start, these top options — and helpful tips — can help you choose your next ride.
How did we choose these vehicles?
We selected models based on their safety and reliability ratings, spaciousness, technology features, manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) and fuel economy. We only looked at the base models of each vehicle, so keep in mind that selecting a different trim may affect the fuel efficiency and overall price of the car.
7 best small cars of 2020
These small cars rank well for price, fuel efficiency and other standard features.
2021 Toyota Corolla
City/highway (L/100 km): 8.0/6.0
The Toyota Corolla is known for its comfort, style and reliability. The Corolla comes equipped with a host of standard safety features and an infotainment system. Although, you’ll have to decide if all these features are worth the relatively high starting price of $19,150.
The Honda Fit is one of the highest-ranked cars of 2020 thanks to its excellent fuel economy, flexible cargo room, sleek design and advanced technology available. However, this may not be the best option for the price, especially if you’re not looking for the fancier bells and whistles that come with its infotainment system.
With a competitive price and class-standard fuel efficiency, the Hyundai Accent may be a good choice if you’re looking for good handling and a roomy interior. It can be a bargain, but some reviews state that its slow acceleration and low-power USB ports may not be to everyone’s standard.
The Hyundai Elantra is one of the pricier small-car options, but it makes up for it in fuel efficiency — earning a 6.8 combined L/100 km. Like many small cars, it has a good reliability rating and offers plenty of tech features. But for the price, it demonstrates a relatively lackluster performance.
The Kia Forte is best known for its roomy interior and large trunk, but its easy-to-use tech features, good reliability ratings and multiple safety features don’t hurt either. However, some reviews state that the ride quality isn’t the best. If that’s important to you, you may want to consider one of its upgraded trims that come with enhanced performance.
The Honda Civic’s known for its handling, classy interior and good-quality craftsmanship, making it a practical car for just about anyone. However, compared to other small cars, the Honda Civic’s price point may put it out of reach to some more budget conscious customers.
As the most expensive car on this list, a Mazda3 is ideal for drivers looking for elegant design, quick acceleration and good handling. While it’s made with premium materials to ensure an upscale look, it isn’t the roomiest car around. However, it scores high safety ratings and crash test scores.
Buying a small car comes with several benefits, especially when you take your budget into consideration:
Less money spent at the pump. When gas prices are low, it may be tempting to get a gas-guzzling truck or SUV. But you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year by opting for a smaller car, even when gas prices are affordable. And when the price of gas eventually increases, you’ll thank yourself for going small and avoiding that huge bill every time you visit the pump.
Easier to get financing. If you don’t have a great credit score, you may only get approved for a small car loan amount. So if you’re relying on financing to purchase a car, your options might be limited to small cars as opposed to more expensive SUVs or trucks.
Fewer greenhouse gas emissions. You can check your car’s emissions on Natural Resources Canada search tool, but the concept is simple: The smaller your engine, the less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases your car will produce. This makes driving a small car a good choice for your wallet and your environmental conscience.
Easier to drive and park. If you live in a crowded city or take frequent road trips, a small car — especially a compact car — makes it that much easier to navigate and park in cramped spaces.
5 tips for buying a small car
Once you’ve decided that buying a small car is right for you, use these tips to help you get a good deal:
Consider your needs. When you’re comparing small cars, consider cargo space and safety features alongside any trim details and technology you want.
Check manufacturer incentives. If you decided to buy or lease a new car, check the manufacturer’s website to see if it has any special deals or incentives available. This may include 0% APR financing, no money down or cash back to help offset the price of the car.
Schedule multiple test-drives. Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three models, schedule test-drives for each one. This is especially important if you’re buying used, since it gives you a chance to check for any damages or potential issues.
Prepare to negotiate. When you’re ready to buy, remember to negotiate the price of the car — not the monthly payment. If you plan to finance through the dealership, bring along your most competitive preapproval offer to see if the salesperson is willing to offer a lower rate. You can find more tips for negotiating with a car dealer with our guide.
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If you’re thinking about buying a small car, you have plenty of options to choose from that come with spacious interiors, good fuel economy and high safety ratings. And when you’re ready to hit the dealership, our guide to car loans can help you find competitive financing that fits your needs.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. As compact and other small cars have increased in popularity, so too have their safety features. There are more airbags, better crumple points and modern collision-avoidance systems that can help you stay out of danger.
Yes, but you’ll likely have to shop used. New cars typically have a price point above $15,000 — with a few exceptions like the Hyundai Accent and Chevrolet Spark.
Most car manufacturers use the Natural Resources Canada’s Fuel Consumption Guide classification system when determining a car’s class. Compact and subcompact cars with cargo volume between 2830 and 3115 litres are typically considered to be small cars.
Kellye Guinan is a writer and editor with Finder and has years of experience in academic writing and research. Between her passion for books and her love of language, she works on creating stories and volunteering her time on worthy causes. She lives in the woods and likes to find new bug friends in between reading just a little too much nonfiction.
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