It's been a particularly good 12 months for small automobiles, and some of the best compact cars for 2013 are all-new and ready to re-shape the segment in the face of the explosion of new technologies, styling trends, and fuel-saving engineering advances now available from a wide range of brands. Performance is up, and so is comfort, but even those seeking a steady, dependable commuter are well served by the current crop of small cars.
We've put together a quick list of some of the best compact cars for 2013 that have caught our eye over the course of the past year.
The 2013 Ford Focus ST blew into town like a summer camp lifeguard flexing his or her muscles on the beach, a newcomer that surprised sport compact performance car fans with its surprisingly well-tuned chassis and healthy turbocharged horsepower. Featuring a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder unit that puts out 252 ponies and 270 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Focus ST quickly found itself near the apex of the hot hatch scene after a prolonged Blue Oval absence in that area of the market. Suddenly, a lot of other compact contenders are playing catch-up to a vehicle that no one expected to be this good.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 02 - 2013 Subaru BRZ
Generating even more enthusiasm from media and fans of amateur racing was the 2013 Subaru BRZ, a rear-wheel drive compact coupe that was like nothing else Subaru had ever offered in its showrooms. Developed in partnership with Toyota (and also marketed as the Scion FR-S), the Subaru BRZ was lauded for the purity of its driving experience and its affordable pricing. The vehicle is based around a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder 'boxer' engine that helps to keep the BRZ's center of gravity low while delivering a high-revving 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, managed by the choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 03 - 2013 Dodge Dart
The 2013 Dodge Dart was an important introduction for the Pentastar brand, as it hadn't offered a compact sedan since the long-departed Neon in the mid-2000's. The Dodge Dart doesn't just represent a return to the compact arena for Chrysler, but it also exemplifies the corporate synergy between Dodge and Italian parent Fiat, in that the Dart borrows its underpinnings from one of the conglomerate's European sedans. The Dodge Dart offers a trio of four-cylinder engine options, but the most interesting mill to the majority of buyers is the 1.4-liter, turbocharged unit that provides 160 horsepower and a refreshing 39-mpg on the highway.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 04 - 2013 Nissan Sentra
The 2013 Nissan Sentra didn’t exactly dazzle when it was introduced late in 2012, but that's partly by design: this four-door compact sedan is intended to offer reliable, conservatively-styled transportation at an appealingly low price. The Nissan Sentra's fresh platform updates the vehicle so that it can better compete against its high profile rivals, but the car still features Nissan's continuously-variable automatic transmission technology. This helps the Sentra achieve 30-mpg around town and 39-mpg on the highway from a 1.8-liter, 140 horsepower four-cylinder engine, a feat that is also made possible in part by its lightweight design.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 05 - 2013 Buick Verano Turbo
The 2013 Buick Verano Turbo was introduced for the current model year as the top trim level for the recent compact luxury car. The Buick Verano Turbo is important to the domestic premium brand as it adds much-needed grunt to the Verano's portfolio, which had previously been criticized for offering middling performance. 250 horses and 260 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine put those complaints to bed in a hurry, and the availability of a six-speed manual transmission to complement the standard six-speed automatic adds a touch of driver involvement that had been missing from the base Verano.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 06 - 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is the topless version of the redesigned Volkswagen Beetle coupe that was introduced in 2012. What most potential drop-top buyers might not be aware of is the fact that the Volkswagen Beetle Convertible can be ordered with a TDI (turbodiesel) four-cylinder engine, making it the only diesel convertible on the market in the United States. This unit's 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque are in addition to a fuel mileage rating of 28-mpg city and 41-mpg highway - outstanding figures for any vehicle, let alone a 'vert. A base 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder cribbed from the GTI are also available with the Beetle Convertible.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 07 - 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
The 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT adds an extra dimension to the Korean automaker's compact car lineup by introducing a practical hatchback into the mix. Not only does the Hyundai Elantra GT offer 51 cubic feet of total cargo space, but it also rides on a different platform than the Elantra sedan - one that is designed to offer more sprightly handling thanks to a reconfigured suspension setup. The Elantra GT maintains the same 148 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine as its four-door counterpart, which means that it also enjoys excellent fuel efficiency (27-mpg city and 37-mpg highway).
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 08 - 2013 Acura ILX
The 2013 Acura ILX is a new entry-level premium sedan that aims to join the crowd of compact cars that offer luxury trappings at relatively attainable prices. The Acura ILX has garnered attention not just for its comfort features, but also due to the fact that in addition to its two gas-only four-cylinder engines (one of which is a 201-horse unit lifted directly from the Honda Civic Si), it also provides the option of hybrid power. In fact, the Acura ILX marks the first time that the brand has ever offered a battery-powered drivetrain in any of its vehicles. The system combines a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder mill with a single electric motor that generates a total of 111 horsepower while also delivering 39-mpg in city driving and 38-mpg during highway cruising.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 09 - 2013 Subaru Impreza
The 2013 Subaru Impreza might not be completely fresh (it was introduced last year), but it's still the all-wheel drive vehicle that's the most frugal at the pump. The Subaru Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive, and its recently-installed continuously-variable automatic transmission manages to deliver 25-mpg city and 34-mpg highway from its 2.0-liter, 148 horsepower engine. A five-speed manual can also be had with the car, which is available in both sedan and hatchback editions. The Impreza has always been popular in the snowbelt, but its newfound fuel efficiency has given it new life in markets where all-wheel drive isn't always a 'must-have' on the small car shopping list.
Best Compact Cars For 2013 - 10 - 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe
We know what you're thinking - didn't we just talk about the Elantra? You're right, of course - but that was the Elantra GT hatchback, not the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe. There are some buyers out there who simply have to have the sleeker styling of a two-door when they purchase a compact car, and the Hyundai Elantra Coupe does an excellent job of stretching the brand's already attractive Fluidic Sculpture body work to create more sinewy sheet metal. From a mechanical perspective, the Elantra Coupe sticks with the sedan's 148 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.