Philly Murtha | Aug 01, 2019


How do you find a new small car with the fewest problems and a suggested sticker often below $20,000? One way is to rely on research from the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality StudySM (IQS), which identifies makes and new model-year vehicles with the fewest problems for their buyers or lessees after the first 90 days of ownership.

For 32 years, J.D. Power has surveyed tens of thousands of original buyers and lessees of new cars, trucks, SUVs and vans to evaluate owner-reported problems with design and defects or malfunctions during the first 90 days. A lower problem score indicates higher quality, which J.D. Power finds is a predictor of long-term durability. Based on findings in the IQS study, J.D. Power creates Initial Quality Power Circle ratings, expressed on a 1-5-point scale, with 5 being the highest. Consumers can use these ratings to compare vehicles during their shopping research.

The buyer’s guide features the highest ranking 2019 model-year Small and Compact Cars from major brands. Each receives an overall initial quality rating of 4 or 5 out of a possible 5, and are listed in alphabetical order.

2019 Chevrolet Cruze

Refreshed for its final year in the market, the 2019 Chevy Cruze, offered as sedan or hatchback, includes an all-new 7-in. infotainment system along with a styling updates including a larger front grille and new headlamps. A fuel-efficient turbo-diesel engine is still available along with the standard 1.4-liter, 4 cylinder engine.

Last redesigned for 2016, Cruze is built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Volt. Both models will be discontinued this year.

The 2019 Chevrolet Cruze receives an Initial Quality score of 4 out of 5. 

2019 Hyundai Accent

Hyundai redesigned the Accent last year to enhance cabin comfort, safety features and fuel economy. For 2019, a fifth-generation midlevel SEL trim small car sports alloy wheels and has a better sound system. Automated emergency braking and a 7-in. touchscreen infotainment system are optional. Accent is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 130 horses partnered with 6-speed manual or automatic. For 2020, look for an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) for better fuel economy. 

The 2019 Hyundai Accent Small Car or subcompact receives an Initial Quality score of 4 out of 5.

2019 Hyundai Elantra

New looks with an updated geometric hood, pleated fenders, sharp grille and linear headlights along with new trunk lid and taillights add pizazz to the redone 2019 Hyundai Elantra 5-seat compact sedan. Advanced driver assistance systems such as collision warning and lane-keep assist are offered on several of six trims. The sixth-generation Elantra comes with a choice of three 4-cylinder engines and manual or automatic transmissions.

The 2019 Hyundai Elantra receives an Initial Quality score of 5 out of 5.

2019 Hyundai Veloster

Unique and expressive, the 3-door 2019 Hyundai Veloster Coupe is completely redone and still boasts a compelling, sporty hatchback look. Smartphone connectivity and automatic emergency braking are standard. This sporty small car is available with a turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine that makes 201 horsepower when mated with a 6-speed manual.

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster receives an Initial Quality score of 4 out of 5.

2019 Kia Forte

Kia’s sleek design cues create a bolder 2019 Kia Forte. Last redone in 2010, the 2019 Forte’s power comes from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with a CVT that can produce 147 horsepower. Only the base EX trim is available with a manual. A plus: quiet cabin and more trunk space for a compact. A suite of safety features are available. 

The 2019 Kia Forte receives an Initial Quality score of 5 out of 5 and also earns an Initial Quality award in the Compact Car category.

2019 Kia Rio

Although the 2019 Kia Rio’s base EX trim is gone, remaining LX and S trims contain revised feature additions. Revamped just a year ago, the 2019 Small Car’s S trim includes a 7-in. touchscreen, smartphone connectivity, cruise and keyless entry. An advanced driver assistance systems package is optional. Rio is offered as a sedan or 5-door hatchback.

The 2019 Kia Rio receives an Initial Quality score of 5 out 5 and also merits an Initial Quality award in the Small Car segment.

2019 Mini Cooper

Little has changed on the 2019 Mini Cooper 3- and 5-door hatches and 2-door convertible since 2016. Mini upholds its British heritage with standard Union Jack tail lights. More safety features are standard including rearview camera and park-assist sensors. Customization is key with more exterior and interior combinations available and there’s a larger touchscreen infotainment system. Two turbocharged 3- and 4-cylinder engines carry over from 2018.

The 2019 Mini Cooper receives an Initial Quality score of 5 out 5 and also earns an Initial Quality award in the Compact Sporty Car segment.

2019 Toyota Corolla

A world best-seller for decades, the 2019 Toyota Corolla 4-door compact sedan is listed with a suggested base sticker under $20,000. For 2019, Toyota introduces a 5-door hatchback that is built on the next Corolla’s new architecture. The hatch is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 168 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque, mated with a 6-speed manual. The new Corolla hatch, replaces the former Scion iM, but features retuned handling plus more technology.

The 2019 Corolla sedan, which seats 5, is still powered by a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine partnered with a CVT. Expect an all-new Corolla sedan in 2020, with a hybrid variant.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla receives an Initial Quality score of 5 out of 5.

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