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What Is a Compact Car? Know More about It!

  • Cars Explained
  • Gerard Stevens
  • 6 minutes

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What are the factors that you consider while buying a car? Mostly it will be a reasonable sticker price, good fuel economy, large enough cargo holds, etc. Then compact automobiles will be the most suitable car type, despite their old-fashioned reputation. But exactly what is a compact car? 

Compact cars are North American vehicles that fall within the mid-size and subcompact vehicle classes. Like other passenger cars, compact cars have recently seen a decline in market share at the hands of crossovers. This segment has hatchbacks and sedans, some of which come in body types and a few all-wheel-drive versions. Even some carmakers provide enthusiast-focused variants with manual transmissions and more potent engines. 

Keep reading to know about what is a compact car! 

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What is a compact car? 

The definition depends on whom you ask this question. Compact cars are typically hatchbacks or sedans that fall between the subcompact and mid-size price ranges. The definition then changes depending on a few factors.  

A compact car must meet these requirements to fulfill the US Code of Federal Regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

  • It must have enough room for up to four passengers to sit comfortably 
  • Has a joint internal volume for passengers and freight between 100-109 cubic feet 
  • Varies in length from 161-187 inches 

The brands that sell it 

Most mainstream Japanese, Korean, and German automakers still sell small cars. At the same time, Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, and Chrysler have quit the compact-car market to focus on larger cars. Among the most popular compact car models are the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and Hyundai Elantra, but the Honda Insight, Kia Forte, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Jetta also fall into this category. 

What is the size of a compact car? 


Currently, the longest compact car has a length of 186 inches, although hatchback variations can be significantly shorter. Most cars have at least 12 cubic feet of storage capacity behind the back seats. Hatchbacks frequently sacrifice a passenger room to have greater cargo capacity than sedans. Although most compact cars have four doors and five seats, some may feel jam-packed in the back. 

How much does a compact car cost? 

It depends on the model you buy. With a starting price of $19,790, the Subaru Impreza is one of the most reasonably priced compact cars in 2022. Other sedans start in the low $20,000s. Hatchback and hybrid variants are slightly more expensive. Compact cars that come well-equipped can cost more than $30,000 and may feature heated seats, digital gauges, and adaptive cruise control.  

Some even offer head-up displays and enhanced connectivity options, including using your mobile phone as a key. The Subaru WRX and WRX STI, Honda Civic Si and Type R, Hyundai Elantra N, Volkswagen Jetta GLI, Golf GTI, and Golf R are a few sportier ones in the segment. The price ranges between $26,000-$40,000.  

Advantages of a compact car 

Compared to mid-sized vehicles, they have several advantages. 

  • They are easier to drive and park because they are smaller and consume less fuel. They are an excellent option if you want a good urban car. 
  • They are more affordable than mid-sized cars, making them the natural choice for people on constricted budgets. 
  • These cars are getting more spacious and comfortable, so choosing one over something a bit larger won’t require you to sacrifice too much luxury. 
  • A compact may not be the best option if you have a large family or require more space for long trips. Still, their advantages encourage many to buy one over a larger car! 

Fuel economy of these cars 

Even non-hybrid cars in this segment get about 30 mpg in the city and around 40 mpg on the highway. Compact hybrid cars average 50 mpg or more, while higher-performance, sporty models have a fuel economy below 30 mpg. 

What is a subcompact car? 


The EPA classifies a car as a subcompact if it has a combined passenger and cargo volume of 85-99 cubic feet. However, categorizing cars based on their interior space can be misleading. Subcompact cars of today resemble older compact cars in size. They are 157-165 inches long and can hold up to five passengers, while others hold up to four. These cars are cheap and are typically less expensive to insure and repair.  

What is the difference between compact and subcompact cars? 

Cargo and passenger room are the main differences between a subcompact and a compact car: Both are less in subcompact cars, whereas the other has a bit more. One thing to think about is the possibility that you won’t want a compact or subcompact if you frequently transport passengers or luggage. 

Is a compact car best for you? 

It depends on what you need. You can buy a compact car if you’re looking for these.  

  • Suppose you’re going alone or with no more than three other people for short distances. Although four more passengers can travel comfortably in compact cars, it’s typically a very tight fit 
  • People who require fuel-efficient cars with great gas efficiency and enough room to comfortably carry one or two people’s belongings 
  • Those in need of top-notch passenger cars that you can also use for trips to locations nearby the city 

Alternatives to compact cars 

Depending on your demands, you may need to switch from a compact car to another rental. You should look for another car for the following reasons. 

  • You need to transport more than four people, especially on long trips. For instance, driving cross-country in a compact car can be challenging. 
  • You have numerous kids and tons of materials for their school, extracurricular activities, and hobbies. It lack sufficient cargo space to transport that much equipment safely. 
  • Without constantly renting cars, you want to be able to go on road excursions or camping trips. You won’t get a large trunk for camping equipment or long trips with a compact sedan. 

Getting an auto insurance 

You’ll need cheap car insurance for whichever car you buy. But getting one won’t be that easy. But you can easily get one via Way.com! Use our app or website to get quotes from multiple insurance companies. Then, compare and buy the most affordable one with ample coverage and discounts! 

Save on your compact car auto insurance policy via Way.com

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