Mazda Kai concept offers a preview of the new Mazda 3 - one of the best compact cars 2020 is bringing our way

Best 2020 Compact Cars

Top Compact Cars of 2020

Published August 24, 2018

After compiling the lists of the most anticipated compact cars for 2018 and 2019, it’s now time to delve deeper into the matter and bring you the list of the best 2020 compact cars heading our way. The affordable car market is currently at its all-time peak with all different manner of compacts ranging from the Japanese appliance, over entry-level luxury, to performance compacts. By the time MY 2020 arrives, the compact car market in the U.S. is bound to expand even further. The Americans are slowly but steadily beginning to embrace the hatchback – more due to necessity than preference – but many a love story was actually sparked that way. Regardless, most compacts here are still sedans, and that trend should remain intact for a considerable amount of time. Despite losing in popularity due to the rapid increase of crossover sales, conventional compact cars are still a major part of the American way of life.

Before we move on to the actual list of the best compact cars 2020 will bring to market, let us first clarify what we consider compact cars to be. We won’t discriminate on the basis of class. In other words, both affordable and luxury badges are being taken into account. On the other hand, we’ve decided to leave out all the crossovers which leaves us with only the good old-fashioned proper-ground-clearance vehicles to consider. Finally, we’ve also excluded the hybrid and all-electric exclusive compacts. Both the compact crossovers and compact hybrid and electric cars have already been accounted for in our best crossovers 2020 will bring to market and best hybrid cars 2020 will have to offer lists, respectively.

2020 Alfa Romeo GTV

The upcoming all-new 2020 Alfa Romeo GTV won’t be the first Alfa to wear the GTV (Gran Turismo Veloce) moniker. What appears to be a 2-door Giulia will instead try and further the illustrious GTV nameplate that strutted its stuff between 1993 and 2004 as a model of its own, and on numerous other occasions as a performance version of the iconic Alfas from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Most notably, the Alfa 2000 GTV from 1971 to 1976 and the Alfetta GTV between 1980 and 1987. The upcoming compact executive coupe should sport just enough room at the rear, so it doesn’t get branded a 2+2. In other words, it’ll be more cramped than the Giulia, but otherwise very similar in terms of overall size and design. After all, the GTV won’t borrow the Giulia’s Giorgio platform for no reason. Unlike the tamed non-Quadrifoglio Giulia, though, the 2020 Alfa Romeo GTV is supposed to compete with the most powerful compacts on the market at the moment.

This it should be able to do thanks to a whopping 600-horsepower 2.9L twin-turbocharged V6 engine otherwise available with the Giulia and Stelvio Quadrifoglio. You’ll note that the GTV’s powerplant boasts around 100 ponies more which is courtesy of its hybrid add-ons. Additionally, the scaled-down version of the compact executive coupe will probably sport the Giulia’s 2.0L turbo four cranking up a healthy 280 horsepower. A mandatory all-wheel-drive system and torque vectoring will likely only be available in the range-topping Quadrifoglio models, whereas the entry-level GTV should offer them as options. MY 2020 is actually the earliest possible time frame we could expect the Alfa GTV to arrive. The initial coupe models will be joined by convertibles somewhere down the road – by MY 2022 at the latest. Expect them to start in the high $40k range and cost as much as $85,000 with that four-leaf-clover sticking from the front quarter panel. You may very well be looking at one of the fastest, sexiest, and best compact cars 2020 has in store for us.

2020 Alfa Romeo GTV is one of the best compact cars 2020 will bring to market

2020 Genesis G70 Coupe

The Genesis lineup has just been expanded by the all-new G70 entry-level luxury car. The compact executive sedan is set to further cut the already affordable prices of Hyundai’s newfound premium division while continuing to offer a great value for money. What’s more, the Koreans will further expand the Genesis lineup with long-awaited crossovers. Before that, however, they’ll first introduce a coupe version of their smallest offering – the G70. The 2020 G70 coupe will be exactly what people expect from it – a slightly more cramped version of the sedan with an otherwise very similar equipment package. Despite that, it’s still one of the most anticipated upcoming compacts for MY 2020.

