Although SUVs and trucks get most of the attention nowadays, the best-selling compact cars are still surprisingly popular. Based on recent industry-wide figures, the No. 1 car in the compact segment outsells vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler, Ford Explorer, GMC Sierra, Subaru Outback, Toyota Tacoma, and Honda Pilot. It’s proof that a lot people still find many good reasons to purchase smaller cars.
We especially like the value proposition in the segment. Generally speaking, when a brand sells both compacts cars and compact SUVs, the car will cost thousands less while achieving noticeably better fuel economy. You can also get a compact hatchback if you need extra space, and some compact cars can match SUVs with available all-wheel drive. So we’ve got compact cars here that can fit nearly any lifestyle.
2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Our list of 2020’s best-selling compact cars is based on the latest 2019 statistics. According to that data, 10 compacts earned more than 40,000 sales for the year, starting with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Like most of the entries here, the C-Class is indeed a class of cars — not a single model. So Mercedes supplies its compact contender in coupe, sedan, and convertible body styles, and the automaker’s AMG performance division serves up high-performance versions of each. Better still, all C-Class models feature Mercedes-style luxuries. For instance, new standard features for 2020 include a 10.25-inch center display, blind-spot assistance, and a hands-free trunk. Newly standard for the AMG C 43 is a high-fidelity Burmester surround-sound audio system.
2020 BMW 3 Series
The 2020 BMW 3 Series is a second luxury choice that qualifies as one of the country’s best-selling compact cars. Completely redesigned for 2019, the 3 Series is filling out its next-gen lineup for 2020 with athletically inclined M Performance sedans.
The M340i and M340i xDrive — with rear- and all-wheel drive — can sprint from 0 to 60 in 4.4 and 4.2 seconds. At the heart of the matter is a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that’s been turbocharged to make 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Nor is this a typical V6. The M340i sedans follow BMW tradition with inline engines that have all cylinders in a single row rather than a V formation. The 3 Series also is unexpectedly practical, with more trunk space than some mid-size sedans.
2020 Mazda Mazda3
Multiple body styles can also boost the numbers for the best-selling compact cars from the mainstream brands. The 2020 Mazda Mazda3 is a prime example.
You can get the Mazda3 as either a compact sedan or a compact five-door hatchback. Both feature a sophisticated exterior design with standard LED headlights. Additionally standard for both models are technologies like automatic forward emergency braking, a blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assistance, an 8.8-inch infotainment display, and an eight-speaker audio system. An unexpected option for both body styles is all-wheel drive. As for affordability and efficiency, the Mazda3 sedan starts at $21,500 with EPA ratings of 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. That’s with an automatic, but enthusiasts can get a six-speed manual for the hatch.
2020 Subaru Impreza
The 2020 Subaru Impreza is next on our list of the best-selling compact cars in the country. Also offered in sedan and hatchback formats, the Impreza is less expensive than the Mazda3, gets slightly better fuel economy, and has plenty of technology of its own.
And those are just a few of the reasons that the Impreza routinely outsells its Mazda rival. Another is the fact that Subaru provides all-wheel drive as standard equipment for the Impreza sedan and hatchback alike. Oh, and just to be clear, Subaru doesn’t combine sales of the WRX and WRX STI performance models with those of this Impreza; these sedans are derived from the previous-generation Impreza.
2020 Kia Forte
We mentioned that value drives many of the best-selling compact cars, and the 2020 Kia Forte is the perfect case in point. The MSRP of the Forte sedan — the car’s only body style — is $17,790. Swapping the standard six-speed manual for a CVT only costs an extra $900. But that low price covers adaptive cruise control, automatic forward emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, an 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.
Two new trims come on board this year as well. The Forte GT-Line and GT add a sporty touch to the lineup, with the latter trim carrying a 201-horsepower turbo engine. The Forte then relies on that combination of content to attract thousands more customers per year than the Impreza sedan and hatch together.
2020 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2020 Volkswagen Jetta’s sales are approximately as far ahead of the Forte’s as the Forte is ahead of the Impreza. The Jetta also adds a new standard technology to stand out yet further: Beginning with the 2020 model year, mobile Wi-Fi is standard on all Jetta models.
Advanced driver-assistance systems are optional, along with high-end amenities such as climate-controlled leather front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and a Beats audio sound system. The Jetta’s premium appeal is complemented by a standard turbo engine and EPA fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway/34 mpg combined. With these benefits and more, it’s no wonder the Jetta is one of the top-selling compact cars in the country.
2020 Hyundai Elantra
If you look at the sales data for the best-selling compact cars, you’ll see that the 2020 Hyundai Elantra has achieved a notable feat. Backed by its popularity, Hyundai has now sold more than 200,000 Elantra in seven of the past eight years. In that “off” year, Hyundai still delivered more than 198,000 units.
Just remember that the 2020 Elantra roster actually includes two very different cars. The Elantra sedan and Elantra GT hatchback share a name — and combine their sales totals — despite riding on two different platforms. The former provides EPA ratings up to 33 mpg city/41 mpg highway/36 mpg combined and an MSRP as low as $17,700. With the latter, you can enjoy the sporty driving experience of an athletic hatchback.
2020 Nissan Sentra
The Nissan Sentra has been among the best-selling compact cars in the country for a number of years, and that’s not likely to change with the latest model. What will change is nearly everything else. When first previewed at Auto Shanghai, the all-new 2020 Nissan Sentra showed off a streamlined design with the same coefficient of drag as the Nissan GT-R supercar.
Of course, the 2020 Sentra won’t be borrowing the GT-R’s twin-turbo V6, but it does get a peppy and efficient new engine of its own. You can also look forward to a competitive range of connectivity and safety technologies that “gives customers a whole new level of confidence and excitement,” according to Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president of Nissan.
2020 Toyota Corolla
The two best-selling compact cars of the year continue to hold down spots at the bottom of the overall top-10 list. They include the 2020 Toyota Corolla, which is newly redesigned this year and available in three distinct models.
The dynamic sedan leads the way with standard content such as mobile Wi-Fi, Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and all of the technology in the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package. With the hot-looking hatchback, Android Auto and extra cargo space are also standard. Lastly, the first-ever Corolla Hybrid builds on the sedan’s advantage with a gas-electric powertrain that enables the same EPA for combined driving as you get in the 2020 Toyota Prius. The tale of the tape for the Corolla Hybrid: 53 mpg city/52 mpg highway/52 mpg combined.
2020 Honda Civic
The current leader of the best-selling compact cars is the 2020 Honda Civic. In fact, according to Honda, the Civic came into the 2020 model year with a three-year streak as the No. 1 car of any kind for retail sales (meaning sales to individual buyers rather than fleets) in this country.
Certainly helping matters is the fact that the 2020 Civic lineup is fairly extensive. It includes sedans, five-door hatchbacks, and coupes, plus dedicated performance models for all body styles. The Civic also offers naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines along with manual and continuously variable automatic transmissions. This makes it easy to find exactly the Civic that best meets your needs. Every Civic is equipped with a Honda Sensing safety bundle, too, complete with collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning, and lane-keeping assistance.