This travel girl offers her picks for compact cars that grab attention

I love driving and discovering cars that make me happy. I travel a lot, so the vehicles of choice must be comfortable and, above all, safe. Past that, I have different reasons for various vehicles easing me on down the road. These are a few of my favorite compacts and I encourage you to get out and test drive them. They are not in order of my favorites, but rather by price (that takes the pressure off of me, right?).

2014 Nissan Versa
Fuel Economy: 26/31
Class: Sub Compact Car
Base Price: $16,890

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First up, the second-generation Nissan Versa Sedan, now in its third year, Nissan continues to evolve this vehicle into more than an entry-level car. The exterior is classy enough for this segment of vehicle and the interior is well-appointed, not too fancy, but has the straightforward controls that are important. With four adults in the vehicle, my family was comfortable with ample back seat legroom.

This model year Versa weighs less having been built on Nissan’s front-wheel drive “V” platform. Basically, this means that the vehicle was manufactured with less platform components (roughly 20% less) and that shaves off about 150 pounds! The engine is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder sporting lots of new innovation, 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. More efficiency is garnered in the Xtronic CVT transmission by way of an auxiliary gearbox that uses planetary gearing.

Fuel economy is likely at the top of the list for those purchasing the Versa Sedan, now available in four models:
S (5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic)
S Plus CVT
SV CVT
SL CVT
Additionally, the Versa is available in a hatchback version.

2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE
Fuel Economy: 25/36
Class: Compact Car
Base Price: $19,995

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Next, I share with you the sixth-generation Jetta, Volkswagen’s best-selling car! Each year I see this vehicle get better and better, and it’s always at the top of my list for dependability as well as fuel efficiency.

Jetta

Let’s start with the change in engines. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine in the SE and SEL trim lines has been replaced by a new 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine, carrying the EA888 Gen 3 designation. The new engine gives 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and the transmission is automatic. The EPA estimated fuel economy predicts an improvement of 5 mpg on the highway over the previous engine.

I thoroughly enjoy the ride and the drive of the Jetta, and I like that they are just so reliable. The interior is to my satisfaction as well, with enough room for a family and technology that we can’t seem to live without. Add all of that to safety and great gas mileage for a winning combination!

2014 Toyota Prius c
Fuel Economy: 53/46
Class: Compact
Base Price: $21,765

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Toyota will forever be on the list for top compact cars with their reputation for outstanding fuel economy. This hybrid model is no different and remains virtually unchanged from the previous year model. The pricing is highly favorable, especially for commuters and those looking for entry-level vehicles.

The Prius c is available in four trim levels and has a fair amount of standard equipment including automatic climate control, a full color TFT Multi-Information Display and keyless, illuminated entry. Steering wheel gizmos and gadgets make dealing with audio and climate controls convenient for the driver.

My favorite features on this car: the audio system including AM/FM/CD and auxiliary jack, USB port and, of course, the extreme gas mileage. It does have a bit of wind noise, but overall this is a nice product for Toyota with a good value for the money.

2014 Fiat Abarth
Fuel Economy: 28/34
Class: Mini Compact Car
Base Price: $22,195

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth

I felt like some kind of super hero driving around in the Fiat Abarth, and people treated me that way, too! I will have to say it’s not the most practical car on the list, but it’s Italian and it’s so much fun! Who needs practical anyway?

The Fiat 500 Abarth brought fun back to the driving experience…race-inspired with aggressive styling adds some excitement to this segment of vehicles through world-class performance. The manual drive is aggressive and more fuel efficient.

Features according to Fiat:
• Track-tested, turbocharged and twin-intercooled 1.4-liter MultiAir engine provides the Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio with 160 horsepower, up to 170 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a race-proven five-speed manual transmission
• Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio (500c) features a clever open-top design for a high-performance four-passenger cabrio experience
• Abarth-tuned performance hardware delivers world-class ride and track-ready durability with a lowered ride height, beefier suspension, larger brakes and wider tires
• Continuous improvements: revised passenger seat sits 1 inch (25 mm) lower for increased headroom and now offers seat memory and arm rest
• Both Abarth models include a segment-exclusive full-day Abarth Driving Experience

2015 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0T Quattro S Tronic
Fuel Economy: 24/33
Class: Sub Compact Car
Base Price: $32,900

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I am always anxiously awaiting the new Audi lineup each year because this manufacturer does a superb job of keeping up with technology and innovation, and also continually creating beautiful vehicles.

The all-new 2015 Audi A3 model line-up is no exception offering new innovative technologies and the detailed craftsmanship found in larger flagship Audi sedans. I love the premium standard features: leather seating surfaces, power panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth technology, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (and HD Radio) and so much more. The A3 line-up will also feature (as standard options) the iconic Singleframe grille, bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights.

I love the comfy feel of the car itself and the connectivity for data services (4G LTE, no less)…the MMI dashboard tech is awesome…the driver has so many different ways to interact with their vehicle! I really like this vehicle for appearance (a little bit sporty) and luxury qualities in a small car package.

2014 Porsche 911 Carrera
Fuel Economy: 19/27
Class: Mini Compact Car
Base Price: $84,300

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Porsche really owns the performance car market, and with the more practical-minded 911, they also take a stake in the mini compact car segment as well! Meet the new Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S.

Ok, so what’s the big deal…what makes this one different? Oh, I am so glad you asked! The commitment to the Porsche Intelligent Performance philosophy is exemplified in this vehicle through improved performance using less fuel, reduced emissions and reduced mass. Almost all of the seventh-generation 911’s components are new or they are redesigned.

If a high-end sports car is in your future, this is the one for you! You, like I, will appreciated the precise handling Porsche is known for and seemingly effortless acceleration. Make this vehicle your own through various packages as it is very much a customizable vehicle.

What comes on the base model 911 Carrera? Here’s the lengthy list: 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, automatic bi-xenon headlights, heated mirrors, power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, adjustable power seats, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, leather interior, 7-inch touchscreen display, navigation, Bluetooth, nine-speaker audio system (with CD) and interfacing for USB/iPod.

As far as power, the base 911 Carrera models offer a 3.4-liter six-cylinder engine with 350 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque. And, a seven-speed manual is the standard transmission. How could this NOT make my list for favorite compact vehicles?

Photos courtesy of respective manufacturers: Fiat, Toyota, Audi, Nissan, Volkswagen and Porsche.

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