A List of 10 Small Cars You Can Live With

Small Car On Street Against Building
Alexander Nolting / EyeEm / Getty Images

Small cars are less expensive, more fuel-efficient and easier to drive than bigger cars. But don't you have to give up a lot when you buy a small car? Not necessarily! Here are ten cars that do the job just as well as larger cars and SUVs, but with key small-car advantages.

The Audi A3, a Small and Prestigious Car

Audi A3 front view
Audi A3. Photo © Aaron Gold

Audi is a favorite luxury brand because their cars embody the idea of German engineering, involving an obsessive attention to detail that pervades everything, from the way the car drives to the way the air conditioning dials feel under your fingers. Unlike some other small luxury cars, the A3 doesn't sacrifice practicality for panache; its upright, boxy shape yields a roomy back seat with easy ingress and egress. The list of standard features is long ​and includes genuine leather and a high-tech turbo engine. The unadorned interior lets it down a bit, but other than that the new A3 delivers the complete Audi experience in a sensibly-sized (and sensibly-priced) package.

The Chevrolet Spark, a Small and Safe Car

Chevrolet Spark
Chevrolet Spark. Photo © General Motors

One reason buyers prefer larger cars is that they believe they are safer. There could be something to that — smaller cars often take the brunt of the damage in crashes with larger cars — but that doesn't mean small cars are inherently unsafe. A great example is the Chevrolet Spark. It's one of the smallest cars on the market, and yet it boasts ten airbags, more than many luxury cars, and a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And in the new (and very difficult) small-overlap crash tests, the Spark performed better than many SUVs. And the Spark also has OnStar, which response to crashes by calling a human operator for help and finding the car's location. If you need more space, the Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze also feature ten airbags and OnStar.

The Ford Focus, a Small and Posh Car

Ford Focus hatchback front view
Ford Focus. Photo © Aaron Gold

If you thought small cars have to be humble and austere, the Ford Focus will change your mind. Traditionally, high-end features have only been offered on large luxury cars, but that trend is changing, the Focus is leading the charge. Options include heated leather seats, voice-activated navigation, and even a self-parking system. Simply press a button, put the car in reverse, take your hands off the wheel, and the Focus will steer itself into a parallel-parking job. And for those who love to drive, the Focus is offered with an excellent sport-handling package and a manual transmission. The Focus gets good fuel economy, and the pricing is almost too good to be true!

The Honda Fit, Small and Insanely Practical

Honda Fit front view
Honda Fit. Photo © Honda

Outside the Honda Fit looks like any other small car, but inside, it's got an incredible amount of space. There is a lot of headroom for the driver, plenty of legroom for the backseaters, and a cargo bay that measures up to 21.9 cubic feet — nearly as much as many small wagons and SUVs. All that, plus back seats that flip and fold every way you can imagine to accommodate all sorts of bulky cargo that simply won't fit into larger cars. No question, this is one of the most versatile small cars ever produced.

Read a complete Honda Fit review to learn more.

The Hyundai Elantra, a Small and Substantial Car

Hyundai Elantra
Hyundai Elantra. Photo © Aaron Gold

There's a lingering perception among some car buyers that small cars must be cheap and tinny. For those who still believe that, check out the Hyundai Elantra. The Elantra's cabin is fitted with materials befitting a luxury car, even in the entry-level GLS model. It's got as much passenger and trunk space as mid-size sedans from just a few years ago, and because of its small size and aerodynamic shape, it gets very good fuel economy. And for those who want something a little sportier, it's available as a coupe and a hatchback as well as a sedan. Regardless, the sedan is still priced more similarly to a smaller car even with fully loaded models. 

The Kia Soul, a Cool Small Car

Kia Soul rear view
Kia Soul. Photo © Aaron Gold

One oft-overlooked advantage of a small car is that they offer more opportunities for expressive design, and a great example of that is the boxy Kia Soul. Stylish and daring, the Soul is also an exceptionally practical car, with a tall, upright back seat that provides lots of passenger space and room for awkwardly-shaped cargo, especially with the back seats folded down. It's a bit like a micro-SUV, and that "micro" part comes in handy when trying to squeeze into a small parking spot, or trying to squeeze as many miles as possible from every dollar you spend on gas (two things at which big cars are not very good). ​Read the full​ Kia Soul review to learn more about this cute car.

The Mazda5, a Small and Family-friendly Car

Mazda5 front view
Mazda5. Photo © Mazda

It's no secret that minivans make great family cars; the "one box" design offers more interior space than any other type of vehicle. Problem is, minivans are big and they're also expensive, unwieldy and drive like the crosstown bus. Enter the Mazda5, a six-seat minivan that drives like a car and parks like a car, because for all its interior space the Mazda5 is about the same size as a Honda Civic. Small as it is, the Mazda5 has a lot of the most important features of big minivans, including sliding doors and a three-row seating arrangement. Cargo space is limited with all six seats in place, but the seating flexibility comes in handy for carpools and outings with kids and grandparents. Learn more about what this car can offer in the full Mazda5 review.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, a Small and Ridiculously Fast Car

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG front view
Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Mercedes-Benz AMG line represents some of the biggest and baddest German performance cars. The CLA45 is AMG's attempt to bring that legendary performance down to a smaller platform, and nothing has been lost in the translation. The CLA45 AMG is insanely quick and attacks the curves with relish, its small size and light weight making it even more graceful than bigger AMGs. Its twin-clutch transmission has a fantastic launch function, and the interior and exterior design is everything you'd expect. 

The Subaru Impreza, a Small and Bad Weather Friendly Car

Subaru Impreza Hatchback front-right view
2012 Subaru Impreza. Photo © Subaru

Lots of people buy SUVs for their foul-weather performance, but did you know you can get a small car with the same all-wheel-drive setup that gives SUVs their grip in the snow? The Impreza may look small, but with all of its mechanical bits tucked up under the body, the Impreza can handle monsoons and blizzards as well most SUVs. The Impreza is available as a mature-looking sedan as well as a cargo-friendly hatchback, and not only is its price thousands less than an SUV, it's actually about the same price as most compact cars.

The Volkswagen Jetta, a Small and Spacious Car

Volkswagen Jetta SE front view
Volkswagen Jetta. Photo © Aaron Gold

You might consider the Volkswagen Jetta as a "tween" car because it's sized right between typical compacts and mid-size cars. The Jetta offers a surprising amount of interior space, especially when it comes to back seat leg room and head room, along with a generous trunk, but its tidy outside dimensions' make it easier to squeeze into small parking spaces than a mid-size car. It also uses less fuel, thanks to its turbocharged four-cylinder engine that provides plenty of scoots to go with the Jetta's high fun-to-drive factor. Not to mention, if you want to go as far as possible on each gallon of fuel, you can get it with a hybrid or a diesel powertrain as well.