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Economy Vs Compact Car: Comparison By 7 Major Criteria

Economy Vs Compact Car

So, you’re looking to get a rental car. If you don’t need a particularly big car, you’re probably looking at compact and economy models. What are they exactly, and how do you know which would be the better choice? Let’s see who comes out ahead when it comes to economy vs compact car.

Understanding The Terms: The Brief Explanations Of Economy And Compact Cars

You need to get familiar with each of these car types before you can decide which one you want to hire.

What is an economy car? An economy-class car is a small, no-frills vehicle that is made to be affordable and inexpensive to operate. The term ‘economy car’ has evolved over the years and gone through some big changes. It used to refer to compact and subcompact cars, but it’s become a category of its own.

Any vehicle type can be classified as an economy car, but the most affordable and fuel-efficient cars tend to be mini-compact and subcompact cars. A good example would be a Hyundai Accent, which is a subcompact car.

What is a compact car? A compact car is a vehicle class that sits between the mid-size and subcompact classes. The EPA defines compact cars as vehicles that have an interior volume of between 100 and 109.9 cubic feet and enough room for four passengers to sit comfortably.

Compact cars typically have four doors, but this number can vary depending on the car type. Hatchbacks and small sedans are great examples of cars that fit into this segment.

Economy Vs Compact Car: Comparison By 7 Main Criteria

Let’s compare these two popular car types by every valuable criterion so that you know which one you should hire or buy.

Economy Vs Compact Car: Size & Space

Red & White Compact Hatchbacks Parked Outside The Factory

When it comes to size and available space, comparing compact and economy cars is easy enough. Economy cars generally have less space than their compact counterparts, though it is difficult to draw a precise line. We can use the lower end of a compact’s interior volume as a benchmark (under 100 cubic feet).

An economy car can seat up to four, while a compact can seat up to five passengers.

Economy and compact models differ in terms of luggage capacity as well. A typical economy car has less cargo space, but it can still fit several small bags or a combination of a medium suitcase and some small carry-on bags. The cargo space of a compact can fit a large suitcase alongside a medium suitcase and a few carry-ons.

Economy Vs Compact Car: Fuel Efficiency

Red & White Economy Cars Parked On The Streets

Fuel efficiency is an important consideration when hiring a new car. Economy cars, as their name suggests, have excellent fuel economy. A good example of an economy car with high fuel efficiency is the Ford Fiat, which returns 49.5 mpg on average.

The fuel economy varies for compact cars. They fare better than larger vehicle classes, like mid-size or intermediate cars, but are slightly less efficient than their economy counterparts. The Acura Integra, for example, has a combined mpg of 33. As the line between economy and compact vehicles is blurred, you may sometimes find a compact vehicle that is cheap and fuel-efficient enough to be considered an economy car.

Economy Vs Compact Car: Price & Maintenance

Compact Car Side View

Economy cars are budget cars, and they’re the cheaper option overall. The cost of economy cars is lower than that of models in the compact class. Cars like the Kia Rio go for as low as £13,800. On the other hand, compact cars range from £13,500 for affordable options like the Dacia Sandero up to £48,000 for luxury models like the Mercedes CLE-class.

If you look at the rental cost, typically, economy cars are ahead of the curb. When you examine car rental companies, the most affordable deals are for economy car rentals. Models like the Fiat 500 and VW Golf are good examples of affordable economy rental cars.

Most economy cars are cheaper to repair and maintain than compact cars, with parts being easier to come by.

Economy Vs Compact Car: Comfort

Comfort can make or break a trip when you’re renting a car. An economy or compact car can provide different levels of comfort depending on the model. Since economy vehicles are smaller, they tend to be more cramped and can’t seat as many people.

Compact cars, on the other hand, can be comfortable sedans, for example, that provide more than enough leg and headroom for multiple passengers. This makes for a much more comfortable driving experience. If you want slightly more space and comfort — Compact cars are the way to go.

Economy Vs Compact: Performance

Compact cars offer the better performance of these two vehicle classes. Economy cars aren’t built for performance, and they have lower horsepower and less powerful transmissions.

Economy Vs Compact: Which Is Easier To Drive?

