Car Buying Tips

Best Small Cars to Consider in 2024

While SUVs and trucks remain popular with Canadian buyers, the small car market still offers great value and variety. From practical to luxurious to capable and sporty, there is a compact car option for every type of driver.

Sorting through all the choices for a new small car can be overwhelming, so AutoTradera’s team of automotive experts is here to help. As part of our annual AutoTrader Awards, our jury has considered every new small car available for Canadians to buy and voted on the best ones, narrowing down the field to give you a better head start on your research. Alphabetically, here are the five 2024 small cars that got the highest scores from our jury of more than 20 car experts, representing the best cars in this segment that they can feel confident recommending.

2024 Honda Civic Sedan / Civic Hatchback

Canadians are all too familiar with the Civic. Honda’s compact has earned a reputation for providing reliability, value, and efficiency for decades. Whether tackling the daily commute or a weekend road trip, it’s even a joy to drive. The 2024 Civic lineup also touts a wide variety of model choices. The front-wheel drive (FWD) five-passenger Honda is available as both a sedan and a hatchback. Prices start at $26,790 for a Civic Sedan LX-B with a 158-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). You can upgrade to a 180-hp turbocharged 1.5L four, starting with the $34,510 Sedan Touring and the sportier $35,600 Sedan Si, which uses the same engine but with 200-hp and a six-speed manual with a rev-matching feature for smoother downshifts. With cargo space rivalling a small SUV, you can get into a Civic Hatchback Sport CVT starting at $34,130 or $37,600 for the manual. Although limited in quantities, the track-ready Civic Hatchback Type R tops the range, boasting a 315-hp turbo-2.0L four and the manual, starting at $51,330. There is also a Civic Hybrid arriving for the 2025 model year for drivers looking for better efficiency.

2024 Mazda3 / Mazda3 Sport

If you’re interested in a premium small-car driving experience but at mainstream prices, the AutoTrader experts think the Mazda3 delivers. Balancing the automaker’s reputation of athletic driving dynamics with sleek exteriors and upscale interiors, the compact Mazda3 also offers lots of choices with two body styles, two four-cylinder engines, front- or all-wheel drive, and automatic or manual transmissions. With a six-speed automatic mated to a 191-hp 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, prices start at $26,695 for the base Mazda3 GX sedan and $27,445 for the GX Sport hatchback. Traction on all four wheels is available on the GS sedan for $29,195. If you want to shift your gears, the only way to get a manual transmission is the $34,445 Sport GT with FWD and the base engine. Closer in spec to luxury compacts like the Audi A3 or BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, the topline Mazda3 GT AWD trim gets the turbo version of the same engine (250-hp/93 octane, 227-hp/87) for a lot less money than its German brand rivals: $39,395 for the sedan and $40,145 for the hatch.

2024 Subaru Impreza

A new generation of Impreza arrived in 2024. Now available only as a hatchback, the Subaru compact remains an AWD-only proposition, with infotainment technology upgrades, including a larger touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration, and more driver aids. Starting at $26,795, the Impreza is an excellent choice for Canadians looking for an affordable AWD vehicle. A 2.0L four-cylinder engine and a CVT come standard. The sporty new $31,795 RS trim gets the larger 2.5L four (making 182 hp), a manual mode with paddle shifters, and a two-mode AWD system. Our experts found one of the most significant gains is the new Impreza’s outstanding ride quality. With a more rigid body, it’s the most refined version of Subaru’s compact. Softer springs with firmer shock absorbers result in an all-weather compact hatchback that’s comfortable on road trips and capable of curves.

2024 Toyota Prius / Prius Prime

No longer the slow, odd-looking hatchback with good fuel economy, the latest Prius launched last year is quick and sleek. Yes, it still offers superb fuel economy, but there’s now standard AWD on the regular Prius hybrid, plus the return of the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that can be driven up to 72 kilometres using electric power alone. Starting at $37,650, the Prius XLE AWD-e uses Toyota’s familiar 2.0-L four-cylinder engine, electric motor and CVT combo, making much more power than before at 196 hp. The $39,550 plug-in Prius is FWD only, but its hybrid powertrain has 220 hp, delivering quick responses in real-world driving. And the AutoTrader experts discovered the Prius Prime is similarly lively using just the electric motor. So, if drivers want to stay in EV mode as much as possible, the Prius PHEV can still deliver an enjoyable experience.

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI / Golf R

Need to combine your desire for a fun car with the practicality of a daily driver? According to our AutoTrader experts, the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R are the do-it-all sports compacts that stand out among their peers. The Golf GTI/R offers room for five passengers and a decent amount of cargo space in a practical, four-door hatchback shape. The synthesis of eight generations of development has honed the latest sporty compact VW to a level of refinement typically found on pricier German luxury brands, but the VW is still relatively affordable. The front-drive Golf GTI starts at $35,290 with a 241-hp turbocharged 2.0-L four-cylinder. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard, while a six-speed manual is $36,895. If you want more traction and power, the AWD Golf R gets a 315-hp version of the same engine, bigger brakes, and an array of selectable driving modes, including a drift setting that works via a torque-vectoring function for its rear axle. Unlike the GTI, the manual is standard on the base $48,895 Golf R, with the automatic at $50,295.