2021 Sub-Compact Cars

2018 kia rio

Budget-conscious transportation has never been better, but the field of subcompact cars keeps getting smaller. Although consumers looking for a subcompact car do not have to settle for a strip-out transportation appliance, many manufacturers have abandoned this segment in favor of more profitable and better selling crossovers. But for those who do still want a car, there are some affordable options left with features and amenities that used to be reserved for much larger cars. Six manufacturers still produce subcompact cars that run the gauntlet from coupe, to sedan, to hatchback, to convertible. There's even a few all-electric choices for the environmentally conscious. 

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage Review: Fitness for Purpose

Pros and Cons of Sub-Compact Cars


  • Affordability
  • Perfect for city living
  • Easy to park
  • Fuel-efficient
  • Cheap to insure
  • Easier to maintain


  • Lack features or technology
  • Less comfortable
  • Less spacious and lack storage
  • Overshadowed by larger cars
  • Can be slow

Electric and PHEV Subcompact Cars

With the Nissan LEAF being closer to a compact car in size, there are really only two subcompact electric cars; the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the MINI Cooper SE Electric Hardtop 2 Door. The Bolt EV has a more traditional hatchback design, with seating for five and a small, but usable cargo hold in the back. The Bolt comes with a 200 hp electric motor powering the front wheels and is rated to go upwards of 259 miles on a single charge. 

SEE ALSO: Nissan Leaf vs Chevrolet Bolt: Which EV is Right for You?

The MINI electric is a very different type of EV. First of all, it is a four-seater coupe that has a larger emphasis put on driving enjoyment, claiming to have 100% MINI driving excitement. It's also more a of a city car, intended for shorter trips as it's only rated to go upwards of 118 miles on a single charge.  Power comes from a 181 hp motor driving the front wheels. 

What's New in Subcompact Cars for 2022?

MINI Cooper Hardtop

The MINI lineup received an update for the 2022 model year, which included the Cooper Hardtop models. Available as either a 2-door or a 4-door, the hardtop is a premium subcompact car that emphasizes styling, driving feel, and fun over just being an economical vehicle. Styling inside and out has been updated this year while mechanically the MINI carries-over. 

SEE ALSO: 2022 Mini Cooper Hardtop and Convertible get Facelift, More Tech

That means Cooper models continue to come with a 134 hp turbocharged three-cylinder engine while the Cooper S comes with a 189 hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Those who want more serious performance can still opt for the 228 hp John Cooper Works, but it's only available with the Hardtop 2-door. And while on the topic, the 2-door model can seat 4 passengers while the 4-door can accommodate 5 passengers.
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MINI Cooper Convertible

Once upon a time there were a multitude of subcompact drop-top options. But now, there is just a singular choice, the MINI Convertible. Like the Cooper Hardtop, the Convertible received a refresh this year that includes styling updates inside and out. Based on the Cooper 2-Door, it includes many of the Hardtop's features such as engine choices, seating configurations, and the option to select a full John Cooper Works edition.  Priced at less than $30,000 to start, this is one of the more affordable convertibles on the market, especially when taking into account the fact it has a back seat. 
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Other Highlights from the World of Subcompact Cars

Chevrolet Spark

The Chevrolet Spark's days are numbered as the manufacturer has already confirmed it will be discontinued after this model year is over. So, if you want to grab the most affordable car currently on sale in North America, but hurry before they're all gone. 
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Kia Rio

The Kia Rio was updated last year with minor styling tweaks, but has been on sale in its current form for quite a few years now. Available as either a sedan or hatchback, all versions of the Rio come equipped with a 120 hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a CVT. The hatchback can only be had in one trim while the sedan offers the choice of two trims. 
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Mitsubishi Mirage

Like the Rio, the Mitsubishi Mirage received a refresh last year, but the car dates back further, with this generation having been on sale since the 2014 model year. The car is available as a four-door hatchback or a sedan which is called the Mirage G4. Both vehicles come with a 76 hp 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine and the choice of a 5-speed manual transmission or a CVT. 
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Nissan Versa

The Nissan Versa is a big subcompact car, measuring in at 177-inches of length. Despite its size, the car is indeed a subcompact sedan, reflected in its weight, engine power, and pricing. Entry level cars can be equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission while higher trim levels come exclusively with a CVT. Power for all Versa's comes from a 1.6-liter engine producing 122 hp. If maximum space is wanted in a subcompact car, this is your ride here. 

SEE ALSO: 2021 Nissan Versa Review: First Drive

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Hyundai Accent

The Hyundai Accent can only come as a sedan now, but is offered in multiple trim levels. Powered by a 120 hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder, like its corporate cousin the Kia Rio, it can only be had with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The Accent Limited comes well equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, automatic climate control, and heated front seats.
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