Most Americans are driving large or midsize SUVs, crossovers, or pickup trucks and have shown very little interest in the subcompact and compact classifications which have been dwindling drastically in the USA over recent years. There are, however, still a few automakers that are proffering contemporary and up-to-date bijou vehicles such as Mazda with the new Mazda 3 Hatchback and Sedan, Subaru with its Impreza Hatch and Sedan, and of course Volkswagen with the acclaimed Golf R. This is because there are still many car and driving enthusiasts out there that treasure the performance and handling characteristics that these cars typically exhibit, and the value that they pack for what they usually cost.
Advantages and disadvantages
Subcompact and compact cars do have a lot to offer when it comes to performance, handling, day-to-day livability, and even affordability. Many of today’s compact cars are presented with small-capacity turbocharged engines that are both sprightly and frugal on fuel economy. As with any vehicle, however, small cars do come with some compromises or disadvantages, mostly pertaining to their size, that may turn some shoppers away.
- Peppy and efficient engine performance
- Nimble and poised handling dynamics
- Relatively affordable in relation to big cars
- Larger cars do feel quite imposing around you
- Not as spacious or as practical as larger cars
- Many can feel relatively underpowered
The Best of the Best
There are compact cars that cater to a variety of tasks and/or lifestyles and are offered in just about every classification. Whether you’re looking for a poised pocket-rocket, a capable off-road trailblazer, or modest family runabout, there’s most definitely a small car up to the task. Here are just some of the best models in their specific appeals:
The Spiciest Hot-Hatch – Volkswagen Golf
VW’s latest version of the Golf R is quite literally one-of-a-kind. Under its hood is a polished 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot engine that’s been dialed to muster up a potent 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. For the fans and to optimise engagement, VW offers the Golf R with a six-speed manual gearbox, a rarity in the automotive world these days, and equips it with a 4Motion all-wheel drive system as standard. Put the pedal to the metal and the Golf R launches from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds and will continue up to a top speed of 155 mph. The Golf R is also one of the most fun and apt cars to hoon through corners at high speed.
The Off-Road Ace – Jeep Wrangler
Not only does the Jeep Wrangler have some of the most badass and iconic aesthetics in the realm of off-roaders, but also some most unprecedented off-roading capabilities. It’s offered with a variety of powertrain and drivetrain configurations and with numerous axle-gearing options and suspension kits catering to varying levels of off-roading potential. Of course, the top-spec Rubicon is the most capable spec in the Wrangler lineup, but the base model Sport, still boasting rugged, durable body cladding, a high-ride height, and a short wheelbase, is still a lot more apt than the average SUV or truck. The Wrangler stays true to its core as an off-road Jeep and as it feels totally out of place on the road where it’s robust and hard nature translate into major discomfort and impracticality.
The Family Runabout – Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming considerably more popular as automakers continue to improve and innovate within the space to make these cars perform better than ever before and at the same time make them more affordable, too. The Hyundai Tucson Hybrid is perhaps the best example of the modern hybridized family cruiser with its peppy yet highly efficient 226 hp turbo-four hybrid motor, extensive selection of creature comforts, conveniences, and advanced driver-assist and safety features, and its contemporary design and well-rounded character. These qualities are met with consummate crashworthiness and safety ratings, and good reliability expectations, all of which supports its role as a family runabout.
It’s clear that there’s a lot that subcompact and compact cars do offer us that larger vehicles can’t, or at least not to the same degree. Their small sizes don’t only make them peppy, efficient and really easy and practical for everyday city driving, but also accord the off-road purposed vehicles with some serious capability, especially compared to their larger counterparts. Though they are now perhaps more niche than ever, compact cars will always be around for those who just can’t see them go.