One of the most competitive segments of the marketplace, these are the cars the vast majority of gainfully employed folks can afford. As a result, the top rated compact cars are bristling with strengths. Among them are exceptional fuel economy, an extensive palette of standard features, excellent reliability, and attractive styling. So if this list of the top rated compact cars seems familiar, you're already in the know. But whatever you’re looking for, the cars represented here are the best of the best in their class. These are the top rated compact cars.
In its short time on the market, Audi’s revised A3 has established a new benchmark in the compact luxury category. Now offered as a Sedan, a Convertible, and a five-door hatchback, the 2016 Audi A3 delivers a wonderfully conceived interior treatment, a broad range of turbocharged engines, an EV, and of course the availability of all-wheel drive. The top rated compact car’s gasoline-fired engines displace 1.8-liters and 2.0 liters, producing 170 horsepower and 220 horsepower respectively. A more powerful version of the 2.0-liter makes 292 horsepower for the high performance S3 sedan. All are paired with a six-speed automated manual transmission. Pricing starts at $30,900.
BMW 2 Series
Easily numbered among the top rated compact cars, the 2 Series BMW’s ride quality is wonderfully resilient and its build quality is outstanding. Further, when you’re at the controls, you can expect outstanding driving pleasure. Power for the 2016 BMW 2 Series models comes from either a 2.0-liter four with 240 horsepower and 255 ft-lbs of torque, or a 3.0-liter inline six with 320 horsepower and 330 ft-lbs of torque. An eight speed automatic transmission is standard; a six-speed manual is a no cost option with rear drive. Pricing starts at $32,850.
Surprised to see a Buick numbered among the top rated compact cars? You shouldn’t be. The 2016 Buick Verano offers excellent handling with just enough power to keep things interesting. It also delivers a broad array of cutting edge safety and tech features, including WiFi hotspot capability. Further, the Buick is graced with handsome exterior styling and a nice interior treatment. Power for the front-drive Verano comes from either a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 250-horsepower turbocharged version of the same engine with the six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Pricing starts at $21,065.
Chevrolet’s Cruze has been among the top rated compact cars since its introduction. A world-class automobile in every respect, the compact Chevrolet is both attractive to the eye and enjoyable to drive. For 2016, an all-new Cruze bows with even more room, a new four-cylinder engine, and a new interior treatment. Siri Eyes Free and WiFi hotspot capability enjoy a return engagement. Engine power output ranges from 138 horsepower to 151. There’s even a diesel option. A six-speed manual transmission is offered with most trims, a six-speed automatic is optional. Pricing has yet to be announced, but should still be under $20,000.
The 2016 Ford Focus earns its spot among the top rated compact cars with features like self-parking, blind spot monitoring, and voice activated secondary controls—thanks to the new Sync 3 infotainment interface. Factor in handsome styling plus enjoyable driving characteristics and Focus becomes a compelling choice among compact sedans. Further, the front-drive model can claim 40 mpg with its 123-horsepower 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. The other engine choice is a 160-horsepower normally aspirated 2.0-liter four with a five-speed manual, or a six-speed automated manual transmission. Pricing starts at $17,225.
Fully redesigned for 2016, the Honda Civic has long been a perennial in the garden of top rated compact cars. With this all-new model, turbocharging comes to the Civic for the first time in the form of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 174 horsepower and 162 ft-lbs of torque. This 2016 Honda Civic is quieter and rides more smoothly. It’s also much more spacious, with rear seat legroom approaching the Accord’s. Further, the interior treatment does away with the controversial two-tier dash treatment of previous Civic models for a more conventional appearance. Pricing should start somewhere around $18,000.
While the overall design of the 2016 Hyundai Elantra has been with us since 2011, the car still looks fresh. The model attracted many an eye when it was redone back then, and the design has aged quite well. More than just a pretty face though, Hyundai’s entry among the top rated compact cars offers outstanding value, remarkable build quality, and an exceptional warranty. Power comes from either a 145-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder, or a 173-horsepower, 2.0-liter four. Transmissions are a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $17,250.
Still one of the sharpest looking cars in its class after its 2014 redesign, Kia’s Forte also offers a very reasonable price, lively acceleration, and a quality interior treatment. Given the price point, available features such as xenon headlights, keyless entry and ignition, and a ventilated driver’s seat helps the 2016 Kia Forte rank among the top compact cars. The front drive small sedan features a choice of three engines ranging in output from 145 horsepower to 201. All can be had with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $15,990.
Sharp handling, energetic acceleration, and a wide array of advanced features place the front-drive Mazda3 firmly within the category of top rated compact cars. If you truly love to drive, this is the one. Plus, available smart cruise control, a head up display, and collision mitigation, further set the Mazda apart. Four-cylinder power comes from either a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter, or a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter feeding six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Pricing starts at $17,845
When the current version of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class came to market, it was immediately heralded as one of the top rated compact cars. Key features include a touchpad interface with handwriting recognition, along with a broad array of cutting edge electronic safety features including collision mitigation, smart cruise control, and lane keeping assistance. An amazing six engine choices are offered for 2016, including a diesel and a plug-in hybrid. Output ranges from 190 horsepower (for the diesel, with 369 ft-lbs of torque) to 503 horsepower and 516 ft-lbs of torque for the AMG C63 S. Pricing starts at $38,950.
The only car in this category offering all-wheel drive as standard equipment, the 2016 Subaru Impreza’s roomy interior, comfortable ride, and athletic handling further serve to number it among the top rated compact cars. Standard equipment includes a rearview camera, cruise control and a touchscreen. For 2015, additional sound deadening material was added to reduce noise. Power comes from a horizontally opposed 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four with 148 horsepower with 145 ft-lbs of torque. While a five-speed manual transmission is standard with lower trim models a continuously variable transmission is offered as an option, and is standard for upper trims. Pricing starts at $18,295.
Here’s how to get your car ranked among the top rated compact cars—year-in and year-out. Toyota consistently delivers considerable spaciousness, strong fuel economy, impressive safety scores, and a pleasant ride in the Toyota Corolla. Oh, and it’s also routinely numbered among the most reliable cars on the road. Power for the 2016 Toyota Corolla comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The base setup makes 132 horsepower and 128 ft-lbs of torque. The “Eco” version makes 140 horsepower and 126 ft-lbs. The base trim package gets a six-speed manual transmission, or a four-speed automatic. All others get a continuously variable transmission. Pricing starts at $17,230.
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf is highly refined, comfortable, and offers strong performance. Further, the fit, finish, and materials used in the Golf’s interior would be acceptable in cars costing twice as much. And then of course there’s the brand's German engineering heritage. While Golf wasn’t the first hatchback, it certainly brought the format into the mainstream. The definitive OG among the top rated compact cars, Golf’s front-drive powertrain uses a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 199 ft-lbs of torque. Volkswagen Golf pricing starts at $18,495.
Marking the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta as one of the top rated compact cars are a roomy interior and trunk, autobahn-bred driving characteristics (Jetta feels particularly solid at speed), and the exceptional value you get for the price. Jetta feels more like a mid-size car in some respects than a compact and it can be had with a broad array of high end features. For 2015, Jetta got new styling front and rear, and improved safety scores, plus the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta offers both hybrid and conventional powertrains (diesel Jetta is on hiatus until further notice). Power ranges from 115 horsepower to 210. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual, a six-speed manual, a six-speed automated manual, and a seven-speed automated manual. Pricing starts at $17,680.