The best small sedans are typically those that hit the sweet spot in pricing and practicality - big enough to be useful, small enough to fit in the driveway or parking spot, and affordable enough to make the budget cut. Of course, every household has its own spending limits and size requirements, and there's also important considerations like fuel efficiency, fun factor, and style to take into account. It's a good thing, then, that the small sedan segment has exploded in recent years to provide us with a strong crop of automobiles to choose from.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best small sedans available in 2014.
The 2014 Mazda Mazda3 provides small sedan shoppers with above-average handling thanks to a well-designed chassis that rises above its economy roots. Completely redesigned for the current model year, the Mazda Mazda3 also offers a higher level of available luxury features and interior fit and finish than was previously found with the vehicle, including an optional head-up display as well as a collision mitigation system with automatic braking. Mazda's Skyactiv engine lineup is responsible for motivating the sedan, with a 155 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit serving as the base motor, and a 2.5-liter, 184 horsepower mill offered as an upgrade. The smaller of the two turns in fuel mileage of 30-mpg city and 41-mpg highway.
The 2014 Volkswagen Jetta has almost outgrown its compact niche, and although it's still marketed as a small car it features a lot of room for front and rear passengers within its cabin. Basic and straightforward design is the order of the day with the Volkswagen Jetta, and there's a 15.5 cubic foot trunk on hand to complement its spacious interior. Another bonus from Volkswagen is the availability of a turbodiesel model, the TDI, which provides 140 horsepower, 236 lb-ft of torque, and 34-mpg combined fuel mileage from its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. Entry-level Jettas are outfitted with a 115 horsepower, 2.0-liter motor, while 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder good for 170 horses is also on offer.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta, like the Mazda3, provides outstanding driving dynamics for its price. The subcompact Ford Fiesta is quite small compared to other sedans on this list, yet still appealing as a commuter or runabout. Despite its status as the most affordable model in the Ford lineup, the Fiesta can be equipped with features like the MyFord Touch touchscreen and voice interface, as well as leather seats, a navigation system, and keyless entry. Most versions of the Fiesta sedan come with a 120 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, although there's also a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost option for 2014 that produces 123 horsepower while posting efficiency figures of 32-mpg city and 45-mpg highway.
The 2014 Hyundai Elantra has been given a mild refresh that introduces not just a new trim level (Sport, which brings with it an equally new power plant), but also some styling updates to keep the compact sedan current. Quieter inside than the year before, the Hyundai Elantra continues to represent a strong value for feature-hungry small car shoppers on a budget, as a strong level of gear is included even with the base model. The Sport trim's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine introduces 173 horsepower to the equation, but the car's base 1.8-liter, 145 horsepower four-cylinder motor is still the efficiency leader with a rating of 27-mpg around town and 37-mpg on the highway.
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze is the second small sedan on our list to include the option of a turbodiesel engine, in this case a 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit good for 151 horsepower, 264 lb-ft of torque, and 33-mpg combined fuel mileage. The diesel isn't the only frugal edition of the Cruze, however: opting for the 138 horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged gas four-cylinder over the base 1.8-liter motor producing the same power ensures 26-mpg city and 38-mpg highway. The Cruze also features a comfortable interior, better than expected driving dynamics, and bold styling in order to lure prospective buyers into its clutches.
The 2014 Toyota Corolla throws out the tired bones of the previous generation small sedan and embraces a new design which caters much more effectively to the needs of modern drivers. Styling isn't the only thing that has changed for the Toyota Corolla, as the car's interior is less spartan than before while still maintaining a healthy amount of passenger room. A few ghosts linger from the past, notably the same 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and its familiar 132 horsepower, but you can get a 140 horse edition of this motor if you opt for the LE Eco trim. The Corolla LE Eco also brings with it a standard continuously-variable automatic transmission in order to improve fuel mileage to 30-mpg city and 42-mpg highway.
The 2015 Audi A3 is already on sale in 2014, and this intriguing premium small sedan comes in two distinct flavors for American audiences. The entry-level Audi A3 features a 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that sends 170 horsepower to the car's front wheels via a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Opting for the vehicle's 2.0-liter engine introduces not just 220 horses, but also standard all-wheel drive (while maintaining the dual-clutch gearbox), and this has the effect of significantly transforming the vehicle's driving experience from good to great. Not quite as opulent inside as other Audi models, the A3 is still a strong choice in a relatively weak small luxury sedan segment.
The 2015 Subaru WRX is the most mature version of the Japanese brand's all-wheel drive compact rocket ship ever built. To be sure, the Subaru WRX still packs a potent performance punch, what with its new 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine pushing out 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission comes free of charge with the WRX, while a new CVT gearbox featuring standard launch control can be had as an option. More interesting are the updates that have been made to the Subaru's chassis, as the vehicle's handling has been honed while simultaneously improving its comfort in daily driving situations. This is one compact sedan that you can take to the track on the weekends and still drive to work on Monday morning without cursing every single break in the pavement between your home and the office.
The 2014 Ford Focus is another small sedan from the Blue Oval that nicely balances fun and practicality. The Ford Focus is all business when it comes to pricing and options, allowing you to specify whether you want an austere, function-first cabin, or one that is loaded up with luxuries and driving assistance features. Take the Focus down a back road, however, and the intricacies of its suspension tuning reveal themselves by way of the car's responsive dynamics. If you are more interested in fuel efficiency than cornering, however, you can always order the SFE edition of the car, which pulls 28-mpg city and 40-mpg highway from the Ford's 160 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
The 2014 Nissan Sentra surprises by being much larger inside than its compact sedan status would suggest. Opening the door to the Nissan Sentra - especially to the rear seat - reveals a tall ceiling and generous amounts of leg room, which are not characteristics typical to its class. Although it delivers a rather mild driving experience, the Sentra is quite inexpensive to operate thanks to its very fuel efficient 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. 130 horsepower are on tap from this unit, which works together with a continuously-variable automatic transmission to deliver 30-mpg city and 40-mpg highway, numbers that are a notable improvement over versions of the car that stick with the Sentra's standard six-speed manual gearbox.