Hatchbacks, compact sedans, compact and subcompact SUVs, and crossovers are probably the most popular segments in the entire car industry right now. It’s easy to see why because these cars are usually large enough, while also being reliable and cheap to run. They offer you quite a bit for your money.
The majority of today’s customers are interested in automatics as they offer a more pleasing driving experience and a more sophisticated environment in general. If you pair that with above-average reliability, you are looking at a sound financial decision.
There aren’t many brands out there that can seriously compete with Toyota/Lexus when it comes to reliability, and the Toyota Yaris and the Toyota Aygo are both praised for long-term dependability. The same story goes for the Mazda 3.
If you want a compact sedan, the Lexus ES is the cornerstone of Lexus legendary reliability. The Audi A4 has also seen mostly positive consumer reports. If you want a crossover/compact SUV, the Mini Cooper Countryman and the Mazda CX-3 are some of the highest-rated SUVs when it comes to reliability.
Most reliable small automatic hatchbacks
In such a competitive segment, wearing the crown for reliability is demanding, but there are loads of different hatchbacks that manage to offer an upscale driving experience that does not decline as time moves on. Toyota, Mazda, VW, Mini Cooper, Hyundai, and Audi are brands that offer the highest level of reliability in this segment.
The most popular cars from this segment are the Toyota Yaris/Aygo, and both models are available with automatic transmission. As Toyota’s reliability record is legend status, these two small hatchbacks are definitely an option worth considering.
The Mazda 3 is a car that has also dominated lots of reliability charts lately, and if you pair that with a striking design language and affordable pricing, the Mazda 3 is also a great option in this segment. The same story goes for the VW Golf and its little sibling, the VW Polo.
If you are after a more luxurious hatchback, the brand-new Audi A3 might be the very best this segment has to offer, but only if you can swallow the price. Audi’s reliability has been improving with each newer generation, and the S-Tronic gearbox is as sophisticated as ever.
Most reliable small automatic sedans
The small sedan or compact sedan segment is at its peak right now, and these sedans are a glimpse of hope that the sedan will never be completely dominated by the SUV. These cars offer impressive practicality, looks, and technology, and they are big enough for the vast majority of customers.
As in the case with hatchbacks, Toyota/Lexus is the reliability champ once again. The Lexus ES is a fairly misunderstood car. Lots of motoring journalists have deemed the sporty versions as not all that special, and the more comfort-oriented trims and powertrain options to be a bit too Toyota-ish.
But the Lexus ES is not trying to compete with the likes of not-as-reliable, but more comfortable, Audi A4. Germans dominate this market, and there are no brands out there that can truly compete with German executive brands.
However, if you combine the Lexus ES’ more affordable price compared to an Audi, along with its better reliability, dependability, and accessibility, the Lexus does seem like a tempting proposition.
Most reliable small automatic SUVs
As mentioned previously, the compact sedan is still going strong, but the compact SUV market is going even stronger, and considerably so. The primary focus of many newer car brands is to develop as many SUVs to encompass all possible markets.
And in such a competitive playing field, it’s really hard to find the best option out there. Reliability-wise, the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, and the Mini Countryman are the vehicles with the highest reliability results, but being the best is more than just being reliable.
And that’s where the new Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover Velar, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, and Porsche Macan come in. All 6 of these are better looking, more comfortable, and more feature-packed. However, they are quite a bit more expensive as a result.
Maybe the best luxury option would be the Porsche Macan, as Porsche is widely known as a brand that offers sportiness, luxury, comfort, and dependability at equal measures.
Should I buy an automatic or a manual small car?
The answer to this question depends highly on availability. Some brands such as Mercedes haven’t even sold any manual models in the US for over 10 years now. The logic behind opting for a manual in a compact car is easier to understand than in larger SUVs and sedans.
Transmission preferences aside, it is a lot easier to live with an automatic daily. Automatics are now as reliable and as efficient as manuals, so there is no reason to opt for a manual, unless, of course, you prefer the manual driving experience.
How important is reliability?
Reliability in a car is very important. However, context does matter. If you maintain your car the way it ought to be maintained, you should not worry about reliability that much, only if the car in question is inherently not reliable. But such cars are rare these days, as the levels of car manufacturing sophistication have skyrocketed in recent years.
Car maintenance is the most important thing when it comes to longevity. The most reliable car on the planet is bound to break down as component wear and tear is impossible to avoid.
Are small cars too small?
More often than not, all newer cars, except the very smallest ones, are large enough for most individuals. An Audi A4 from 2021 is larger than an Audi A6 from not that long ago. All cars are becoming larger and larger, especially smaller cars.
Some models like the Audi A1 were really only reserved for 2 passengers a few generations ago. But the newest Audi A1 is bigger than an Audi A3 from 10-15 years ago.