Just like its sedan counterpart, the 2020 Genesis G70 coupe, too, will find inspiration in a duo of exciting powertrains. The entry-level models will be powered by a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder capable of putting up 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, whereas the more performance-oriented G70s should benefit from company’s 3.3L twin-turbo V6 that cranks up as much as 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. Rear-wheel drive will remain standard across the board with all-wheel drive carrying on as an option. Moreover, we can also hope the Koreans will decide to offer a 6-speed manual as well as they do in the sedan. If not, there’s at least a contemporary 8-speed auto setup that’s standard in the G70 sedan. Finally, the 2020 Genesis G70 coupe will also retain the sedan’s sporty setup consisting of an optional mechanical limited-slip rear differential, Brembo discs, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, effectively making it one of the more exciting entry-level premium compacts out there.

2019 Genesis G70 sedan offers a preview of what the 2020 Genesis G70 coupe will look like

2019 Genesis G70 sedan pictured

2020 Volkswagen Golf

The iconic Golf is not just the German company’s best-selling model, but also the world’s second best-selling car in history behind the Toyota Corolla. Currently, in the dying years of its seventh generation, the 2020 Volkswagen Golf will almost certainly become the inaugural Mk8 model. The all-new Golf will be underpinned by a revised version of the MQB platform which should allow it to adopt a number of engineering and design tweaks found in other recently introduced Volkswagens, like the Arteon and new Jetta. Otherwise, the Germans are still keeping the next-gen Golf under wraps. They’ve even used the Mk7 model’s body over the next-gen car’s underpinnings for the initial testing. However, more pronounced wheel arches hint at the fact the new model will probably be slightly wider and longer than the Mk7. Needless to say, it’ll also sport a completely overhauled interior with a number of new features included.

The 2020 Volkswagen Golf will also get a number of new powertrains. The U.S. models will be slightly limited in that regard, however. It’s expected for the outdated 1.8L turbocharged 4-cylinder to finally bow down and possibly give way to the smaller 1.4L turbo four making 147 horsepower in the all-new 2019 Jetta. Otherwise, the performance version will keep their 2.0L turbo fours. New for the eighth-generation is a 48-volt mild hybrid system which should further increase the entry-level Golf’s fuel economy. The world’s most popular hatchback is set to roll off the Wolfsburg assembly lines in June 2019 as a 2020 year model. Knowing how punctual the Germans are, this is exactly when you can expect the new Golf to arrive. If Volkswagen keeps up with its track record regarding the Golf and GTi, this is likely one of the best 2020 compact cars without a doubt.

2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk8 - Nürburgring test mule wearing the Mk7 body panels

Nürburgring test mule wearing the Mk7 body panels

2020 Mazda 3

Despite making its debut in 2016, the third-generation Mazda 3 is actually already nearing its end. Due to the introduction of the all-new exciting Skyactiv-X engine technology, the next-gen Mazda 3 will arrive as early as during MY 2019. This would make the 2020 Mazda 3 one of the more exciting compact cars on the market. Especially since the Japanese are preparing a whole new body for what’s an already striking car. The mesmerizing fourth-gen Mazda 3 is set to debut at the LA motor show in November 2018 before going on sale in early 2019. It’ll borrow most of its cues from the KAI concept unveiled in Tokyo last year. Furthermore, the new model will boast a slightly more upmarket cabin so it can more effectively compete with the entry-level luxury compacts.

