Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A popular vehicle for online car sales, a purple 2018 Chevy Malibu Hybrid, is shown driving past trees.

Keeping it Small: Used Compact Cars for City Drivers

The internet has changed the way we do a lot of things. Regardless of your opinion on whether this is for better or for worse, there is simply no denying the fact that online shopping has become many people’s preferred method of shopping. Some people still prefer to go into the store and have the shopping experience, but sometimes the shopping experience and the dealership experience are two very different things. If you’re looking to buy a new vehicle without the whole vehicle-buying experience, there may be a solution in online car sales. It may not be for everyone, but those of you living in the big city may be able to avoid the big city prices by seeking online car sales rather than dealerships. Not only is online car shopping a great way for city dwellers to find lower prices, but there are a lot of great compact used cars, making the perfect ride for those needing to sweep through the city streets. So, what are the best compact used cars for city drivers?

Chevy Malibu

The Chevy Malibu is a great sedan for those seeking a reasonably-priced commuter vehicle with a luxurious flare. Its interior finds the subtle balance of simple refinement, and the exterior has the perfect aesthetic for cruising in urban environments. If you’re looking at a used Malibu, 2019 is a great model year to consider. This year will have more advanced technology, added features, and a sleeker look, thanks to a mid-cycle refresh.

Now, for those of you looking to save both the environment and your money, you may want to consider the Malibu Hybrid option. While the standard 2019 Malibu could give 29 MPG in the city (which is very good!), the Hybrid option offers up 49 MPG in the city. Efficiency like that will mean fewer stops for gas, less money spent on gas (which is especially great news for you city dwellers), and honestly, just more exciting driving. Hybrids are fun, especially in urban environments!

Whether you’re looking at the hybrid or not, the Malibu is a great luxury commuter sedan and offers more performance capability than many of its competitors. You can’t go wrong with a Chevy, and the Malibu is no exception.

A black 2019 Chevy Spark is shown against a black background.

Chevy Spark

Because you can’t go wrong with a Chevy, let’s talk about another one right away. The Spark is not a sedan, but it sure is compact. This small hatchback is a spunky cruiser with lots of personality for those of you seeking a vehicle to match your temperament. Don’t be deceived by this small vehicle because it does indeed offer seating for five, thanks to its rear seats. As such, it is a perfect vehicle for young adults who plan on doing most of their driving alone but may want to gather some friends every now and then.

One of the fun things about the Spark is its vibrant colors. With a great number of color options, all of which give the vehicle an exciting pop. It pops in the way that only a small car can pop; the Spark has perfect architecture for those of you needing to cram into tight parking spots on city streets. Hopefully, the Spark will make it feel less like a cram and more like a shoo-in! The interior doesn’t waste any space, but it isn’t greedy in its conservation; you may be surprised by the comfort of the interior. Though it is small, Chevy has given the Spark cutting-edge technology, so drivers will have access to the innovative features you would expect in a Chevy.

What’s more, the Spark is about as efficient as a gasoline vehicle can be. The 2019 Spark, for example, offers fuel efficiency of up to 30 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway. That’s almost as good as the Malibu’s hybrid option, and we’re talking a regular gasoline engine! The keywords with Spark are: fun, efficiency, and compact. It’s a good combo, and you’ll likely find that it’s just what you young, single city dwellers are looking for.

A blue 2018 Nissan Altima is shown from the side driving on the coast.

Nissan Altima

If you’re a luxury vehicle at a price that is not astronomical, go with Nissan. Its vehicles are truly luxury vehicles through and through, but they keep the price at a level that is agreeable. The Altima is a perfect midpoint when it comes to Nissan’s luxury sedans offering great engineering, design, and technology. Very few brands are able to capture both true luxury features with true performative excellence, but Nissan finds that combination in all of its vehicles. Some of the design features you’ll be able to look forward to include leather upholstery, heated steering wheel and seats, and even foldable rear seats. Nissan thrives in making enjoyable interiors, the kind where you want to stay.

The Altima also comes through with performance specs! Able to reach up to 248 hp with the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine, you’ll be cruising at rates you won’t find in other sedans. Even these premium performance specs don’t keep the Altima from being highly efficient, so you’ll be able to get the best of all worlds in this luxury sedan.

Kia Soul

If you like the idea of having the practicality of an SUV, but your city lifestyle makes that idea unfathomable, the Kia Soul will bridge the gap. This compact SUV really emphasizes the “compact” on the outside while focusing on the “SUV” on the inside. It is small and easily parkable, but the inside gives way to outstanding storage space, generous and comfortable passenger space, and an all-around enjoyable driving experience. I can personally attest to the vehicle’s excellence as I drive a 2015 Kia Soul.

Even now, seven years and many road trips later, my Kia Soul is running in top condition. I continue to be pleased with how fuel-efficient the vehicle is, as the 12-gallon tank always stretches itself out to provide the maximum amount of driving. The 2020 Soul offers up to 31 MPG in the city, which is a fantastic number for a compact SUV. Aside from the practicality of its efficiency, my passengers have shared how much they enjoy riding in my Kia Soul; one recently shared how pleasantly surprised he was by the generous legroom in the rear seating area. Aside from passenger comfort, the 60/40 foldable rear seats provide a very generous amount of cargo space; just this weekend, I was packing up for a trip, and I was amazed all over again at how much space the rear cargo area provided.

I love driving my Kia Soul, and I think you would love it too. It’s a fun, enjoyable, highly-efficient, and spacious vehicle. I’ve made some great memories behind the wheel of my Soul, and it has provided a driving experience that makes me excited to get back in the car.

A red 2020 Kia Soul is shown on a city street.

Navigating Your Choices

There are a lot of great used compact cars out there. This is just a selection of some top choices to wet your pallet. It can be difficult to navigate all the different choices, especially when buying online. The key is knowing what to look for. If luxury is at the top of your priority list, then Nissan is the way to go. If a reliable commuter sedan is what you’re looking for, the Malibu is a go-to. If you want to go super compact, the Chevy Spark will keep it small. And if you want the SUV experience in a compact car, then the Kia Soul is here to provide the happy medium. You have to identify what is most important to you in your compact vehicle and let those desires be at the forefront of your search. I hope this has helped get the wheels turning as you navigate your search!