We’re only a month into Spring, but most of us have already started looking forward to the summer months. Not long from now we’ll be having barbeques outside in peak humidity, baseball will be the only televised sport we’ll care to watch, and kids will try to find summer jobs to eat up some of their free time now that they’re out of school. It’s also almost graduation season, and if you’re a parent whose child is about to graduate high school or college, you may be considering purchasing a car for them so they can get around themselves, be it for college or a new job. And for your kid’s first car, you’ll probably want to consider something safe, cheap, reliable, and easy to get. And nothing exemplifies those attributes more than your everyday compact sedan.
We looked at 5 of the most popular cars in this huge-selling segment—the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus, and Chevrolet Cruze—to see how they match up against each other on CarGurus. Looking at metrics like currently available inventory numbers, average price, and CarGurus’ user reviews, we can get a good sense of how these uber-popular sedans stack against their renown. We know these cars sell well, so let’s see how well they’re represented on CarGurus.
Throughout its 113 years of existence, the Ford Motor Company has marketed few “compact” vehicles to its U.S. customers. That just hasn’t really been the blue oval’s style until recently, when fuel prices and environmental factors guided consumer demand to smaller, more efficient vehicles. The Ford Focus (and its even smaller counterpart, the Ford Fiesta) is probably Ford’s best compact model. Of course, the Focus built its reputation by being a quick and powerful hot hatch, particularly in the form of the Focus ST and powerful new Focus RS. But half of all Ford Focuses on the market are sedans. Focus sedans definitely get a bit of a boost from their hatchback counterpart’s reputation, but they should absolutely be considered. With over 35,000 current Focus sedan listings on CarGurus, finding the right Focus is far from impossible. And with the lowest average listing price among these compact sedans (average listing price for the latest generation is just over $10K), the Focus sedan is certainly worth a look.
The Nissan Sentra was introduced in 1982 as a direct replacement for the Datsun 210, and it was the second model marketed in the U.S. with a Nissan nameplate. The Sentra grew over the years, moving from a subcompact to a compact sedan for the 2000 model year. Although the Sentra maintains its place in the compact segment, it offers so much cargo volume that it technically could be classified as a midsize. And CarGurus users have certainly taken note: The Sentra’s cargo rating greatly exceeds those of comparable cars, with 56% of CarGurus users saying they prefer the Sentra’s size. The Sentra is also on the cheaper end of the compact spectrum, having an average listing price of $11,900 for the 2013 model year. And with over 57,000 Sentra listings on CarGurus, you won’t have to struggle to find one.
The Toyota Corolla is the oldest of the compacts we’re examining. Introduced in 1966 and still going strong in the 2018 model year, the Corolla has consistently been one of the best-selling cars in the world. In fact, the Corolla eclipsed 40 million units sold in 2013. Needless to say, plenty of Corolla inventory is available on CarGurus—more than 70,000 listings as of this post. The Corolla has been the pinnacle of consistent reliability and affordability for a half-century now, so it’s no wonder that this sedan has built itself such a legacy. Still very affordable with an average listing price of $12.5K since the 2012 model year, the Corolla is a strong choice for anyone looking for a car. CarGurus users have given the Corolla recognition, with over 55% of ranking reviews rating it a superior family car.
The Chevrolet Cavalier was GM’s longest lived small family car, in production from 1981 until 2005 (it has since been resurrected in the Chinese market for the 2017 model year). After 24 years, the Cavalier was succeeded by the short-lived Chevrolet Cobalt, which was phased out alongside the Pontiac brand’s retirement in 2010. In its wake GM released the Chevrolet Cruze, the newest of the compact sedans we’re looking at here. A ton of them are available for sale—CarGurus has just about 80,000 current listings. The price of a used Cruze is also pretty reasonable, with an average listing price of just under $12K, so finding a great deal should not be a difficult task. Our users agree: The Cruze has by far the best value ratings, with a staggering 58% of reviews ranking it a better value than competing cars, and 52% of our audience would buy the Cruze over the competition, making it the highest rated car in this group.
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without the Honda Civic, which is by far the most bountifully available compact car on CarGurus. With an exceptional 87,000 listings currently on the site, the Civic has recently become one of the most ubiquitous vehicles on the market. And Honda hasn’t hesitated to take advantage of the Civic’s clout. In addition to the long-running Civic Coupe, Honda has recently released the Civic Hatchback to bring the Civic name to new markets. The Civic also seems to be one of the most well-known cars among CarGurus users, bringing in far more ranking reviews than any other model. Despite its popularity, the Civic is the most expensive of these compact sedans, with an average listing price of $14K since the 2011 model year.
Which compact sedan would you be most likely to buy, and why?
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