10 Most Popular Small Cars

10 Most Popular Small Cars

By Christian Wardlaw, September 09, 2016
  • 2016 Honda Civic photo

    Modern compact cars are offered with most of the same amenities found on larger and more expensive models, but in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package. This buyer’s guide to the 10 most popular* small cars in America provides a quick overview of each of the best-selling models, including pricing; quality, reliability, and appeal ratings; fuel economy; safety ratings; and cargo volume.

    *Popularity based on calendar-year sales through July 2016

  • 2016 Mazda 3 S Touring 5-Door photo

    10) Mazda 3 (59,484 sales)

    Buy a Mazda 3 and you must decide between a sedan and hatchback body style; a 155-horsepower and a 184-horsepower engine; and manual and automatic gearbox. You also have a choice of three trim levels:  Sport, Touring, or Grand Touring. All are stylish, and all have a rather cramped back seat.

    • Base Price—$18,680
    • Initial Quality—3 PCRs
    • Predicted Reliability—4 PCRs
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—3 PCRs
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—25/41
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—“Top Safety Pick”
    • Cargo Volume Sedan—12.4 cu. ft.
    • Cargo Volume Hatchback—20.2 cu. ft. – 47.1 cu. ft.
  • 2016 Kia Forte Sedan photo

    9) Kia Forte (63,045 sales)

    Kia offers the Forte in coupe, hatchback, and sedan body styles. Sedans come in LX and EX trim, while coupes are offered in EX and SX trim. Hatchbacks are offered in all three trim levels. Three different engines are available, too, including a 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder for the SX.

    • Base Price—$16,840
    • Initial Quality—5 PCRs
    • Predicted Reliability—4 PCRs
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—4 PCRs
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—21/39
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars*
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—Not a “Top Safety Pick”*
    • Cargo Volume Coupe—13.3 cu. ft.
    • Cargo Volume Sedan—14.9 cu. ft.
    • Cargo Volume Hatchback—23.2 cu. ft. – 56.4 cu. ft.

    *Applies only to Forte Sedan; testing incomplete or not performed on coupe and hatchback models

  • 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI photo

    8) Volkswagen Jetta (69,729 sales)

    Providing the comfort and trunk space of a midsize sedan while having the size and price of a small car, the Volkswagen Jetta spells value. It comes only as a 4-door sedan and with a range of turbocharged engines or as a gas-electric hybrid. Trim levels include S, SE, Sport, SEL, and SEL Premium, as well as sporty GLI and Hybrid variants.

    • Base Price—$18,715*
    • Initial Quality—Not rated
    • Predicted Reliability—Not rated
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—Not rated
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—23/48
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—“Top Safety Pick”
    • Cargo Volume—15.7 cu. ft.

    *Pricing is for the 2017 model

  • 2016 Kia Soul photo

    7) Kia Soul (83,685 sales)

    A 5-door hatchback that is just an all-wheel-drive system away from qualifying as a crossover SUV, the Kia Soul is offered with a choice between two 4-cylinder engines and an all-electric drivetrain. Gasoline variants come in Base, Plus, and Exclaim trim levels, while the Soul EV is offered in EV-e, standard, and Plus trims.

    • Base Price—$16,750
    • Initial Quality—5 PCRs
    • Predicted Reliability—5 PCRs
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—5 PCRs
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—24/31
    • Electric Vehicle Driving Range—93 miles
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars*
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—“Top Safety Pick”*
    • Cargo Volume—18.8 cu. ft. – 49.5 cu. ft.

    *Does not apply to Soul EV, which has not been tested

  • 2016 Chevrolet Cruze photo

    6) Chevrolet Cruze (100,454 sales)

    During the first part of 2016, Chevrolet carried over the old Cruze and named it the Cruze Limited. The redesigned Cruze was a late debut for 2016. The new Cruze is offered in L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels, each equipped with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with either a manual or automatic transmission.

