Compact cars are getting more luxurious, with many models touting a wide range of features and gadgets you could previously only get in an upscale luxury car. For proof, we’ve rounded up six especially impressive high-tech features you can now get with a compact car. This list might have you shaking your head in disbelief if you remember the days when compact cars were little more than tiny boxes with puny 3- or 4-cylinder engines.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive cruise control is a nifty feature that will automatically slow down and speed up your vehicle to match the speed of traffic in front of you. It’s very useful on the highway, especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic where you’d rather not spend time moving your foot from the brake to the gas every few seconds. Formerly the domain of only the most expensive, elite luxury cars, adaptive cruise control is now available in compact cars — two compact cars, to be specific: the Mazda3 and the Subaru Impreza, each of which offer the feature as an option for their high-end trim levels.
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control
Dual-zone automatic climate control is an excellent automotive feature that allows the driver and passenger to set a desired temperature and let the car do the rest of the work, pushing out hot or cold air automatically. Not only does it take the manual labor out of constantly setting and resetting the climate-control temperature, but it also lets drivers and passengers have their own climate zone. While this isn’t a new feature, we’re happy to see it increasingly available in compact cars, including the Dodge Dart and the Ford Focus.
Forward-Collision Alert With Automatic Braking
Forward-collision alert is quickly becoming the new gotta-have-it car feature, and many compact cars now offer it. While simple systems will alert you if an accident ahead seems possible, the best systems will actually apply the brakes for you to help you avoid the accident. While several cars (including the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic) offer just the basic forward-collision alert, some (including the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza) take things a step further with actual automatic braking — not bad for a compact car.
Although the infotainment system is becoming fairly common in modern cars, we like that big-car infotainment systems typically trickle down into the small cars. Most large infotainment screens and easy-to-use systems are used by brands across their entire model lineups. For some examples, the compact Ford Focus offers the same infotainment system as the full-size Taurus, while the compact Hyundai Elantra touts the same system as the upscale Genesis sedan. As a result, even those who drive compact cars can enjoy the latest in modern infotainment technology, from music storage to apps to real-time traffic and weather updates.
One of today’s most popular new safety features is lane-departure warning. This system lets you know if you’re starting to drift from your lane either due to inattention or drowsiness, and it’s an excellent way to stay safe on the road. While lane-departure warning is especially common on family-sized SUVs and sedans, it’s also starting to become more popular in smaller cars such as the Ford Focus and Mazda3.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
We love the rear cross-traffic alert feature, which is available on several small cars including the Mazda3, the Chevrolet Cruze and the Dodge Dart. Here’s how it works: In a normal car without the feature, backing out of a parking spot can be a challenge because you have to look over your shoulder continuously to see if anyone’s coming. But in a car equipped with rear cross-traffic alert, you don’t have to worry quite so much because the feature monitors oncoming traffic to make sure no one is bearing down on you as you back up. Even in an inexpensive new car, we think this is quickly becoming a must-have item, and we’re happy that so many modern compact cars now offer it.