Although it’ll boast a number of exciting new features, none of them are as exciting as the new Skyactive-X engine tech. The new Mazda Skyactive-X powertrain should boast a gasoline engine’s performance coupled with a diesel engine’s fuel efficiency. It’s based on the SCCI or Spark Controlled Compression Ignition. The new Mazda engine uses spark plugs as a controlling factor in order to achieve consistent combustion. In other words, the Skyactive-X engine effectively operates in two separate states – each with its already mentioned strong points. The Japanese are hoping to squeeze as much as 190 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque out of it which is more than plenty for an affordable compact. Considering all of the above stated, the new Mazda 3 might just become one of the best compact cars 2020 is bringing our way.

Mazda Kai concept offers a preview of the new Mazda 3 - one of the best compact cars 2020 is bringing our way

Mazda Kai concept

2020 Ford Focus Active

Like many compact cars on the market, the Ford Focus too is ready for an extensive makeover. The fourth-gen Focus has already been unveiled prior to its debut as a 2019-year model. At least across the Atlantic. The U.S.-spec Focus isn’t due before MY 2020, and it might leave a number of American Focus fans disappointed when it finally arrives. The way things stand right now, the U.S.-spec Focus lineup will be limited to a single model. Moreover, it’s the one previously unavailable – not only here – but anywhere else. The new 2020 Ford Focus Active isn’t your average compact Focus hatchback, but more of a pseudo-crossover like the Subaru Crosstrek. Extra ground clearance will allow it to traverse some off-road terrains, but don’t expect any serious off-roading capabilities. Unlike the European models produced in Germany, the U.S.-spec Focus will be imported from China.

Furthermore, the new Blue Oval’s passenger cars strategy for the U.S. says the Focus Active will remain the only Ford car available here aside from the Mustang. In other words, start waving The Fiesta, Fusion, and Taurus goodbye, as they’ll soon become a thing of the past. The 2020 Ford Focus Active, on the other, hand, is here to stay. The same cannot be said about the new Focus ST and RS performance versions of the compact car, however. The powertrain lineup hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the most likely candidate at this point would have to be a 1.5L EcoBoost 4-cylinder good enough for either 148 or 180 horsepower. The Focus Active also gets front and rear skid plates to protect it from unwanted terrain impacts alongside its 1.18-inches higher ground clearance. It should be priced just above the outgoing Focus hatchback when it finally arrives to showrooms.

2020 Ford Focus Active front 3/4 view

2020 Toyota Corolla

The twelfth-generation Toyota Corolla which was unveiled at the 2018 New York auto show owes most of its cues to the Euro-spec Toyota Auris. Unlike the above mentioned Ford Focus, however, the U.S.-spec Corolla can be had in both the hatchback and sedan forms, thus resisting the urge to become caught in no man’s land between the hatch and a crossover. The Corolla sedan is due to arrive later, though, as the Japanese have unconventionally opted to first present the hatchback to the American audience. In other words, the Toyota Corolla lineup is set to be completed in time for MY 2020, if not earlier. Apart from performing better, the 2020 Toyota Corolla is also much better-looking than the outgoing model, thus continuing the trend of gorgeous new compact cars which might be affordable, but are now far from cheap-looking.

The Japanese have opted not to go into an all-out turbocharged mode, hence the twelfth-gen Corolla sports a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower. Regardless, it still makes 31 ponies more than the outgoing Corolla iM hatchback did with its 1.8L engine. The good news is that the new Corolla hatch offers a choice between an enthusiastic 6-speed manual gearbox and an efficient CVT unit with 10 simulated gears and paddle shifters. It remains to be seen whether the sedan version gets to enjoy them as well. The best-sold car in history is always a safe choice. Even though it’s definitely not the best compact car out there, the Corolla is always among the best choices in its class. It’ll also be one of the best 2020 compact cars, as it always does.

