Small cars are still one of the most popular segments of the market. Here’s how three of the best contenders compared in our annual Drive Car of the Year test.
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Drive Car of the Year 2021 - Best Small Car


It’s no secret small car sales have slowed as buyers have shifted towards SUVs of all shapes and sizes, however, there is still a core group of vehicles that make a compelling case to consider a hatchback.

Not everyone wants or needs a small SUV, instead opting for more affordable – but just as practical – small hatchbacks.

There are close to two dozen choices in the small-car class, to suit all tastes and budgets.

We gathered three of the best in our estimation, which also happen to be three of the top four sellers in the class last year: the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, Hyundai i30, and Mazda3 hatch.

The Volkswagen Golf, also a worthy contender, sat this one out as a new generation was just around the corner at the time of testing.

And the Winner is...

Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Toyota Corolla blends sharp styling and fun-to-drive dynamics with exceptional fuel economy from the world’s most popular hybrid technology.

For new-car buyers who don’t want to join the SUV boom, hatchbacks such as these are still a great alternative.

Small hatchbacks are a smarter buy in many ways because they’re usually cheaper to purchase and cheaper to run than their equivalent SUV.

This test reminded us just how high Toyota and Mazda have raised the bar in terms of style, quality, and driving dynamics.

These attributes may have come at a price – with their sleeker bodies delivering smaller cabins – but buyers who need acres of space are probably buying an SUV instead.

All three of these cars are worthy vehicles and we would happily recommend any of them based on personal taste.

However, while some people may have an outdated view of the Toyota Corolla, the latest generation excels in the most areas and is a deserving recipient of this award.