Small car buying guide

small-car

For tasks such as commuting, running errands, and zipping around town, a small car is often the most practical choice. Automakers are constantly lavishing more attention on packaging to maximize interior space. As a result, the latest batch of compact cars today have the rear-seat room you might expect in a midsized car of only a few years ago, while some smaller subcompacts still have reasonable space for two in back.

Many small cars have tall roofs, providing generous head room and an airy feel to the cabin. In particular, hatchbacks can be especially practical. Fold down the rear seatbacks and lift the hatch, and you can have similar interior functionality to a small SUV. The Honda Fit is a good example of clever use of space. Its fuel tank is far forward, freeing up space for rear seating and luggage. The lesson here is that practical considerations can benefit greatly by smart design.

When it comes to sporty cars, small is beautiful. Small cars are inherently light and nimble: two qualities that count a lot for spirited driving. Small sporty cars are commonly front-wheel drive, though there are rear-wheel drive choices, such as the BMW 2 SeriesMazda Miata, Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, that are particularly rewarding. For those faced with winter traction challenges, there are a few models with all-wheel drive, such as the Subaru Impreza.
Key things to consider

Make a list of your priorities to help you to narrow down the field of small cars you’ll consider. Think about what’s most important to you, such as low initial price, superb fuel economy, satisfying driving experience, comfortable ride, good luggage space, room for passengers, and long-term owner costs that won’t strain your checkbook. Those factors tend to be interlinked. For example, fuel economy often goes hand in hand with low weight, small size, and modest power. Good ride comfort is easier to achieve in cars with a longer wheelbase and more weight. Agile handling is not confined to cars with sporty looks. Plenty of small hatchbacks will surprise you with their handling agility.

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