The Least Reliable 2021 Compact Cars According to Consumer Reports

To many drivers, compact cars are still the most practical and fun. Another bonus is that models in the small car class are among the most affordable. But for the most head-ache free experience, you’ll want to consider long-term reliability ratings.

We’ve gathered a list of the least reliable 2021 compact cars based on info from Consumer Reports. CR is still one of the most reputable sources for predicted vehicle reliability because of its robust auto survey data. Plus, the org’s thorough vehicle testings indicate a car’s most frequent trouble spots.

The 2021 Volkswagen Jetta is praiseworthy in a few ways

A silver 2021 Volkswagen Jetta parked with the sun in the background
The 2021 VW Jetta on display | Photo via Volkswagen

In a few aspects, CR deems the 2021 VW Jetta praiseworthy. This VW returned a remarkable 34 mpg overall in its road test. The Jetta’s standard 147-hp turbocharged four-cylinder is peppy when pushed, and its eight-speed automatic is complimentary. We’ve also recognized this model for its key active safety features. Its cabin is pretty spacious too. 

Nevertheless, the Jetta earns a spot on the least reliable compact car list. Like the other models on this list, CR gave the Jetta a one out of five for dependability. The Jetta’s low rating stems from 2019, which was its last redesign year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled the 2019 Jetta seven times for problems related to the car’s suspension and electric system. This VW, in particular, has had a checkered past. The most complained about Jetta is the 2006 version.

The 2021 Kia Soul is less attractive, unfortunately

A red 2021 Kia Soul, equipped with standard AEB, drives on a paved surface with a blue sky in the background.
The 2021 Kia Soul comes with AEB standard | Kia

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The Kia Soul has been one of our favorite compact cars to talk about over the years. It clearly stands out in the segment for its eccentric style, but also for its modern tech at an affordable price. Still, the ratings for the 2021 Soul make it less attractive. Kia redesigned the Soul for 2020, and some owners had severe problems.

A significant number of CR members had trouble with the Soul’s new continuously automatic transmission (CVT). Conversely, some people haven’t had any issues with the Soul from the current generation. For instance, there are only 69 NHTSA complaints about the 2020 model. Even so, you may want to consider a used Soul with better ratings. Like we talked about before, vehicle redesigns often bring down a vehicle’s predicted reliability. 

The 2021 Kia Forte shares problems with the Soul

A blue 2021 Kia Forte GT Sport compact sedan parked on a paved road in front of green foliage
2021 Kia Forte GT Sport | Kia

RELATED: These 2021 Compact Cars Are Wildly OK According to Consumer Reports

Kia also updated the Forte with a new CVT. So naturally, the Forte has garnered the same transmission complaints that the Soul has. CR’s data also shows that the Forte’s drive system has been a potential trouble spot. This Kia isn’t all bad, though.

The 2021 Forte is easily one of the cheapest new cars on the market today; it starts at $17,890.  Kelley Blue Book’s review for the newest Forte was generally positive. KBB appreciated its value-focused elements. And actually, the org specifically enjoyed the Forte’s CVT. Still, KBB and CR agree that the Forte doesn’t have the ‘wow factor.’ There are plenty of other alternatives for you to consider, like the Forte’s cousin, the Hyundai Elantra, or the beloved Honda Civic