Everyone wants to score the best deal they can on a brand new car, which means getting as much value as possible while staying within your allotted budget. The best compact cars for the money are the ones that provide the features you need at a price you can afford, without asking you to shell out extra for the equipment that's on your must-have list. These cars might not always be the cheapest, but they definitely represent strong return on the dollar in their respective segments.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best compact cars for the money.
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra is perfect for shoppers who need a small, affordable car that presents itself like a much more expensive model. The key to the Hyundai Elantra's success is its upscale-looking interior that has been designed to stand out from the rest of the small car pack. It also features the kind of exterior styling that suggests a higher MSRP than its actual sticker price. Throw in 29-mpg in city driving and 40-mpg on the highway from its 148 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and it's easy to see why the Korean car company has been snatching up sales left, right, and center with the Elantra.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 02 - 2013 Toyota Corolla
The 2013 Toyota Corolla can best be described using two words: basic transportation. The Toyota Corolla is a compact commuting appliance that is designed specifically for drivers who want to simply add oil and gas and then cruise on for the next 100,000 miles performing only basic maintenance. Not as sophisticated as its competitors, the Corolla's reliability is nevertheless a strong draw, and even though its 132 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine has been around the block a couple of times it still delivers 26-mpg in stop and go driving and 36-mpg on the highway.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 03 - 2013 Mazda MAZDASPEED3
The 2013 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 is aimed at performance-seeking driving enthusiasts who want to stay under the magical $25,000 mark. The Mazda MAZDASPEED3 is a raw, turbocharged front-wheel drive hatchback that tears up the tarmac with its force-fed 2.3-liter turbocharged engine. 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque represent the impressive output of this standard mill, and a six-speed manual transmission is charged with sending this prodigious production to the ground. With enough built-in attitude from its spoilers, aero kit, and bright color options to sink a battleship, the MAZDASPEED3 commands respect in the hot hatch world.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 04 - 2013 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta is big - in fact, far larger than most compact sedan shoppers might expect. The Volkswagen Jetta's surprisingly spacious interior and adult-friendly back seat make the most of a platform that is still easy enough to park in an urban setting, and also quite good on gas (up to 34-mpg on the highway with the base 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. The Jetta can be thought of as the family car for anyone who doesn’t want the added burden of a mid-size sedan cluttering up the driveway, and it also offers a comfortable driving experience that soaks up rough roads with ease.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 05 - 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid
The 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid is a compact, battery-assisted sedan that doesn't ask drivers to make any particular compromises, or forgo features that they have become accustomed to - it simply works. The Honda Civic Hybrid takes the basic Civic sedan framework, steals a little bit of trunk space for its battery pack, and leaves most of the rest of the car untouched. The end result is an affordable, sub-$25k fuel miser that is good for 44-mpg around town and 44-mpg on the highway. These incredible numbers are buttressed by the 110 horsepower produced by the Civic Hybrid's combination of an electric motor and a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 06 - 2013 Subaru Impreza
The 2013 Subaru Impreza earns its spot on this list of the best compact cars for the money by virtue of the fact that it is the only entry-level automobile on the market that makes all-wheel drive standard. Those who live in the nation's snow belt already appreciate what the Subaru Impreza has to offer - whether found in hatchback or sedan form - and now that the vehicle provides improved fuel mileage of 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway by way of a continuously-variable automatic transmission and a 148 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, southern folk can get on the Subaru bandwagon with fewer caveats.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 07 - 2014 Scion FR-S
The 2014 Scion FR-S is the 'killer app' that the sports car community has been waiting for, a compact rear-wheel drive coupe that prizes lightweight design and near-perfect balance over high horsepower shenanigans. Keeping costs down by outfitting the Scion FR-S with a 200 horsepower, 2.0-liter 'boxer' four-cylinder engine (that also produces 151 lb-ft of torque) ensure that more players can come to the party, and this mill is more than sufficient when it comes to track-day fun. A six-speed manual transmission is standard - and recommended - with the FR-S, while a six-speed autobox with paddle shifters can also be ordered with the car.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 08 - 2013 Nissan Sentra
Another take on the daily commuter car concept can be found with the 2013 Nissan Sentra. Redesigned for the current model year, the Nissan Sentra isn't sporty but it is stylish from the outside and unexpectedly large on the inside. Interior trim remains tasteful, and while the standard continuously-variable automatic transmission found in the Sentra might not be for everyone there is no doubt that it provides excellent fuel efficiency (30-mpg city and 40-mpg highway). 130 horsepower clamor for attention from under the hood of the Nissan, produced by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that is the vehicle's only option.
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 09 - 2013 Ford Focus
The 2013 Ford Focus - another compact car that can be had in sedan or hatch form - is intended to satisfy budget-minded shoppers who enjoy a little bit of handling prowess with their inexpensive ride. The Ford Focus can also be outfitted with the Sync communications and entertainment system, which is available as early as the second-tier SE trim level. Power is derived from a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that is good for 160 horses and 146 lb-ft of torque, and the relatively quick Focus is also quite frugal thanks to its 28-mpg city and 38-mpg fuel efficiency rating in standard form (the SFE package adds a couple extra miles per gallon to the highway measure).
Best Compact Cars For The Money - 10 - 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata - like the Scion FR-S - is an inexpensive sports car that chops off the roof to allow for maximize sunny day fun without breaking the bank. The Mazda MX-5 Miata continues the brand's tradition of investing heavily in chassis and suspension design in order to provide the best possible handling, and an emphasis on keeping the mass of the roadster low also ensures excellent road-holding capability. Opting for the vehicle's standard five-speed manual (six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are also available) and its base cloth top is the best way to enjoy the convertible, which comes with a 167 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.