Shopper’s Guide to Popular Compact Cars

When searching for a compact sedan or hatchback, most shoppers are looking for a good value, strong fuel-efficiency and a roomy interior. The four top-selling compacts offer those qualities in spades. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra and Chevrolet Cruze all come in a variety of trim lines ranging from basic to sporty and luxurious. Today’s compacts can be equipped with the latest infotainment and advanced safety features.

Generally compact cars will have a louder and busier ride and narrower interior than larger and more expensive mid-size counterparts, however compact cars will achieve superior gas mileage and fit more easily into parking spots. When shopping for any vehicle, Third Auto recommends test driving multiple vehicles within the class to find the best fit for your individual needs.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive review of America’s most-popular compact cars below. See the pros, cons, best color combination, safety score and more in our full reviews. Sift through the clutter and make shopping for a compact car simple by using our straightforward reviews as a guide to find the best vehicle for you.

2018 Honda Civic

2018 Honda Civic, priced from  $18,840. Read Third Auto’s Full Review.

2018 Toyota Corolla

2018 Toyota Corolla, priced from  $18,550. Read Third Auto’s Full Review

2018 Nissan Sentra

2018 Nissan Sentra, priced from $16,990, Read Third Auto’s Full Review.

2018 Chevrolet Cruze

2018 Chevrolet Cruze, priced from $16,975, Read Third Auto’s Full Review.

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[Images: Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chevrolet]

 

2018 Honda Odyssey

The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a minivan that competes with entrants from Toyota, Chrysler, and Kia among other. Offering features like an available built-in vacuum and seating for up to eight, the Odyssey is a ideal conveyance for transporting little ones to and from soccer practice. Prices start from an MSRP of $30,090.

Pros: Safety Score, Practical, Fuel-Efficient, Comfortable & Quiet

Cons: No All-Wheel-Drive, No Hybrid, Advanced Safety Features Are Options On Some Trims

Looks Best In: Forest Mint exterior/Beige interior

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Competition: Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, Kia Sedona, Dodge Grand Caravan

Safety Score: The 2018 Honda Odyssey was awarded the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick distinction.

Summary: A solid choice in the minivan segment, the 2018 Honda Odyssey delivers on the comfort front by proving a serene driving experience.

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[Images: Honda]

2018 Honda HR-V

The 2018 Honda HR-V is a subcompact SUV, slotted below the compact Honda CR-V and mid-size Honda Pilot in the brand’s crossover SUV lineup. Priced from a starting MSRP of $19,670, the HR-V is a compelling entry point for shoppers on a budget looking for the improved visibility and utility over a traditional hatchback, like Honda’s Civic Hatchback or Fit.

Pros: Efficient, Affordable, Roomy & Attractive Interior, Available Manual, Available Leather & Nav

Cons: Unrefined, Poor Long Haul Comfort, Lacks Advanced Safety Tech, Safety Score

Looks Best In: Mulberry exterior/Black interior

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Competition: Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Rogue Sport, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Hyundai Kona, Ford EcoSport

Summary: The 2018 Honda HR-V functions best as an efficient city runabout with its good visibility. Although its interior has adequate room, it is not the most comfortable choice for a long road trip. Upgrade to the Honda CR-V for a better ambiance and driving experience. As expected for this class of vehicle, efficiency comes at the cost of performance. So, drivers may notice it takes extra effort to quickly merge onto the highway. A disappointment is the “Acceptable” rating on the driver’s side small front overlap test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, other competitors have attained a “Good” rating in this area.

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[Images: Honda]

2018 Honda Pilot

This 2018 Honda Pilot is one of the most popular three-row SUV’s on sale in America. Fresh off of a recent redesign, it is a family-friendly hauler designed with convenience and efficiency in mind. Priced from $30,900, it has versatility in spades but is not the most stylish vehicle in its segment. It is positioned above the compact Honda C-RV in the brand’s lineup.

Pros: Thoughtfully Designed Interior, Roomy, Relatively Efficient

Cons: Safety Features Not Available On All Models, Bland Styling

Looks Best In: Black Forest Pearl exterior/Beige interior

2018 Honda Pilot exterior2018 Honda Pilot interior

What You Should Know: Shoppers looking for more convenience and cargo space should check out the Odyssey, Honda’s minivan. Those looking for a bit more style and opulence should check out the Acura MDX, the fancy twin of the Honda Pilot.

Coolest Feature: The panoramic roof, standard on the top-end Elite trim level, allows lots of natural light into the cavernous interior.

Competition: Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX60 

Summary: As far as large SUV’s go, the Honda Pilot is among the roomiest and most sensible. Pricing can quickly rise, but top-end trims are brimming with features.

Did You Know? The Pilot can seat up to 8 people if equipped with the middle row bench seat.

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[Images: Honda]

2018 Honda Civic

One of America’s best-selling sedans is the Honda Civic, a compact sedan, coupe and hatchback with a starting MSRP of $18,840. A wide variety of models and available equipment lend the Civic a broad appeal. For basic transportation that doesn’t feel like a penalty box, the entry-level LX model has great style and efficient packaging. Higher-end models like the Touring and Si offer more luxury or sportiness respectively.  Kelley Blue Book (KBB) awarded the Honda Civic its Small Car Best Buy of 2018.

Pros: Strong Value Proposition, Fuel Efficient, Stylish, Available Manual Transmission

Cons: Small-ish Interior, Seat Comfort

Looks Best In:  Burgundy Night exterior/Ivory interior

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Competition: Toyota CorollaHyundai ElantraChevrolet CruzeVolkswagen JettaNissan Sentra, Kia Forte, Ford Focus

Safety Score:  All variants of the 2018 Honda Civic received good crash test ratings, however they were letdown by weak headlamps in an evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Summary: A very solid compact offering, the 2018 Honda Civic offer something for nearly every type of car shopper. Be sure to try out the interior for size, as the seats have a short range of adjustment and may not be comfortable for all. For more space and comfort, move one size up to the midsize 2018 Honda Accord.

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[Images: Honda]

2018 Honda Accord

The Honda Accord is one of America’s best-selling cars and it has been significantly updated for 2018. With the optional V-6 dropped, the Accord is now propelled by 4-cylinder power only, although a manual transmission remains available for driving enthusiasts. The 2018 Honda Accord combines room, efficiency and the latest comfort and safety features in a very compelling package. The starting MSRP is $23,570.

Pros: Available Hybrid, Roomy, Stylish, Comfortable

Cons: No Available V-6

What You Should Know: Even the base model 2018 Honda Accord comes very well-equipped with features.

Looks Best In: Platinum White exterior/Ivory interior

2018 Honda Accord exterior

2018 Honda Accord interior

Coolest Feature: Adaptive Dampers, available on the top-end Touring model provide and ultra-smooth ride

Competition: Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima

Summary: The 2018 Honda Accord is a safe and practical choice for any new sedan shopper. It combines excellent fuel mileage with a smarty packaged and designed interior. Driving enthusiast who may pine for the smooth an even power delivery of a V-6 over the Accord’s turbo four options should check out the 2018 Toyota Camry, although that model does not offer a manual transmission like the Accord.

Did You Know? According to Honda, the Accord has been the top retail-selling, midsize car in America for the past six years (2011-2016).

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[Images: Honda]

2018 Honda CR-V

The 2018 Honda CR-V is a compact SUV, slotted above the sub-compact Honda HR-V and the full-size Honda Pilot in Honda’s SUV lineup. The Honda CR-V is one of the best-selling vehicles in America and it’s easy to see why. The Honda CR-V is one of those cars that you cannot go wrong with. It combines comfort, space, and value in an efficient package that meets most people’s needs. Honda Sensing, which bundles together advanced safety features like lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control is a worthwhile option. Prices start at an MSRP of $24,150.

Pros: Practical, Good Value, Efficient, Roomy Interior, Safety Scores

Cons: Uninspiring Style, No Hybrid, Less Refined Ride & Handling Than Some Competitors

Looks Best In: White Diamond exterior/Black interior

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Competition: Mazda CX-5Ford EscapeJeep CherokeeNissan RogueChevrolet EquinoxSubaru CrosstrekHyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4

Safety Score:  The 2018 Honda CR-V was awarded the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick distinction.

Summary: Although not the most interesting or stylish choice, the 2018 Honda CR-V has a fuel-efficient engine and lots of interior space. If you’re looking for a more premium experience, check out its platform twin, the Acura RDX. If efficiency is a top priority, the rival Toyota RAV4 has an available hybrid version, which far exceeds the CR-V’s MPG ratings.

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[Images: Honda]

October Sales: Which Midsize Sedan Won?

The Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion are top-sellers in the midsize sedan category, which is intensely competitive. With redesigned versions of the Camry and Accord now on sale, and incentives high for the older Altima and Fusion, major sales volume is at stake for each automaker month in and month out.

In October the Honda Accord won the top spot, but just barely.  The Toyota Camry was hot on its heels with just 488 fewer sales.  An incredibly slim 327 units separated the third place Nissan Altima from the fourth place Ford Fusion. octsales.PNG

This was a very close race, and next month we could see the Camry and Fusion leapfrog from their current positions as incentives heat up and dealers get eager to move any remaining 2017 models.

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[Images: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Nissan]

Does New Accord Make A Better Acura Than The TLX?

With the release of the 2018 Honda Accord, the gauntlet has been thrown down in the midsize category. Stylishly executed designs both inside and out, impart a significantly more upscale presence than the outgoing Accord. With its transformation from utilitarian and rather plain to cutting edge and downright stylish, does the new Accord pose a major threat to Acura?

Unlike the Toyota Camry which has design elements that one could easily envision being modified to look more elegant on the Lexus ES, the Accord just looks so good as it is that it’s hard to image what would be changed to make it more luxurious. Time will tell whether the next generation Acura TLX has enough compelling features to differentiate it from the latest Accord. For now, let’s access the playing field for 2018 and compare the newest Accord to the carryover TLX.

Exterior Styling

Updated for 2018, the TLX received new headlamps and a revised grille and front bumper design. This latest evolution of the corporate face certainly fits better than prior iteration, yet the grille still seems too outsized and emblem far too large to look handsome.

The latest Accord has a far more fluid design language overall. Although the grille is now quite large, the horizontal chrome accent above it, which also surround the headlamps, lends a cohesiveness to the front end that is lacking on the TLX. The side profile is accentuated by deep sculpting on the lower door and rocker panel surfaces, which serves to lower the visual height of the doors and adds aggression.

Viewed from behind the TLX comes across as conflicted. Chrome bumper trim sits at odds with the blacked-out lower bumper and aggressive exhaust covers. While BMW offers Sport and Luxury packages with unique design elements, the TLX seems to have a hodgepodge of both.

With a coupe-like D-pillar recalling the 2009 Hyundai Sonata, the 2018 Accord has a sleek and upscale appearance with nicely integrated exhausts and stylish taillamps that evolve the theme started on the current generation Civic. Overall, there’s more harmony here than on the contrived TLX.

Interior

The Accord’s march up into the premium echelon continues inside. The interior design is noticeably more cohesive and echoes the last generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Obviously fake woodtrim not withstanding, the look is clean and luxurious. Not ground breaking by any means, but well though out and opulent.

 

The TLX’s interior pales in comparison to the design philosophy exhibited in the class-leading Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The swoopy design flourishes compare mostly closely with the Infiniti Q50’s interior, although it’s not as well executed here. Compared directly to the 2018 Accord’s interior, the TLX feels more closed in and less airy. The plethora of buttons sit in stark contract to the Accord’s clean console.

Performance

The TLX’s trump card is that it has an available V6, which has been dropped from the latest Accord. But at a time when 4-cylinders are becoming commonplace in every entry-luxury offering does it matter? Motor Trend recently tested (http://www.motortrend.com/cars/honda/accord/2018/2018-honda-accord-first-test/) the 2018 Accord with the 2.0L engine and it had a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds. This compares with 5.7 seconds recorded by Car and Driver for the 2018 TLX V-6 A-Spec with SH-AWD (https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2018-acura-tlx-first-drive-review). Surely the TLX sprints more elegantly and quietly than the Accord, but when fuel efficiently is taken into account it’s a toss-up. For those in colder climates though, the TLX’s AWD could sway things in its favor.

