Man Driving Car

10 Best Compact Cars You Can Buy Used In 2022

Hanna Kielar6-minute read
UPDATED: December 12, 2022


Today's best compact cars are head and shoulders above their counterparts from just a decade ago. Lighter frames and more efficient engines have made it possible to merge performance, efficiency and style into something that's easy to park. All these improvements have driven impressive sales. The top 10 compact car brands combined sold 887,325 units just between January and November 2021, many of which will hit the used market in the coming years.

We've ranked the best compact and small cars after studying what drivers most desire from a small vehicle. We searched through EPA data and reputable trade publications, such as Car and Driver, to create a list of compact cars worth considering when you're looking for a new ride.

Each vehicle was weighed for its fuel efficiency, engine power and cabin comfort, with extra value for X factors such as high-tech infotainment or driver-assist features. We also included the driving range of the vehicles listed, so you know how far each one can go on a full tank of gas.

Table Of Contents

    10. Nissan Sentra

    Nissan Sentra

    Sourced by: jetcityimage

    Best for: Safety pick

    MPG: 29 city | 39 highway

    Driving range: 483.6 miles

    The Nissan Sentra isn't a flashy entry in the compact vehicle market, but the exterior is stylish, even if the four-cylinder engine lacks a turbo option. Nissan doesn't offer a manual transmission option in the Sentras, although you can get the SR model with a tighter suspension that certainly feels sportier.

    Where the Sentra really shines is safety – all the higher packages come with standard safety features including an adaptive cruise control, collision warning and 360-degree camera system. The Sentra’s standard 7-inch touch screen is a pleasant bonus.

    9. Kia Forte

    Kia Forte

    Sourced by: vector_master

    Best for: Luxury feel

    MPG: 31 city | 41 highway

    Driving range: 574 miles

    The Kia Forte adds a luxury feel into a compact vehicle. The 147-hp four-cylinder engine runs well enough, but the smooth ride you get with the Forte can be credited to the loosely tuned chassis. If you need more of a bump from your powertrain, you have the option to upgrade to the 201-hp GT, which is near the top of the Forte lineup. The Forte delivers this luxury feeling inside a sporty-looking exterior that's reminiscent of the lively Kia Stinger. Overall, this car delivers some plush amenities but less performance.

    8. Volkswagen Jetta

    Volkswagen Jetta

    Sourced by: vector_master

    Best for: Passenger space

    MPG: 29 city | 43 highway

    Driving range: 528 miles

    The Volkswagen Jetta appears as compact as any other small car but is known for prioritizing an abundance of interior space. More recent model years offer premium features like a 10-color ambient lighting system that changes colors to match the normal, sport or eco drive modes. Automatic braking and lane assist come standard on all trim levels. The Jetta manages 158 hp with a reasonably peppy turbo-four. Pair that with a pretty tight manual transmission (optional) for a little more play on twisty roads.

    7. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

    Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

    Sourced by: VanderWolf Images

    Best for: Good Fuel Economy

    MPG: 59 city | 60 highway

    Driving range: 714 miles

    You can go pretty far in the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid — 714 miles on a single 11.9-gallon tank, to be exact. Hyundai's latest lineup of plug-in hybrids have some of the best fuel economy and range on the market. The Ioniq looks and drives just like a conventional compact vehicle, but its extremely efficient energy management and relatively light weight offer a steady 59 mpg combined fuel economy. Ioniq’s interior is made of sustainable materials and offers several desirable standard features.

    6. Toyota Corolla

    Toyota Corolla

    Sourced by: vector_master

    Best for: Resale value

    MPG: 30 city | 38 highway

    Driving range: 501.6 miles

    Toyotas have a great reputation for price, performance and, above all, reliability. These affordable, safe and well-equipped compact cars come in several trim levels, including economy, roomy and sporty. The two four-cylinder engine options sip low-octane gas at reasonable rates, and there's a decent hybrid that gets outstanding economy without sacrificing performance.

    Corollas excel in holding their resale value, given their reputation as a reliable compact car. Assuming an average 12,000 miles a year of use, you can expect your new(-ish) Corolla to depreciate around 38% in the first 5 years. That's about as good as it gets for all cars, and it's especially good among the best small cars you can find.

    5. Honda Insight

    Honda Insight

    Sourced by: vector_master

    Best for: Best compact sedan

    MPG: 51 city | 45 highway

    Driving range: 477 miles

    The Honda Insight has a neat, compact design that gives you a second set of doors and a more accessible rear seat than what's found in similarly sized coupes. The gasoline-sipping hybrid powertrain delivers fantastic fuel economy, even if its acceleration leaves something to be desired. You can barely hear the Insight at low speeds, although it does get noisy when you floor it thanks to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

    Expect a very smooth, comfortable ride that comes with CVT-equipped cars. With the precisely tuned suspension and accurate steering, the handling is good, especially at medium speeds.

    4. Hyundai Elantra

    Hyundai Elantra

    Sourced by: artographer34

    Best for: Stylish exterior

    MPG: 31 city | 41 highway

    Driving range: 574 miles

    The Hyundai Elantra's crisp lines and sleek sheet metal make it look like a DeLorean that just got home from college. The interior is practical, with a lot less flash than the exterior suggests. The base model has a fairly efficient 147-hp four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission that moves fluidly into the proper gear.

    An upgrade to the 201-hp turbo version can give you a neat bump when the light turns green. The cabin is decked out in fairly standard fabrics and soft plastic, but everything feels like the designing engineers really wanted you to enjoy the ride.

    3. Volkswagen Golf

    Volkswagen Golf

    Sourced by: Mike Mareen

    Best for: Cargo capacity

    MPG: 29 city | 39 highway

    Driving range: 514.8 miles

    The Volkswagen Golf is full of surprises when you pop it open and start looking around. VW doesn't sell the base models in the United States, but the available GTI and Golf R hatchback body styles both have really roomy passenger and cargo space that isn't evident from the outside. You get 17.4 cubic feet of space in back with the seats up, along with a roomy 53.7 cubic feet when you drop the rear seats. That's enough to haul garden equipment home, which the sporty GTI can do easily with its lively 228-hp four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission option.

    2. Mazda3


    Sourced by: VanderWolf Images

    Best for: Balanced features

    MPG: 25 city | 33 highway

    Driving range: 419.1 miles

    The team that designed the current generation of Mazda3s really knew what they were doing. The model delivers a near-premium package of features and amenities at a very competitive MSRP of $21,815.

    Offered in both sedan and hatchback models, the Mazda3 comes with a spry turbo engine, all-wheel drive and a luxurious-feeling interior that competes with comparably sized Audis and BMWs. Even the front-wheel drive base model is extremely well balanced and fun to drive.

    1. Honda Civic

    Honda Civic

    Sourced by: Domagoj

    Best for: All-around value

    MPG: 30 city | 38 highway

    Driving range: 471.2 miles

    A fixture for decades in the compact car market, the Honda Civic has built a sterling reputation for quality and reliability. With hundreds of thousands of Civics on the road and in used car lots, this is a great car to target as a daily driver, second family car, or first car for a young person. Civic owners tend to keep coming back to this Japanese compact. It won the IHS Markit for having the highest model loyalty in the car segment in calendar year 2019, with the greatest percentage of car owners who returned to market and purchased or leased another Civic.

    The Bottom Line: Don't Underestimate Compact Cars

    Compact cars have shed their reputation for being boring and slow. Today's best compact cars combine very efficient engines with sporty performance and luxury interiors reminiscent of premium sedans. If you're looking for something efficient with a little pep and perhaps some leather trim, browse the best hatchback cars ranked for the used market.

    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.