The 12 Best Small Cars in Canada

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 06 Jul 2023

a person holding a toy car

Small cars come with big advantages. They usually cost less to operate, which makes sense seeing as you’re using the same amount of fuel to transport less weight. And they’re ideal for city driving; you’ll handle narrow roads with ease and have less trouble parking. And, finally, they make less of a dent to the planet’s climate in the process.

You may have already made up your mind about getting a small car, which leaves you with one question to answer – what are the best small cars Canada offers? Discover our top 12 so you can find the right compact for your needs.

Are Small Cars Cheap to Insure in Canada?

Before digging into the cars, let’s look at operating costs. Specifically, you may want to know if you’re going to pay less for insurance premiums when you have a small car than if you have a large one. And the general answer is “yes,” with a caveat. Insurers take factors beyond the car itself into account, including your driving record and where you live, so having a small car isn’t a guarantee of cheaper insurance.

But it helps, as research from My Choice indicates. It found that the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Honda Civic, and several other compacts are among the cheapest 14 cars to insure in Ontario. Spoiler alert – those cars (and several others on My Choice’s list) are among the best small cars Canada has.

The 12 Best Small Cars Canada Offers

Though lower insurance costs are a plus for many compact cars, you want to consider performance when looking for the best small cars Canada offers. These 12 come out on top, though, for different reasons.

Honda Civic Hatchback – Best Small Car for Reliability

You’re not getting anything truly spectacular with the Civic Hatchback, though you do get one of the most popular makes Canada has ever seen. It’s only recently that the Civic fell off its lofty perch as the country’s best-selling car. But the reason it stayed there for so long (and remains high) is that it’s a reliable runner that is friendly on the budget and doesn’t cost a lot to maintain.

The 2023 model is clean and simple, with the base model having a solid 158-horsepower engine. That’s enough to get the job done, though it’s not the snappiest of compacts. And its five-star rating from the NHTSA shows you’re getting a car that gets you where you need to go and keeps everyone inside as safe as possible.

Starting Price$32,093.50

Mazda 3 Sport GX – Best Sporty Small Car

Sleek style is what you get with this sporty little hatchback, which packs a 155-horsepower engine that can achieve 7.8 litres per 100km. And for the price, you get some premium features, including rear side airbags and an attractive trim that emphasizes the car’s sportiness.

Upgrading to the GS or GT models gives you stronger engines, though at a higher price, and minimal changes to the design. But the solid four-cylinder engine in the base GX model is more than enough to power this small car to good speeds over short distances.

Starting Price$22,900

Toyota Corolla Hatchback – Best Small Hatchback

How does a car that seems so small on the outside have such a roomy interior? That’s the question you’ll ask with the Corolla Hatchback, but the enormous amount of space makes it the perfect hatchback for family driving.

A solid engine delivers 169 horsepower, and it’s a nice looker, though not so overly styled that it’s distracting. And the fact that it can seat five people without any space issues makes it a superb hatchback.

Starting Price$26,604.50

Volkswagen Jetta – Best Compact Sedan

Sedans tend to skirt the line between small and large, but the Jetta does so expertly by delivering a compact experience with plenty of space. The cockpit is the real standout, giving both driver and front passenger more than enough legroom. Rear passengers aren’t left out, but that front section is the best feature.

The quality of the interior doesn’t quite match the space it offers, and it’s clear that this isn’t a premium vehicle. But the budget-friendly starting price combined with fuel economy of 7 litres per 100km (in the manual model) makes up for its few shortcomings.

Starting Price$25,760

Infiniti Q50 – Best Small Car for Speed

The attractive style makes the Infiniti Q50 a contender as one of the best small cars Canada offers in the luxury segment. But though it misses out there (see below), it excels in the engine department thanks to a turbo-V-6 that comes as standard. That engine gives you 300 horsepower, making this a great choice for compact lovers who want more speed.

Unfortunately, the interior doesn’t quite match the style you see from the outside. And the infotainment centre could do with an update, though it’s still perfectly serviceable.

Starting Price$48,741

Toyota Prius – Best Small Car for Fuel Economy

A staggering 4.7 to 4.8 litres per 100km. That’s the main selling point for the Prius, which is a small hybrid car that saves you money over time. Non-hybrids in the same category tend to fall into the seven or eight-litre category, making this the car of choice for the environmentally conscious. Just be aware that you’ll pay a premium price for that fuel efficiency.