Dollars & Sense

The 2018 top-tier Accord Touring 2.0T carries a base price of $36,675, just $25 shy of the 4-cylinder TLX with FWD and the $3,700 Technology Package. A loaded V6 SH-AWD TLX comes in at $44,800. In terms of style and performance and factoring in Acura’s lower level of brand equity compared to its main rival Lexus, the TLX doesn’t make a strong enough case for itself.

Conclusion

Stylish, swift and refined inside and out, the 2018 Accord is compelling enough to make the jump to Acura not worth it.

[Images: Honda, Acura]

Sharpening The Focus

Let’s face it, the Honda Civic is eating the Ford Focus’s lunch. Last month in the U.S. Honda sold 35,452 Civics, while Ford sold just 11,751. That means that for every one Focus sold, Honda moved three Civics off the dealer lot. Clearly the Ford is not the focus for compact car shoppers.

So, what can be done to sharpen Ford’s spear in the compact car sales battle? Outlined below are the steps that could make the next Focus a winner as the current model soldiers on essentially unchanged since its 2011 release.

Out-Style Civic– Currently the Civic is the style-leader in its class. It’s edgy, evocative, modern and doesn’t come across as cheap. The current Focus looks boring in comparison and it never wore the Aston Martin style grille and Kinetic design language as well as the larger Fusion. Ditch the trapezoidal grille. Ditch the dull side panels and taillamps. Make the Focus stand out from the crowd with a nicely crafted design with proper proportions. At a time when even the Toyota Corolla has some design flair, Ford need to up its game.

Clean Up Interior Design– Those with Claustrophobia should steer clear of the current Focus’s interior. The bulging, dark and button-heavy console contributes to a closed-in feeling within the cabin. The Civic has a wider, cleaner and airier design that looks more upscale.

MPG’s– The 2018 Focus Auto gets 28 MPG combined, while the Civic achieves 34 MPG combined. This mitigates the $1,000 or so price disparity between a Civic LX sedan with auto and a comparably equipped Focus SE with auto.

[Images: Ford, Honda]

Cars That Look More Expensive Than They Actually Are

When it comes to cars, sometimes you get more than you paid for, or at least it can appear that way. A select few cars are styled in such a way that they look more expensive than other vehicles within their class.

Although priced no more than their contemporaries, these vehicles have a more premium appearance that belies their price. Tasteful applications of chrome, restrained lines and proper proportions lend an air of elegance to designs that punch above their weight, and could fool anybody not in the know into thinking you’ve spent a small fortune.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Upgrade to the SE model and the added chrome window surround and lower door trim make the Tiguan look downright luxurious. Classic 10-spoke wheels and binged-out grille, rear bumper and exhaust outlets all make for a decidedly premium looking package. At $30,380 equipped with 4Motion, it comes across as much more mature and refined compared to the $30,350 Ford Escape SE 4WD, which is only $30 cheaper. The Honda CR-V EX-L AWD rings in at $30,595, $215 more than the Tiguan, but its garish wheels and odd proportions make it look cheaper, despite chrome window trim.

tiguan

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

escape

2018 Ford Escape

 

Chrysler 300

With all the hallmarks of a true luxury sedan like RWD proportions and imposing bodywork, the veteran Chrysler 300 still makes quite an impression. At $30,090 it has far more curb appeal than the Toyota Avalon XLE, which costs $33,500, $3,410 more. The 300’s classic lines can even hold a candle to the INFININTI Q70, which at $50,300, is a whole $21,070 more expensive.

300

2018 Chrysler 300

2018 Infiniti Q70

Ford Mustang

At $26,085 the V6 Fastback Ford Mustang is $140 cheaper than the  $26,225 Honda Civic Coupe Touring. Yet, its brawny styling and classic muscle car proportions make it look far more premium. Vintage-inspired five spoke wheels come across as classier than the Civic’s busy wheel design, and its iconic looks give it the curb appeal advantage.

mustang

2018 Ford Mustang

civiccoupe.PNG

2018 Honda Civic Coupe

[Images: Volkswagen, Ford, Chrysler, Infiniti, Honda]