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Don’t count compact cars out of the race yet. In fact, Honda Civic sales are up over 100% year-over-year and the Toyota Corolla has seen a sales increase of over 300% since this time last year. Of course, the pandemic has a lot to with the massive increase, but it also proves that many consumers are still purchasing compact cars.

And while stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla remain leaders in the category when it comes to sales, there’s one Hyundai model that beat both of them on another list. Specifically, Kelley Blue Book’s “Best Small Cars for 2021” list.

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is a surprisingly efficient compact car

A 2021 Hyundai Elantra parked
2021 Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

The Hyundai Elantra was redesigned for the 2021 model year and with it came sharp styling inside and out and hybrid car-like fuel efficiency. According to the EPA, the Elantra Hybrid is rated at 50 mpg in combined driving, which is right below the Prius’ 52 mpg in combined driving.

But if you would rather have a sportier experience, then the Elantra N Line comes with either a six-speed manual or DCT transmission. Either one is a perfect pairing for its 201-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. But of course, if you would rather have a normal commute, then the regular Elantra line produces superb fuel efficiency and power as well.

The 2021 Honda Civic is a mainstay in the group

2021 Honda Civic in red
2021 Honda Civic | Honda

Kelley Blue Book says that the 2021 Honda Civic is “reliable, safe, and fun to drive,” and we couldn’t agree more. All of that, mixed with a starting price under $22,000, it’s no wonder that U.S. News ranked it as No. 1 on its list of compact cars. However, it came in second on KBB’s list. But we have no doubts that the redesigned 2022 Civic will do well next year.

Safety and reliability are the 2021 Toyota Corolla’s strong points

2021 Toyota Corolla driving, the 2021 Toyota Corolla is among the best new cars under $30,000
2021 Toyota Corolla | Toyota

While the Toyota Corolla has never been known to be sporty, it has always excelled greatly in reliability and safety. The 2021 Corolla is no different as it’s available with a host of standard safety features and is as reliable as it has ever been. Consumer Reports even gave the 2021 Toyota Corolla a five out of five when it comes to predicted reliability.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is fun to drive

A silver 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback driving
2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback | Toyota

If you do want a little sportiness in your Corolla, then you can also opt for the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback. This plucky little five-door has a stronger 168-hp, 2.0-liter engine accompanied by either a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission. The Corolla hatchback also comes with the same safety features as its sedan counterpart, but offers a fun-to-drive, go-cart-like package.

The 2021 Kia Forte has one of the best warranties in the segment

A red 2021 Kia Forte driving
2021 Kia Forte | Kia

If you’re looking for a practical means of transportation, but want to save a few thousand dollars, then the 2021 Kia Forte could fit the bill. With a starting price under $19,000, the Forte offers a lot of value for the money. And what’s even better is that it comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, which is better than any other car on this list.

The 2021 Nissan Sentra looks a little more upscale

A red 2021 Nissan Sentra compact sedan parked between two mountains in front of dark clouds
2021 Nissan Sentra | Nissan Motor Corporation

The Nissan Sentra was just updated last year and is now much more upscale than ever before. According to Kelley Blue Book, the Nissan Sentra has “laudable driving dynamics and tech for a value price.” We don’t doubt it, considering the Sentra starts at a reasonable $20,355.

The 2021 Mazda3 provides a luxurious touch

A parked 2021 Mazda3
2021 Mazda3 | Mazda

If you want a little more luxury out of your compact car, then the 2021 Mazda3 has you covered. In addition to a fuel-efficient engine and the availability of all-wheel-drive, the Mazda3 has an interior that you would expect from a class above. We’re surprised that KBB didn’t put this one higher on the list.

2021 Volkswagen Jetta offers free maintenance

A silver 2021 Volkswagen Jetta driving
2021 Volkswagen Jetta | Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Jetta holds its own in the compact crowd by offering buyers a roomy interior with a large trunk, a refined cabin space with a superb fit and finish, and free maintenance. That’s right, if you buy a 2021 Jetta, you can take advantage of two years of free maintenance in addition to a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty.

All-wheel drive comes standard on the 2021 Subaru Impreza

A silver 2021 Subaru Impreza driving
2021 Subaru Impreza | Subaru

We’re surprised that the 2021 Subaru Impreza was last on KBB’s list. However, it’s still a force to be reckoned with in the lineup as it comes standard with all-wheel-drive, has superb safety ratings, and is known to hold its value over time.


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