The compact nature of the car comes with some downsides, not least the least of which are cargo space and headroom, though those are to be expected. But they’re easy sacrifices to make when you see your fuel bills drop almost immediately.

Starting Price$39,864.50

Subaru Impreza – Best All-Wheel Small Car

There’s a good reason why Subaru’s souped-up versions of the Impreza are so popular in rally driving – they’re all-wheel behemoths. The base model of the 2023 edition doesn’t disappoint in that area, offering all-wheel drive as standard with plenty of safety features. The automatic version comes with Subaru’s EyeSight tech, which monitors road conditions and the distance of other cars, though you don’t get it with the manual version.

It’s not a perfect car. The fuel efficiency isn’t great, and the engine only offers 152 horsepower, showing that this isn’t the version of the Impreza that impresses so much on rally circuits. But if you’re tackling tough terrain, it’s one of the best small cars Canada offers.

Starting Price$25,466

Mitsubishi Mirage – Best Budget Small Car

Check the starting price for the Mirage, and it’s easy to see why it’s up there with the best small cars Canada has for people on a budget. The base model costs less than $15,000 (over $7,000 less than the next cheapest car on this list), and it has a solid 3.2 litres per 100km. Throw in a 10-year warranty, and it’s even cheap to handle repairs.

But that modest price is on full display in the interior. Plus, you’re not going to use this vehicle to hit top speeds on the highway. As a cost-effective, compact car for the city, it does wonders. But you’ll be left wanting for power for any drives more demanding than that.

Starting Price$14,298

Kia Forte – Best Small Car for Warranty

Kia has one of the best warranties in the business, even if it’s not necessarily the longest. The Forte is backed by a pair of eight-year/130,000km to 150,000km warranties on any emissions and hybrid components. You also get five-year warranties to cover roadside assistance, the powertrain, and practically the whole vehicle, with a final one-year warranty for minor adjustments to bulbs, brake pads, and similar items.

So you’re well covered, even if the car isn’t great at handling hills. Throw in decent fuel efficiency and a nice sporty look, and you get a solid small car that leaves you with few operational worries.

Starting Price$23,183

Best Small Convertible – 2023 Mini Convertible

The Mini Cooper goes convertible with this version, which is ideal for anybody who enjoys the wind in their hair while driving. And taking down the top doesn’t affect this Mini’s handling. You’ll get the same tight grip on the road as you get from the standard Cooper, only with a more open sensation of speed.

But sometimes sacrifices need to be made if you enjoy such a small convertible, and those sacrifices come in the form of near-non-existent cargo space when you have the top down. But given that style supersedes function with a convertible, you’re likely fine with that issue if you’re considering this car.

Starting Price$40,590

BMW 3 Series – Best Luxury Small Car

Peruse the top end of the market for the best small cars Canada offers, and you’ll find the luxurious BMW 3 Series. It’s extremely spacious given its size, and you’ll note superb build quality no matter where you look. The seats are supportive, the interior consoles are well-placed – there’s simply nothing that feels “cheap” in this car.

That luxuriousness extends to the ride, which is both smooth and powerful thanks to a trio of drivetrains. Granted, at about 4.7 metres, it stretches the definition of a “small car,” though it’s also not quite long enough to be considered large. It’d also be nice to see better performance than the 8.3 litres per 100km in the base model.

Starting Price$55,000

Honda CR-V – Best Small SUV

“SUV” may not be the first letters that come to mind when you think of the best small cars Canada offers, but Honda packs a lot into this mini-SUV. It looks great and comes with a turbo-four engine as standard, delivering solid speeds on the road. And, of course, you’re getting far more space than you’d get with a traditional compact car.

It would be nice to see the all-wheel drive in the standard model – the Subaru Impreza at least has you covered there – but it makes up for that with high safety standards. It has “Good” ratings almost across the board from the IIHS.

Starting Price$36,373.50

Choose From the Best Small Cars Available in Canada

There’s a simple question to answer when choosing a small car in Canada – what do you want out of your vehicle? If it’s a family car you need, the Honda CR-V and Toyota Corolla off plenty of space for shuttling several people around. Those who love the sportier side may prefer the Mini Convertible or Mazda 3, whereas those with bigger budgets may lean toward the luxury of a BMW 3 Series.

The 12 small cars listed here each offer something for different needs. Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out what your specific needs are so you can find the right car.

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications