The Most Reliable 2021 Compact Cars According to Consumer Reports

Even as SUVs intensify in popularity, the compact car class is still holding strong. Compact cars or sedans are the most rational choice for city living and everyday commutes. Today you have plenty of options to choose from, whether you want something clever or upscale. We’ve gathered a list of the most reliable 2021 compact cars to help you narrow things down a bit. 

The compact cars on this list received the most favorable ratings from Consumer Reports. CR determines a vehicle’s reliability through its scientific Auto Surveys, which capture different owner experiences. Additionally, CR uses a Reliability History chart that covers 17 potential trouble spots, including a car’s drive system and power equipment. 

2021 Volkswagen Golf 

A red 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI driving down a highway
The 2021 VW Golf GTI in action | Photo via Volkswagen

Critics have long considered the Volkswagen Golf as one of the most fun options in the compact class. And now, this VW is getting more credit for its dependability too. CR considers the Golf as the most reliable compact car and one of the most satisfying.

More significant changes are coming for the 2022 Golf lineup, but critics have already been raving about what’s for 2021. Along with its sporty handling, CR reviewers also loved the Golf’s quiet, comfortable cabin. It offers user-friendly technology too. Standard models will have a 147-hp four-cylinder and a six-speed manual; an eight-speed automatic is available. Most reviewers recommend the Golf GTI for a more exhilarating driving experience. 

2021 Toyota Corolla

2021 Corolla Apex driving
2021 Corolla Apex | Toyota

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The Corolla is the only other 2021 compact car that got a perfect predicted reliability rating along with the Golf. CR didn’t give the Corolla many high marks for being fun, though. Instead, the Corolla shines more for its fuel economy and everyday driving comfort. Variety is also a highlight of this Toyota since it’s available as a hatchback and a hybrid model. 

The regular Corolla sedan comes with a 139-horsepower four-cylinder. This powerplant makes it one of the slowest cars in the class, as CR notes. That said, you may want to go for the upper-level trims to get the quicker 169-hp, four-cylinder. There aren’t many significant changes for 2021 since Toyota redesigned the Corolla for the 2020 model year. However, some owners will appreciate that Android Auto is now standard with Apple CarPlay on the 2021 version.

2021 Mazda3 

A photo of the Mazda3 outdoors.
Mazda3 Sedan | Mazda

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CR’s member data also shows that the Mazda3 is one of the most reliable 2021 compact cars. This Mazda3 got an above-average ranking for dependability, and it has a high owner satisfaction score too. Like the Corolla, the Mazda3 features sedan and hatchback body styles. 

After VW’s Golf, the Mazda3 shines for being one of the sportier models in the segment. The Mazda3 comes with a 186-hp four-cylinder and is one of the few compact cars left with a manual transmission. Though, most buyers will opt for the available six-speed automatic as CR highlights. If you crave more speed, there’s a turbo variant that makes the Mazda3 faster than a BMW. Additionally, you may want to go with the 3 because of the luxurious cabin offerings.