Top 10 2020 Compact Cars by Customer Satisfaction

For decades now, J.D. Power has conducted annual surveys of thousands of verified new vehicle buyers in order to find out what they really think of their new vehicles after the first 90 days of ownership. This information forms the basis of several benchmark automotive industry studies the company releases each year, including the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study

2020 Nissan Sentra SR Orange Front View

With the APEAL Study, J.D. Power measures what makes a particular vehicle satisfying to own and drive. Based on feedback from verified owners of the vehicles, this consumer-provided information about design, comfort, controls, driving dynamics, and more results in an overall index score for overall customer satisfaction. Vehicles that receive the highest index score are best at satisfying the people who bought that make and model.

This list contains the 2020 model year compact cars that ranked highest in customer satisfaction for overall appeal, according to the people who own them. The average index score for the segment is 831.

1. 2020 Nissan Sentra – Highest Compact Car in Customer Satisfaction According to Consumers! 

For 2020, Nissan totally transforms the Sentra, redesigning the car with a host of newly standard infotainment and safety features plus premium visual and tactile cues inside and out. A 149-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine powers the 2020 Nissan Sentra and is paired with a continuously variable transmission. Three trim levels are available: S, SV, and SR. Depending on the trim level, the EPA says the 2020 Sentra should average 32 mpg or 33 mpg in combined driving.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Nissan Sentra is 873, and the Sentra receives an APEAL award in the Compact Car segment. 

2. 2020 Volkswagen Jetta 

The 2020 Volkswagen Jetta sedan comes in seven trim levels: S, SE, R-Line, SEL, SEL Premium, GLI, and GLI Autobahn. All but the GLI come with a 147-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, while the GLI versions crank up the performance with a 228-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Depending on the trim level, you can get a 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch, or 8-speed automatic transmission in this Volkswagen. Fuel economy averages for combined driving range from 28 mpg to 34 mpg, depending on the engine/transmission combination.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta is 857.

3. 2020 Honda Civic 

Honda’s perennially popular Civic comes in sedan, coupe and hatchback body styles, and in multiple trim levels and model series dependent on the version of the car. Several engines are available for the 2020 Honda Civic, some in more than one state of tune. Horsepower ratings range from 158 in affordable models to 306 in the mighty Type-R, but the majority of Civics have a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder good for up to 180 horsepower. Manual gearboxes and continuously variable transmissions are available in this Honda, depending on trim and engine. Fuel economy ratings range from 25 mpg to 36 mpg in combined driving.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Honda Civic is 845.

4. 2020 Kia Forte 

The 2020 Kia Forte sedan comes in five trim levels: FE, LXS, GT-Line, EX and GT. Motivating the first four, a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder pairs with a continuously variable transmission in all but the base FE, which is also available with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Meanwhile, the new-for-2020 Forte GT is moved by a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder and comes with a choice between a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Fuel economy for this Kia averages from 28 mpg to 35 mpg in combined driving.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Kia Forte is 844.

5. 2020 Mazda Mazda3 

Aiming to make the 2020 Mazda3 a premium offering in the segment, Mazda offers the car in sedan and hatchback form, and in Base, Select, Preferred, and Premium trim levels. The only engine is a 186-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, but that changes in 2021 when Mazda plans to expand the lineup. A 6-speed manual transmission is offered in a specific version of the Mazda3 Hatchback. Otherwise, the car is equipped with a 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is an option, and fuel economy ratings range from 27 mpg to 30 mpg in combined driving. 

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Mazda Mazda3 is 842.

6. 2020 Hyundai Elantra (in a tie with the Toyota Corolla)

The 2020 Hyundai Elantra is offered in sedan and hatchback body styles, equipped with one of four engines, and featuring one of eight trim levels. The mix includes a couple of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines making up to 201 horsepower, but most versions of this Hyundai have a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 147 horsepower in sedans and 161 horsepower in hatchbacks. Continuously variable, automatic, and dual-clutch transmissions power the car’s front wheels, depending on the model. Fuel economy ranges from 26 mpg to 36 mpg in combined driving, and Hyundai includes free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. Next year, a redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra sedan arrives.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Hyundai Elantra is 829, in a tie with the Toyota Corolla.

6. 2020 Toyota Corolla (in a tie with the Hyundai Elantra)

Following the debut of the new Corolla Hatchback for 2019, the 2020 Toyota Corolla lineup gains a redesigned sedan and adds a new Corolla Hybrid variant to the lineup. Sedans offer a choice between a 136-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder and a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, while hatchbacks come only with the more powerful engine. Manual and continuously variable transmissions (CVT) power the car’s front wheels. Corolla Hybrid sedans provide a combined 121 horsepower and have an electronic CVT. Fuel economy ranges from 31 mpg to 35 mpg in combined driving for most versions of this Toyota, while the Corolla Hybrid returns 52 mpg.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Toyota Corolla is 829, in a tie with the Hyundai Elantra.

7. 2020 Honda Insight 

Based on the Civic sedan but equipped with unique styling and an exclusive hybrid powertrain, the 2020 Honda Insight combines the forces of a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor to produce a total output of 151 horsepower. This Honda comes in LX, EX, and Touring trim levels, and according to the EPA it should return between 48 mpg and 52 mpg in combined driving. Why the disparity? The added weight of leather upholstery, a navigation system, upgraded audio components, and heated and power-adjustable seats in the Touring, plus larger wheels that are less aerodynamic, make the top trim less efficient.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Honda Insight is 825.

8. 2020 Hyundai Ioniq

Refreshed for 2020, the Hyundai Ioniq lineup is dedicated to efficiency. It comes in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric versions, and in various levels of specification. Hybrids make 139 horsepower, use a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, and get up to 58 mpg in combined driving. Plug-ins match the Hybrid’s power rating and offer an estimated 29 miles of electric driving range before switching to gas-electric operation and providing 52 mpg. Electrics supply 134 horsepower and 218 lb.-ft. of instant torque, and can travel an estimated 170 miles on a full battery charge. All three versions of this Hyundai also include free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq is 824.

9. 2020 Subaru Impreza

With the 2020 Impreza, Subaru delivers the only vehicle on this list equipped with standard all-wheel drive. Available in sedan or hatchback form, the 2020 Subaru Impreza comes in base, Premium, Sport, and Limited trim levels, all driven by a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a 5-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. Fuel economy estimates range from 25 mpg to 31 mpg in combined driving, depending on powertrain configuration and body style.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Subaru Impreza is 794.

10. 2020 Toyota Prius 

While the original Honda Insight was the first hybrid sold in America, the Toyota Prius popularized the concept. It continues today in gas-electric and plug-in hybrid (Prius Prime) formats, both featuring the car’s now familiar 5-door hatchback body style and unusual styling themes. Both the Prius and Prius Prime come in LE, XLE, and Limited trim, with an L Eco version exclusive to the Prius. Every Prius makes 121 horsepower, sent through a continuously variable transmission to the front wheels. Standard Prius models get up to 58 mpg in combined driving, but an optional electronic all-wheel-drive system reduces the rating to 50 mpg. Prius Primes offer an estimated 25 miles of electric driving and 54 mpg in combined driving.

The APEAL index score for the 2020 Toyota Prius is 790.