If you’re looking for a rental car with great handling, either the economy or compact car class will work. Both are easy to manoeuvre, but an economy rental car is slightly more agile and easier to park.

You can choose either if you need a car that’s great for city driving. Both of these vehicle classes skew towards automatic transmission, but you can find models with manual as well. A good example is the Mitsubishi Mirage which had manual transmission models up to 2023.

Economy Vs Compact: Aesthetics

Aesthetics matter whether you’re looking to buy or rent a car. Those who prefer a more attractive car tend to lean towards compact-class car rentals. These vehicles have more variants when it comes to stylish design. You should make a compact rental car comparison to determine which design best suits your tastes.

Many compact luxury cars look amazing and provide a stylish and luxurious driving experience.

Keep in mind that the rental cost increases the more luxurious the car is. Economy cars are the more practical choice, and they don’t put an emphasis on aesthetics.

Compact Economy
  • Size
  • Manoeuvrability
  • Aesthetics
  • Gas mileage
  • Comfort
  • Affordable rental cars
  • Luxury options
  • Price
  • Passenger capacity
  • Parking ease
  • Price
  • Size
  • Maintenance cost
  • Cramped
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Passenger capacity

The table above shows the pros and cons of both the compact and economy car segments.

Who Should Hire An Economy Car Over A Compact One?

You should hire an economy car over a compact one if you need an affordable car with good mileage that is easy to park and manoeuvre. An economy rental car will cost you less and will provide you with practical transportation for short trips.

Economy car hire deals are some of the most cost-efficient rental choices on the market.

It’s the ideal choice for a couple or small group of people travelling if they don’t need too much cargo space. A compact rental car will cost you more, and you don’t necessarily benefit from the extra space, so it might not be the right rental car for you.

Who Should Hire A Compact Car?

Red VW Golf Parked Outside The Plant

You should hire a compact car if you need a rental car with more space for passengers and luggage. You can seat four passengers comfortably and have leftover space for some bags or briefcases. A family with small children would prefer a compact rental car over an economy.

Compact car rentals aren’t much more expensive than economy rentals, but they provide you with more practical space. They’re also more attractive and provide extra comfort and style.

Compact SUVs are great options if you need more luggage capacity or want to seat more passengers.

The rental fee is slightly higher, but it’s well worth it with the extra space and slightly better safety features. You should choose compact rental cars based on your preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

A compact car is bigger than an economy car. Compact cars have a bigger interior and have more trunk space than economy models. Economy cars lean towards small cars that are affordable and fuel-efficient. The size of the car is an important consideration. How much luggage space do you want in your rental car? If the answer is ‘more’ — Consider compact rental cars. Alternatively, think about getting a compact hatchback for extra trunk space.

No, an economy car is not the smallest car class. Smaller cars include microcars and similar vehicles. They are classified as cars but are covered by separate regulations compared to standard cars. If you’re wondering how small cars can get, you can learn more by checking out the list of the smallest cars in the world.

The main advantage of an economy car is its affordability. Not only is it cheaper than a standard car, but it also costs less to maintain and has better gas mileage. The lower weight of economy cars makes them easy to drive, and they are incredibly practical for in-town driving. This is what made cars like the Chevrolet Spark so popular.

No, an SUV can’t be a compact car. There are compact and subcompact SUVs on the market, but they offer more interior space than what is considered a compact.

Compact SUVs have significantly more cargo space than most compact cars, making them practical choices for travelling. One of the most popular models of compact SUVs is the Honda CR-V. An SUV could be considered an economy vehicle if it has incredible fuel efficiency and a low cost, but this isn’t particularly common among SUVs.

Yes, compact cars use less gas than average ones. You can expect better mpg returns on a compact compared to an intermediate car. They’re the more economical option in this case. Some compact cars are less efficient than specific mid-size cars, but this depends on the model and what it’s optimised for.


So, what’s the final verdict on ‘economy vs compact car’? It’s hard to say, as both cars offer different benefits. A compact would better suit you if you’re travelling with your family or a few friends. On the other hand, an economy-class car is the more affordable option, making it the perfect choice if you want to save on fuel and overall cost.

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