If you don’t need a lot of passenger or cargo space in a vehicle like an SUV or sedan, a compact car might meet your needs well. The typical compact car on today’s market is easy to park and navigate on crowded city streets. They usually offer four-cylinder engines that offer decent power for most situations though they may lag on highways. They also tend to do pretty well when it comes to gas mileage.
2020 Subaru WRX
Ranked eleventh on the U.S. News list of best compact cars, the WRX came in at the bottom of the list for several reasons. Sure, it’s fun to drive. But there are many areas where the competition does it better.
The Subaru WRX isn’t a bad car. It handles well and offers good engine choices. There’s plenty of interior room for adults to ride in comfortable seats, too. The WRX also offers some impressive tech with an easy-to-use infotainment system and several useful driver-assist features. It also comes with an all-wheel-drive standard, which you don’t see a lot in this particular class.
Where does the Subaru WRX come up short? Fuel economy is an issue here, primarily when most compact cars are known for impressive fuel efficiency. It’s part of their appeal.
With the powertrain used by the WRX, it only gets 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The models equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) don’t do as well. The STI models, according to U.S. News, get a dismal 16/22 mpg city/highway.
Up to five people can fit in the 2020 Subaru WRX. It’s comfortable and roomy enough. It just lacks the cabin refinement of its peers. The materials used are neither soft nor upscale. There’s also a distinct lack of standard active safety features.
When you factor in the Subaru WRX’s poor predicted reliability rating, among the worst in its class, you realize there’s not a lot of incentive to buy this particular compact car.
2020 Subaru Impreza
The 2020 Subaru Impreza ranked tenth on the U.S. News list for many of the same reasons the WRX ranked eleventh.
It’s got some strong points. The cabin is roomy and comfortable. The controls and features are user-friendly, and the standard all-wheel-drive is an important selling point.
Now the bad news. Equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Impreza gets 152 horsepower. It’s just not enough engine to pull the weight of this compact car.
The all-wheel-drive adds to the weight of Impreza, which struggles at higher speeds. The transmission is a five-speed manual that, according to U.S. News, shifts efficiently. There’s an available CVT transmission, but it doesn’t perform as well as the manual.
The 2020 Subaru Impreza seats five and comes standard with cloth upholstery. If you want a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and leather, you have to pay more for a better trim level. It’s a comfortable trip for long road trips, and there’s enough space for adults of all sizes. There’s excellent visibility, too.
The materials used in the cabin are underwhelming with some soft-touch features mixed with cheap, hard plastic. When compared to its peers in cabin quality, it just can’t measure up.
The U.S. News list makes it easy to find compact cars that do it better.
The 2020 Honda Civic placed second on the list. It’s available as a coupe, hatchback, and sedan. There are two performance trims, including the Civic Type R, whose engine puts out 306 horsepower to match the 310 horses of the WRX STI. The Civic offers generous cargo space and a cabin with top-shelf materials. The gas mileage you get with the Civic is impressive no matter which body style you select.
At the top of the list is the 2020 Volkswagen GTI. Equipped with a turbocharged engine, the GTI can manage city and highway driving efficiently and handles well. With one of the best cabins in the class, it’s comfortable for long rides and posh with quality, upscale materials. The infotainment system is easy to use, and there’s a lot of high tech and driver-assist features.