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  5. Best Compact Cars for 2021

Exterior view of the 2022 Honda Civic Tourint

We all love large vehicles, as evidenced by the ever-rising sales numbers of SUVs. But, sometimes our environments, budgets or personal preferences are a better fit for smaller vehicles.

Thankfully there are plenty of compact and subcompact cars that offer loads of fun and utility. Even though these cars may be small in size, their performance, technology and safety features are enough to keep up with the best of the best.

Let's take a closer look at some of my favorite small cars that you can buy right now.


Hyundai Veloster

Exterior view of the Hyundai Veloster

Hyundai's stylish Veloster has long been one of my favorite compact cars. I find the three-door design and unique styling expressions to be very charming. Plus, it's hard to beat Hyundai's standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and 5-year/unlimited miles 24-hour roadside assistance.

There are five trims available for the 2021 model year, offering up to 201 horsepower from a 1.6-liter Turbo engine paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The third door makes it easy to bring a couple of friends along, or you can fold down the seats and expand the ample cargo space that's accessible from the rear hatch.

For some automakers, "compact" is synonymous with "bare," but that's definitely not the case with the Veloster. There's plenty of tech to satisfy our geekiness, like a heads-up display, wireless phone charging, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. And the Veloster's SmartSense safety suite is more alert and more predictive than we'll ever be, which keeps us safer on the roads.

Shop Hyundai Veloster Inventory


Honda Civic

Exterior view of the Honda Civic

This list wouldn't be complete without the Honda Civic, arguably everyone's definition and prime example of a compact car. It's remained popular for generations, and continues to earn its place at the top of the ranks thanks to stylish design elements, a peppy driving experience, and a nod to its motorsports roots with the awesome-looking Civic Type-R model.

Available in sedan or hatchback form, the Civic packs a lot of comfort and amenities into a neat little package. It's also part of an ever-shortening list of cars that are still available with a 6-speed manual transmission.

Tech lovers will appreciate the Android and iPhone smartphone integrations, as well as HondaLink, an exclusive app that lets you remotely start the car, check oil life, fuel range and much more. The Honda Sensing safety suite comes standard on all Civic models, and includes my favorite feature: adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.

Shop Honda Civic Inventory


Nissan Sentra

Exterior view of the Nissan Sentra

The Nissan Sentra is another one of my favorites because its recent ground-up redesign has added a ton of extra value to an already value-packed car.

In addition to adorning Nissan's sleek new design language, the Sentra feels premium all around with Zero Gravity front and rear seats, heated seats and steering wheel, flexible storage options, and luxurious interior materials.

Its safety and driver assist features are some of the main highlights, though, as the standard Safety Shield 360 offers advanced technologies like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning, to name a few. The Sentra's 360-degree exterior camera is an essential tool for navigating tight spaces, and Intelligent Cruise Control takes away the stresses of any long drive or commute.

And the Sentra has something extra special for techies: Alexa and Google Assistant integration. You can ask these smart assistants from the comfort of your couch to lock or unlock doors, flash the lights, remotely start the engine and much more.

Shop Nissan Sentra Inventory


Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Exterior view of the Toyota Corolla Hatchback

The Corolla Hatchback is fun and functional, and can be equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission (that features rev-matching!) so you can be fully in control of the 168-horsepower Dynamic Force Engine.

For the 2021 model year, the Corolla Hatchback adds new colors for a total of 13 solid and two-tone choices, more safety features, and a no-cost Enhanced Cargo Space option. This free upgrade lowers the cargo floor to increase overall cargo capacity to 23 cu. ft. For comparison, the trunk of a Toyota Camry is only 15.1 cu. ft.

All Corolla Hatchback models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes advanced features like a pre-collision system, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and much more.

And if you want to stand out from the crowd even more, you can opt for the aftermarket stylings of the Special Edition or the blackout look of the Nightshade Edition.

Shop Toyota Corolla Inventory


MINI Hardtop 2 Door

Exterior view of hte MINI Hardtop 2 Door

MINI's Hardtop 2 Door didn't just make it on my list because of its on-theme name -- it's quite charming both inside and out, and handles like the most nimble of go-karts.

MINI takes pride in its details, and has added more premium elements including new wheels, redesigned grilles, and stylish Union Jack tail lights for an extra dose of personality. For the 2022 model year, the MINI Hardtop features an all-new Multitone Roof, which gives off a color-shifting effect with its mix of Soul Blue, Pearly Aqua, and Jet Black. This unique paint technology is exclusive to MINI!

Interior technology and safety features have also been updated, with the newest model year offering Active Driving Assistant as standard equipment. You'll gain active features like pedestrian and front collision warning, and much more.

And of course, the MINI Hardtop's driving experience is uniquely exciting, offering up to 231 horsepower in a car that's less than 3,000 pounds. You can also opt for a fully-electric powertrain as well.

Shop MINI Hardtop Inventory


Andrew Chen | May 20, 2021


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.