2017 Subaru Impreza front view ・ Photo by Subaru
There are generally a couple schools of thought on the purpose of equipping a compact or small car with all-wheel drive. Most of the vehicles on this list offer 4-corner power to enhance sportiness or to appear more upscale. Others provide all-wheel drive as an option just because the manufacturer happens to have a good system available, and it can help an otherwise nondescript model stand out from the crowd. Regardless of intent, a car with all-wheel drive will get a little more attention from shoppers, and its enhanced functionality will increase a model’s overall value (while also increasing its overall price). Let’s take a look at 10 compact cars with all-wheel drive.
Audi’s A3 is available as a sedan, a convertible, and a plug-in hybrid hatchback, but stick to the higher trim levels of the sedan and convertible (with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine or better) to get the brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system. It’s well worth the splurge; quattro helps the A3’s handling immensely on dry roads, giving it a very sporty personality, and also makes the car a competent all-weather commuter. The A3 sedan seats five and the convertible seats four, and all occupants are likely to be pleased by its interior fit and finish. Audi’s entry-level model is well established as a great option for a compact car with all-wheel drive.
Photo by Audi
The base versions of the 2016 BMW 2 Series come with rear-wheel drive instead of the more common front-wheel drive usually found on less expensive cars. We get it, it is tempting, especially since the rear-drive 2 Series handles pretty well. But to turn the sporty 2 Series from a flight of fancy into a well-rounded entry level luxury car, the optional all-wheel drive system is just the thing. The 2016 BMW 2 Series is offered in a lot of trim levels, but look for xDrive in the model name to score a good compact car with all-wheel drive—this smart option is available on the convertibles as well as the coupes.
Photo by BMW
The eagerly anticipated Ford Focus RS finally lands on this side of the Atlantic for 2016, bringing with it unique styling, a ton more power, and all-wheel drive. The Ford Focus is a great little compact car, even if its standard front-wheel drive leaves much to be desired sometimes. The Focus RS, however, is ready for rallying. The car’s all-wheel drive was selected by none other than celebrated driver Ken Block, who consulted on the Focus RS and helped ensure it was ready for its Stateside debut. Make no mistake, though; while the plain Focus is known for its affordability, this all-wheel drive compact car costs as much as the luxury options we’ve discussed.
Photo by Ford
For a safe and reliable compact luxury car with all-wheel drive, take a look at the 2016 Lexus IS lineup. This compact sedan offers accommodations for five passengers, and though Lexus killed off quite a few trim levels this year, the 300 and 350 IS are still offered with 4-wheel power. Powerplant options and available features make the IS a good alternative to the German heavyweights, even if its handling is tuned more for the benefit of the passengers than the driver. The all-wheel drive Lexus IS offers a stable and composed ride, glides smoothly over rough road surfaces, and takes corners with ease. It’s a mature take on a compact all-wheel drive car.
Photo by Lexus
Skip over the front-wheel drive version of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class four-door coupe and go straight for the 4MATIC—that’s what Mercedes calls its all-wheel drive system. The CLA-Class is a recent addition to the brand’s lineup, offered in only a few trims; basically, there’s no middle ground between the entry-level engine and the AMG high-performance one. That said, those who are content with less power will find that the CLA-Class is a relatively affordable way to get keys to a new Benz. If you can’t decide between a coupe’s styling or a sedan’s practicality, the 2016 CLA-Class might be the small all-wheel drive car for you.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
This small all-wheel drive car is an eye-catching hatchback, as so many MINI Coopers are, but the 2016 Paceman offers something a little different from the regular MINI, with its more aggressive styling. The Paceman’s affordable base price is tempting, but it doesn’t offer all-wheel drive; instead, buyers have to pony up for one of the top two trim levels. That means that more powerful engines are on tap to put that increased horsepower to all four wheels. Potential buyers should give the MINI Paceman a thorough test drive before committing, because this all-wheel drive compact hatch is known for its stiff and uncomfortable ride as a side effect of its great handling characteristics.
Photo by MINI
Mitsubishi might be winding down the Lancer’s reign, but the 2016 edition of this five-passenger sedan is still a strong contender for one of the best compact all-wheel drive cars, particularly at its price point. Equipping a Lancer with all-wheel drive requires ordering the larger of the car’s two available engines, which is more fun to drive, anyway. It also offers good fuel economy for an all-wheel drive car. The 2016 Lancer, when ordered in the top-of-the-line GT trim, features a performance-oriented suspension system, which enables the sedan to handle very well—too well, perhaps, for the average consumer, because with that strong handling comes a firm and unforgiving ride.
Photo by Mitsubishi
Subaru’s 2016 Impreza is one of the few affordable compact cars that comes with all-wheel drive right out of the box—this feature has long been one of the brand’s calling cards. The Impreza is oriented more toward comfort than athleticism, but this compact’s abilities really shine during bouts of bad weather. Even aside from its all-wheel drive benefits, the Impreza is a completely practical choice for a commuter car or daily driver; both the sedan and hatchback body styles seat five passengers and can haul a reasonable amount of cargo. Order the 2016 Subaru Impreza with its available continuously variable transmission to get fuel economy numbers that are strong even against front-wheel drive competitors.
Photo by Subaru
The 2016 Subaru WRX is known for having the same basic benefits as the Impreza—standard all-wheel drive and a practical design—and in fact, up until recently the WRX was actually considered a trim level of the Impreza. This all-wheel drive compact car was redesigned just last year, and with it came a new turbocharged engine and a bunch of new convenience and safety features. If the WRX’s 268 horsepower isn’t enough, there’s always the high-performance version, the WRX STI, which pushes 305 horsepower from its larger turbo 4-cylinder. A blast to drive on twisty roads and a competent all-weather commuter, Subaru’s sportiest sedan shows that practicality and fun can cheerfully coexist.
Photo by Subaru
For as long as the Volkswagen Golf’s been around, it’s sporadically been offered in limited editions with all-wheel drive (although they weren’t always shipped over to North America). And understandably, they’ve been in hot demand (especially for Stateside VW fans who badly wanted what they couldn’t have). For the past few generations of the Golf, though, VW’s been playing nice. The 2016 Golf R is the latest such version of the all-wheel drive compact hatch, and it’s a lot of fun. Volkswagen took a 4-door Golf, dolled up the exterior with exclusive styling touches, stuffed in a 292-horsepower turbo engine (borrowed from the Audi range), and added all-wheel drive as a standard feature.
Photo by Volkswagen