    • Base Price—$17,495*
    • Initial Quality—4 PCRs
    • Predicted Reliability—3 PCRs
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—2 PCRs
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—22/42
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—Not tested*
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—Testing incomplete*
    • Cargo Volume—14.8 cu. ft.*

    *Applies only to redesigned Cruze, not Cruze Limited

  • 2016 Hyundai Elantra Sedan photo

    5) Hyundai Elantra (116,935 sales)

    For 2017, Hyundai redesigns the Elantra sedan, while the Elantra GT hatchback is carried over from the previous year. Sedans are offered in SE, Eco, and Limited trim levels, while the 5-door Elantra GT comes in a single trim level. Engine choices for the sedan include a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, while the GT comes with a more powerful 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Manual or automatic transmissions are available. A turbocharged Elantra Sport sedan arrives in the fall of 2016.

    • Base Price—$17,985*
    • Initial Quality—5 PCRs
    • Predicted Reliability—3 PCRs
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—2 PCRs
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—26/40*
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—4 Stars*
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—“Top Safety Pick”*
    • Cargo Volume Sedan—14.4 cu. ft.*
    • Cargo Volume Hatchback—23 cu. ft. – 51 cu. ft.*

    *Applies to 2017 model

  • 2016 Ford Focus RS photo

    4) Ford Focus (117,117 sales)

    Ford offers a Focus for just about everybody. The 4-door sedan comes in S, SE, and Titanium trim levels, while the 5-door hatchback is available in SE and Titanium trims, along with sporty SE, performance RS, and pure electric variants. Power output ranges from 160 to 350, and the RS features all-wheel drive.

    • Base Price—$18,100
    • Initial Quality—Not rated
    • Predicted Reliability—Not rated
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—Not rated
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—19/42
    • Electric Vehicle Driving Range—76 miles
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars*
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—Not a “Top Safety Pick”**
    • Cargo Volume Sedan—13.2 cu. ft.
    • Cargo Volume Hatchback—19.9 cu. ft. – 43.9 cu. ft.
    • Cargo Volume Electric—14.2 cu. ft. – 33.2 cu. ft.

    *Does not apply to Electric or RS model

    **Applies only to sedan; Testing not performed for other Focus models

  • 2016 Nissan Sentra photo

    3) Nissan Sentra (141,550 sales)

    Available only as a sedan, the Nissan Sentra is sold in S, SV, SR, and SL trim levels. A version of the Sentra S, designated the FE+ S, is designed to maximize fuel economy. A 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine is installed in all of them, paired with a continuously variable transmission except in the Sentra S, which comes with a standard manual gearbox.

    • Base Price—$17,615
    • Initial Quality—Not rated
    • Predicted Reliability—Not rated
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—Not rated
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—27/40
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—4 Stars
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—“Top Safety Pick”
    • Cargo Volume—15.1 cu. ft.
  • 2016 Toyota Corolla L photo

    2) Toyota Corolla (213,910 sales)

    Toyota keeps it simple when it comes to the Corolla. Available only as a 4-door sedan (a 5-door hatchback joins the lineup in 2017), trim levels include L, LE, LE Eco, and S. All have a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, and the LE Eco receives special engine tuning that produces better fuel economy.

    • Base Price—$18,165
    • Initial Quality—5 PCRs
    • Predicted Reliability—5 PCRs
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—4 PCRs
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—27/42
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—Not a “Top Safety Pick”
    • Cargo Volume—13 cu. ft.
  • 2016 Honda Civic Coupe photo

    1) Honda Civic (222,792 sales)

    Redesigned for 2016, the Honda Civic is offered as a coupe or sedan, with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder or a turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and with a manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission. Trim levels, depending on the body style, include LX, LX-P, EX, EX-T, EX-L, and Touring.

    • Base Price—$19,475
    • Initial Quality—Not rated
    • Predicted Reliability—Not rated
    • Overall Vehicle Appeal—Not rated
    • Fuel Economy (city/highway mpg)—26/42
    • NHTSA Crash Test Rating—5 Stars
    • IIHS Crash Test Rating—“Top Safety Pick”
    • Cargo Volume Sedan—15.1 cu. ft.
    • Cargo Volume Coupe—12.1 cu. ft.

    Additional Research:

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