Essential Buyers Guide to Compact Cars

In a nutshell, compact cars (otherwise known as small family cars) are distinguished by being mid-sized vehicles that are larger than a supermini and a city car. Popular with younger, value-conscious buyers, this type of car category has a huge number of different manufacturers, which can make it hard to decide which one will best suit your needs.

The following guide will help you find the right compact car by offering you the key criteria to look out for. These will of course depend on your individual priorities and lifestyle.


Affordability on a mid-range level is what keeps the compact car in high demand. The lowest price is not the only reason to buy a model of this class however – what you want is value for money in terms of the most features for your pound. Other considerations when looking at cost are the resale value and warranty protection.


Most compact cars can seat an average-size adult behind another average-size adult. Some models however offer more leg and head room in both the front and rear than many midsize cars, so if room space is important to you, you’ll want to shop around. Be aware that cargo space also varies alot between different models.

Fuel economy

The compact class encompasses the highest-mileage hybrid and diesel-engine cars available to date, their fuel economy is a big selling point. All models make sacrifices to achieve this however, whether it be in size, asking price, or long-term costs. It’s important to weigh all these factors, or you might end up saving on fuel but losing money in other ways.

Bells and Whistles

Deciding what equipment must be added to the car comes down to individual preferences. These days you have a huge range of additional options to choose from in the compact range that were previously only available in more expensive vehicles, such as leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation systems, satellite radio, antiskid systems, and extra airbags. If you want to keep the price reasonable, be sure to clarify which features you find important and stick with that. Also, if you’re on a budget, you might want to consider buying a less expensive compact model which will allow you to add an option or two without feeling the pinch, instead of going for a more expensive model that already comes with specific features in place.


Since compact cars are reasonably small, their safety equipment and overall performance during crash tests are generally given high priority. By law, all compact cars come mandatory with dual front airbags and many manufacturers also provide front side and curtain side airbags. All in all, comprehensive safety equipment is well worth the relatively small extra cost in terms of giving yourself and your passengers peace of mind.

The Test Drive

While shopping around, it’s important to test drive your top choices before you commit on specs alone. For example, different tires and a sport suspension can affect how the car drives significantly, a navigation system might make audio or climate controls difficult to use, a sunroof might in practise be irritating and the seat comfort in different models can vary tremendously.


It’s important to remember that a compact car should offer both competitive pricing and a range of choices. To find the best car with the best cost possible, the most savvy way to go about it is to firstly do your research on the models that suit your taste and needs, choose two or three that top your list, try them out on a test drive and then lastly bargain for the price.

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