Young drivers turning more to affordable, compact vehicles

Posted November 3, 2017 4:39 p.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2017 4:45 p.m. EDT

Rather than big, less-efficient muscle cars with limited trunk and cargo room, modern young adults are looking for fuel efficiency and practicality.

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Young drivers today have a very different list of demands than in previous generations when shopping for a vehicle.

Rather than big, less-efficient muscle cars with limited trunk and cargo room, modern young adults are looking for fuel efficiency and practicality. They want to be able to take road trips with their friends and to sync their mobile devices with the automobile’s entertainment display.

"Many compact cars and CUVs today can offer a lot of standard amenities that similar size vehicles in the past did not or maybe offered as a higher-priced option," said Mark Arsen with "Manufacturers have done a great job listening to their target consumer. Those consumers -- for the most -- part have been asking for sporty, rugged vehicles that are efficient, have plenty of storage, fit their active lifestyle and come in a smartly designed package."

Manufacturers in response provide a line-up of compact cars and subcompact crossover SUVs (referred to as CUVs) that aim to meet this demand. Here are some of the top competitors in this new fight to appeal to active yet practical young adults.

Toyota C-HR

After seeing many of their competitors having success with compact cross-over models, Toyota is now offering a subcompact SUV of it's own. 2018 is the first year the C-HR, (which stands for Compact-High Rider). The all-new C-HR is already turning heads with it's model exclusive paint trims including a contrasting white roof option.

With a $22,500 MSRP and a long list of safety features standard, the C-HR made a splash in the market this summer with its extreme styling. This is one CUV that won’t blend into an already crowded field. It offers configurable storage layouts, similar to a larger SUV but with the fuel economy and sporty handling of a small car.

Nissan Sentra SR Turbo

Not all compact models appealing to this demographic are crossovers. Many are compact cars that are designed with more room in the trunk and interior.

The Nissan Sentra SR Turbo is a compact car of this type with a powerful 188-horsepower turbocharged engine. The great thing about the SR Turbo trim is that it takes an already capable base car up several notches. You get the addition of front, side and rear aero trim, larger wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and exhaust note.

All that and a spacious interior and cargo area make it perfect for a long road trip while keeping the gas stops minimal. With an MSRP starting at $22,490, it is a great value.

VW Golf

When "Car and Driver" names a model to its 10 Best category, consumers should likely take another look.

The VW Golf's spacious interior, sporty looks and high-tech integrated entertainment system all helped earn them this distinction. Of course, what really makes the Golf stand out from it's competition, is its extremely sporty handling and German engineered build quality.

Now that VW has narrowed the options some, like eliminating the two-door model, they have been able to lower the MSRP to $19,895 making it that much more attractive.

Honda HR-V

Honda has been offering the HR-V (Hi-rider Revolutionary Vehicle) for the last couple years in America, starting with their 2016 model. It is a subcompact crossover design based on the Honda Fit sub-compact car.

There are a number of high-tech options and, due to placement of the fuel tank under the front seats, the interior has extra space. "Magic seats" inside create even more utility by allowing the seats to fold down and disappear. With all this space opened up, one could fit all manner of outdoor equipment, like surf boards, camping gear and fishing poles. For under $20,000 -- at $19,570 MSRP -- the Honda HR-V offers a very low budget option to this class of vehicle.

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul made a big impression in 2010 when it entered the American auto market with hip hamster-themed ads.

The boxy exterior was stylish but also unusual enough to stand out. It is another "Car and Driver" 10 Best winner and even has an electric vehicle option with a 93-mile range. Its wide and tall stance, which resembles a hatchback or wagon, provides extra protection, leading to best in class safety ratings.

With an MSRP of $16,100 and an incredibly spacious interior, it's a very strong contender for buyers looking to put some fun into their daily commute or weekend road trip.

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