Top-Rated 2021 Small Cars in Quality According to Consumers

Jeff Youngs | Aug 31, 2021

Don't let their modest proportions fool you. Many of today's small cars come packed with comfort and convenience features once reserved for luxury models. Indeed, today's compact cars offer an appealing blend of affordability, economy, maneuverability, safety, technology, and a surprising amount of interior space. They're also just about the least expensive way to get a comprehensive new-vehicle warranty and, perhaps most importantly, that coveted new car smell.

2021 Hyundai Accent Teaser

To help consumers make informed car-buying decisions, J.D. Power annually conducts its Initial Quality Study (IQS). The study helps to identify the highest-quality new cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans, according to the people who own them. These verified new-vehicle owners provide valuable feedback on the problems they've experienced with their cars during the first 90 days of ownership. J.D. Power compiles this consumer-provided data, and each model's quality score is reported using "problems per 100 vehicles," or PP100. A lower PP100 score reflects higher vehicle quality.

Below, you'll find the ten highest-rated 2021 small cars in quality according to the people who own them. This list includes models from the Small Car and the Compact Car segments, presented in descending order by PP100 score; the model with the highest quality is at the end.

10. 2021 Hyundai Elantra - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Elantra Sedan Red Front Quarter View

The Hyundai Elantra sedan is all-new for 2021, introducing a sleek new coupe-like roofline, a longer wheelbase, and a wider stance. All versions of the new 2021 Elantra seat five passengers, have a 4-cylinder engine, and feature front-wheel drive.

The new Elantra is available in SE, SEL, and Limited trim levels, and a hybrid variant is available for the first time. A sporty N Line version is also available for those who like a little pep in their small sedan; it replaces the Elantra Sport. The Eco sedan and Elantra GT hatchback are discontinued for 2021.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Hyundai Elantra is 186.

9. 2021 Honda Insight - Find the best Honda deals!

2021 Honda Insight Silver Front Quarter View

With pricing that starts at $23,885 (including the $955 destination charge), the Honda Insight is one of the more affordable hybrids on the market. Available in LX, EX, and Touring trim levels, the Insight features a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor that produces total system output of 151 hp and 197 pound-feet of torque. According to the EPA, the 2021 Insight gets up to 52 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

This year, the Insight EX adds blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. There's also a new color: Radiant Red Metallic.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Honda Insight is 183.

8. 2021 Subaru Impreza - Find the best Subaru deals!

2021 Subaru Impreza Blue Front Quarter View

Last redesigned for the 2017 model year, the Subaru Impreza soldiers into 2021 in four trim levels—Base, Premium, Sport, and Limited—and is available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback body styles. All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard, as is a direct-injected 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 152 horsepower.

For 2021, the Premium trim adds Subaru's SI-Drive selectable drive mode system. Additionally, all Impreza models equipped with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) come standard with EyeSight, Subaru's advanced driving assistance system (ADAS). Models with the CVT also feature a rear-seat reminder system.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Subaru Impreza is 179.

7. 2021 Toyota Corolla - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Corolla Apex Silver Front Quarter View

Toyota's popular Corolla is well known for its reliability, affordability, and value. It is available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback body styles, and both gasoline and hybrid versions are available.

The Corolla sedan, redesigned for the 2020 model year, gets a sporty new Apex Edition and updated safety features for 2021. The Corolla Apex Edition adds a sport suspension, a body kit, and 18-inch wheels. The hatchback, meanwhile, is offered in a sport-themed Special Edition. Additionally, all 2021 Corolla trims add Android Auto compatibility and two additional rear side-impact airbags.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Toyota Corolla is 169.

6. 2021 Honda Civic - Find the best Honda deals!

2021 Honda Civic Sedan Touring Red Front Quarter View

Similar to the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic also enjoys a well-deserved reputation for quality and reliability. And, like the Corolla, the Civic is available in both 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback body styles (the Civic Coupe is discontinued for 2021).

Civic sedans come in LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, and Touring trims, while hatchbacks come in LX, Sport, EX, Sport Touring, and hot-hatch Type R trims. The sporty Civic Si disappears for 2021, but Honda says it will rejoin the all-new 2022 Civic later on in the model year.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Honda Civic is 164.

5. 2021 Nissan Versa - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Versa Blue Front Quarter View

While it doesn't sell in the volumes enjoyed by the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic, the Nissan Versa is still a significant player in the U.S. small car market. Nissan addressed poor safety ratings and inferior technology when it launched a redesigned Versa for the 2020 model year.

The 2021 Nissan Versa sedan is available in S, SV, and sporty SR trims. A 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 122 hp and 114 pound-feet of torque is standard. Versa S buyers can choose between a 5-speed manual transmission or a CVT (the CVT is standard on SV and SR trims).

The PP100 score for the 2021 Nissan Versa is 148.

4. 2021 Nissan Sentra - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Sentra Gray Front Quarter View

Slightly larger than the Versa, the Nissan Sentra sedan was also redesigned for the 2020 model year. Essentially carryover this year, the 2021 Sentra is available in S, SV, and SR trims. Like the Versa, the Sentra now offers a comprehensive suite of ADAS called Nissan Safety Shield 360. A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 149 hp and 146 pound-feet of torque is standard, as is an Xtronic CVT.

For the 2021 model year, enhancements to the Sentra include standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (previously available only on SV and SR), available NissanConnect connected services, and a Wi-Fi hotspot on the SR.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Nissan Sentra is 138.

3. 2021 Chevrolet Spark - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2021 Chevrolet Spark Activ Silver Front Quarter View

Despite its small proportions, the diminutive Chevy Spark offers a surprising amount of interior passenger space. Built in Korea, the 98-hp Spark also features one of the lowest base prices ($14,395, including the $995 destination charge for the LS trim with 5-speed manual transmission) of any new car on the market. It also offers plenty of standard technology, including a Chevrolet infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

The only change for 2021 is two extra-cost exterior paint colors: Cayenne Orange Metallic and Mystic Blue Metallic.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Chevrolet Spark is 130.

2. 2021 Kia Forte - Find the best Kia deals!

2021 Kia Forte Red Front Quarter View

Redesigned for 2019, the Kia Forte is a carryover model for 2021. Lauded for its design and the value it provides, the Forte also offers buyers a great deal of choice. It's available in five trim levels (FE, LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT), with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission, and powered by one of two 4-cylinder engines, including a 1.6-liter turbo making 201 hp. Standard ADAS include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, and a driver monitoring system.

Changes to the 2021 Forte essentially involve newly standard features on some trim levels that were optional in 2020.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Kia Forte is 126. The Forte receives a quality award from J.D. Power in the Compact Car segment.

1. 2021 Hyundai Accent - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Accent Red Front Quarter View

The current generation of the Hyundai Accent has been around since its most recent redesign for 2018, which brought improved performance and dynamics, along with a strengthened structure and quieter ride. Offered in SE, SEL, and Limited trims, the 2021 Accent is powered by a 120-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual or a CVT.

The only change for the 2021 Accent involves exterior paint colors; Urban Gray and Linen Beige disappear, while New Forge Gray joins the palette.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Hyundai Accent is 106. The Forte receives a quality award from J.D. Power in the Small Car segment.

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