The Most Satisfying Small Cars Under $35,000

Owner satisfaction is best determined by how likely drivers would buy the car in question again. This doesn’t mean that the car doesn’t have flaws, but that its overall value supersedes everything else. Check out the most satisfying small cars under $35,000 that Consumer Reports’ members would buy again based on offered reliability, safety, and comfort.

Toyota Prius

Would Buy Again: 83%

There’s a lot to love above the 2020 Toyota Prius. It offers a responsive driving experience and extreme comfort. It consistently ranks highly among consumers for its expected reliability, transmission performance, and fuel economy.

The current model gets an outstanding 50 miles-plus mpg and the acceleration is starting to pack a bigger punch than its predecessors. This year’s model also offers an all-wheel-drive variant that Toyota has dubbed AWD-e. Inside, you get an easy to use infotainment system that’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Apple Carplay, but not Android Auto.

Toyota Prius Prime

Would Buy Again: 79%

What’s the difference between the Prius and the Prius Prime you might ask? The answer is that the Prius Prime can be plugged in for faster charging and can drive up to 25 mph on electricity alone. This version also offers a glossier looking cabin and better overall value because of its larger infotainment touchscreen and plug-in capabilities.

Hyundai Ioniq

Would Buy Again: 79%

Hyundai’s Ioniq is a direct response to the Toyota Prius and is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. For 2020, the Ioniq has a combined 52 mpg and an adequate all-electric range. This model also offers more standard safety features and driving aids. To top it off, the freshened styling from the inside out, coupled with enhanced in-car electronics makes for a better buy. The main gripe about this model though is its lack of agility. 

Hyundai Elantra GT

Would Buy Again: 77%

This Hyundai model is known for its exterior European-esque design and complementary stylish interior cabin. The Elantra GT packs in a ton of great safety features that come standard, plus the user-friendly infotainment system that we have come to expect from Hyundai.

Another plus is that this hatchback offers ample cargo space, but it does take away from having a more spacious backseat. It is generally reliable and fun to drive but the base model’s acceleration leaves much to be desired. The fuel economy is pretty decent though.

Volkswagen Golf

Would Buy Again: 76%

The Volkswagen Golf is among the original well-bred hatchbacks. It’s both fun to drive and responsive. The Golf can easily maneuver in and out of tight spaces and there’s an optional AWD available. Its turbo four-cylinder engine contributes to a higher fuel economy and it also has received high marks for its level of comfort, value, and minimizing noise outside the cabin.

Unlike the Elantra, the Golf doesn’t comprise on backseat space for cargo space. The hatchback actually offers almost the same trunk space as compact crossovers do. All good things aside, most 2020 Golf owners find the headlights to be much too low which is troublesome.