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8 of the Best 2020 Compact Cars

Top Compact Cars of 2020

Mazda 3 front 3/4 view

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 cars. By the time MY 2020 arrives, the compact car market in the U.S. will have expanded even further. The Americans are slowly but steadily beginning to embrace the hatchback – more due to necessity than preference – but many a love stories were 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 eligible for this list 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 2020 crossovers and best 2020 hybrid cars lists respectively.

08. 2020 Alfa Romeo GTV

The upcoming all-new 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 new 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 be offered with 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. Sadly, the Italians appear to have pushed the GTV further down on their list of immediate priorities.

The initial coupe models will be joined by convertibles somewhere down the road – by MY 2023 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 might end up bringing to market


07. 2020 Genesis G70 Coupe

It wasn’t long ago that the Genesis lineup was expanded by the all-new G70 entry-level luxury car. The compact executive sedan has 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. At the same time, they’re expected to introduce a coupe version of their smallest offering – the G70.

The 2020 G70 coupe should be exactly what people would 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 motivation 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 G70’s 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 automatic transmission 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
Genesis G70 sedan pictured

06. 2020 Volkswagen Golf

The iconic Golf is not just the largest German automaker’s best-selling model, but also the world’s second best-selling car in history behind the Toyota Corolla. The Mk8 model has finally made its debut in late October, 2019 and has gone on sale in early 2020.

The all-new Golf is underpinned by a revised version of the MQB platform which allows 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 haven’t changed the winning formula from design’s standpoint as the new car resembles the outgoing models.

However, a completely overhauled interior adds a number of new tech and convenience upgrades. A new fully digital driver’s display replaces the outgoing analog unit, while 8.25-inch or optional 10-inch touchscreens stick out from its right side. The new Golf also receives the Travel Assist feature (a semi-autonomous driving system) which still requires one hand on a steering wheel. Needless to say, all the contemporary tech features one can imagine in a compact car are there – whether from the get-go or at a price.

The 2020 Volkswagen Golf also gets a number of new powertrains. The U.S. models are slightly limited in that regard, however. What’s more, the initial selection for 2020 in the U.S. consists exclusively of the performance-oriented Golf GTi and R models which use a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as before. However, the new models make around 250 and 320 horsepower respectively, which is an increase over the outgoing generation. Whether the basic Golf compacts will be available in the U.S. is still on Volkswagen Group’s agenda.

New for the conventional eighth-generation models is a 48-volt mild hybrid system which further increases the entry-level Golf’s fuel economy, but as mentioned above, might not make it to the U.S. If Volkswagen keeps up with its track record regarding the Golf GTi and R, this is likely one of the best 2020 compact cars without a doubt.

2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk8

05. 2020 Mazda 3

Despite making its debut in 2016, the third-generation Mazda 3 has reached its end rather quickly. Due to the introduction of the all-new exciting Skyactiv-X engine technology, the next-gen Mazda 3 has been available as early as of Spring 2019 after making its debut at the LA auto show in November 2018.

Given the fact the Japanese have fully redesigned what’s an already striking car, the 2020 Mazda 3 is arguably one of the more exciting compact cars on the market right now.

It borrows most of its cues from the KAI concept unveiled in Tokyo, in 2017. Furthermore, the new model boast a slightly more upmarket cabin so it can more effectively compete with the entry-level luxury compacts. It’s got much better sound insulation, but we can’t fail but to notice that it’s also got a cheaper torsion beam instead of outgoing model’s multilink rear suspension.

Although it boasts 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 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 178 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque out of it which is more than plenty for an affordable compact.

The initial models still rely on the older 2.5L Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder which develops 186 horsepower, however. The above mentioned powertrain technology should become available later on. The Mazda 3 sedan starts from $21,500, while the hatchback requires an additional $2.100.

Mazda 3 front 3/4 view


04. 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. Like before, 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 took its sweet time, though, as the Japanese have unconventionally opted to first present the hatchback to the American audience. It’s here now, and it starts from around $19,500 before delivery fees – just $640 less than its hatchback counterpart.

Apart from performing better, the 2020 Toyota Corolla is also much better-looking than the outgoing model, thus continuing the trend of gorgeous new small 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 hatchback 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 transmission and an efficient CVT unit with 10 simulated gears and paddle shifters.

The sedan version can be had with the exact same options, but only in the upper-middle class SE trim. Otherwise, it’s mostly offered with a 139-horsepower 1.8L 4-cylinder mill. The sedan can also be had in a hybrid form which uses the same engine but returns up to 52 mpg combined, making the Toyota Corolla hybrid one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market today.

The best-sold car in history is always a safe choice. Even though it’s probably not the best compact car out there, the Corolla is always among the best choices in its class.

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


03. 2020 BMW M3

The long-awaited seventh-generation BMW 3 Series made its first appearance at the 2018 Paris motor show. The late arrival meant we wouldn’t see any of the performance versions during MY 2019. Instead, the M340i made its debut during mid-year 2019, whereas the iconic M3 is slated to arrive sometime during MY 2020.

Internally called G20, the next-gen BMW 3 series is some 120 pounds lighter than its predecessor which helps bolstering its performance. Unlike the conventional models which have long ago traded their souls for volume sales, the 2020 BMW M3 is as exciting as any of its more distant predecessors. Although bigger than the outgoing model, a lower center of gravity help the new car cut through corners with newfound agility. Not to mention all the helping technology.

The 2020 BMW M3 is set to produce 473 horsepower in its base or 503 horses in the Competition form. Both figures are courtesy of its 3.0L twin-turbocharged inline-six mill and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. The frightening numbers themselves are 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.

Meanwhile, the new M3 is available in an all-wheel drive setup for the first time in history. This setup pairs exclusively with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Purist will be happy to know that a 6-speed stick is also available, and with a proper drift-ready rear-wheel drive to boot.

However, the Germans are planning on unveiling the M3 together with the M4, so we’ll have to remain patient for a while yet. 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 front 3/4 view

02. 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

The smallest of the Mercedes-Benz coupes has undergone a full makeover recently. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class, thus sports a redesigned body with a completely revised interior and a number of bonuses to accompany them.

The second-generation CLA Class borrows underpinnings from the A Class sedan which made its U.S. debut during model year 2019. The CLA slots just above the most affordable Merc to date, and rightfully so. Despite many similarities between them, the CLA Class still offers 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 are 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 have found their way to both of these compacts, but there’s only one of them available in the U.S.

A 2.0L turbo four makes 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque in the CLA 250, while the even more recent CLA 35 AMG shows no trouble in generating 302 ponies. That’s not all since there’s an even hotter version of the AMG-tuned CLA Class heading our way. The CLA 45 AMG will squeeze as much as 385 ponies from the same turbo four-banger in base, and 415 ponies in more powerful S form.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA starts from under $35,000, but the most powerful AMG versions will cost much more than that.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 35 AMG

01. 2020 Honda Civic

An integral part of every best compact cars list, the Honda Civic has earned its reputation over the years. Now that the entire lineup has been fully remodeled (sedans and coupes in 2019 and hatchbacks in 2020), the Civic is an even better choice.

Although MY 2020 is 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. A 7-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now finally standard across the range.

The 2020 Honda Civic retains its current powertrain lineup which means it continues 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. The Japanese are working on a Type R replacement, so don’t be afraid it’ll become extinct like its short-lived Focus RS counterpart.

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, stands out as one of the best compact cars 2020 has to offer

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!