Toyota Corolla will, naturally, be one of the best compact cars 2020 has in store for us

2020 BMW M3

The long-awaited seventh-generation BMW 3 Series is supposed to make its first appearance at the 2018 Paris motor show. The late arrival means we won’t see any of the performance versions during MY 2019. Instead, the M340i should make its debut during mid-year 2019, whereas the iconic M3 won’t arrive prior to MY 2020. Internally called G20, the next-gen BMW 3 series will be some 120 pounds lighter than the outgoing model which should help bolster its performance. Unlike the conventional models which have long ago traded their souls for volume sales, the 2020 BMW M3 should be as exciting as any of its predecessors. Although bigger than the outgoing model, a lower center of gravity should help the new one cut through corners with newfound agility. Not to mention all the helping technology.

The 2020 BMW M3 is set to produce as much as 493 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of twist or thereabouts. Courtesy of its 3.0L twin-turbocharged inline-six mill and a 48-volt mild hybrid system this time. The frightening numbers themselves should be a testament enough of the German automaker’s intentions to put the next-gen M3 where it belongs. It’s been about time for quite a while, if you ask me. However, the final product still hasn’t been caught testing, so we’ll have to wait patiently before any relevant info gets caught. Whatever happens, expect the prices to rise due to the newly imposed auto tariff on imports, which the BMW M3 certainly is. And here we thought $66,500 was already as steep as it gets!

BMW 3 Series test mule

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

The smallest of the Mercedes-Benz coupes is getting ready for a full makeover. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class will, thus sport a redesigned body with a completely revised interior and a number of bonuses to accompany them. The second-generation CLA Class will borrow the A Class sedan’s underpinnings which will make its U.S. debut during MY 2019. The CLA will slot just above the most affordable Merc to date, and rightfully so. Despite many similarities between them, the CLA Class will still offer a more substantial amount of tech goodies and a slightly more upmarket cabin than its A Class counterpart. The all-new MBUX dual-screen infotainment system is one of those upmarket features.

The same can be said about their respective powertrains. Both the CLA and A Class models will be powered by a somewhat small lineup of engines – at least for an automaker of Mercedes-Benz’s pedigree. A number of differently tuned 4-cylinder mills should find their way to both of these compacts, but there’s apparently one important difference. The range-topping AMG models will deliver more than 400 horsepower in the CLA Class, whereas the A Class sedan would have to settle for around 300 ponies from the same 2.0L twin-turbo engine. Prices and the exact date of arrival are still subject of speculation, but the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class shouldn’t cost much more than a similarly outfitted 2019 A Class.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class test mule

2020 Honda Civic

An integral part of every best compact cars list, the Honda Civic has earned its reputation over the years. Despite being the only model whose makeover still hasn’t been announced for MY 2020, the Civic will still be a great choice regardless. Although MY 2020 could be its fifth year of running on the tenth-generation setup, current models are spacious, comfy, quality-built, and fuel efficient. In other words, they’re everything a prospective compact car buyer wants them to be. The Japanese automaker’s hand might get forced into an early redesign, however, since major competitors all seem to be heading that way. In that case, the 2020 Honda Civic can only get better than it already is. Considering the popular compact has already undergone a mild facelift for MY 2019, the latter scenario is highly unlikely.

The 2020 Honda Civic will retain its current powertrain lineup which means it’ll continue with a 2.0L naturally aspirated inline-four and a turbocharged 1.5L four banger in upper tiers. The former generates 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque, whereas the latter makes 174 ponies and either 167 or 162 lb-ft depending on the choice of transmission. The performance Civic Si coupe, on the other hand, squeezes as much as 205 ponies and 192 lb-ft of torque from the smaller turbo mill. Finally, the ultimate Civic Type R uses a turbocharged version of the larger 2.0L engine for as much as 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Whether the hot hatch will be there in 2020 remains to be seen, however. Apart from a number of performance grades, the Honda Civic can also be had in sedan, hatchback, and coupe forms. Coupled with its other strong points mentioned above, it’s no wonder the Civic has been one of the best-selling cars in the U.S. for years. Also, it’s no wonder we’ve decided to list it among the best 2020 compact cars heading our way.

Honda Civic, as always, should be one of the best compact cars 2020 will bring to market

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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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