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8 Red Hot Small Cars

Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer
April 14, 2011

Volkswagen Golf

Price: $17,995 - $23,885
Mileage: 23 City / 33 Hwy

The Golf still offers that German car driving feel and interior quality that VW's are famous for. Even the base version is fun to drive.

While the Golf is great, critics complain that the new Jetta misses the mark. They say Volkswagen is stripping out all that makes VW's great in pursuit of lower prices. Luckily that philosophy hasn't hit the Golf, yet. (By the way... The new Jetta's selling well so, for better or worse, the low-price strategy's working.


Ford Focus

2011 Ford Focus
2011 Ford Focus

Price: $16,270 - $22,765
Mileage: 28 City / 38 Hwy

Just hitting the market now, Ford's new Focus is a huge change from the outgoing version.

The Focus has long been just an OK car, but the new Focus feels all wound up and ready to rock.

The suspension is firmer, the steering is tighter, the engine's stronger and transmission is quicker.Its technology package, is amped up, too. This new Focus has so much tech that there are literally buttons on its buttons. In fact, some may say Ford's gone a little overboard this time.

Chevrolet Cruze

Price: $16,525 - $22,225
26 City / 36 Hwy

With the Cruze, GM is clearly targeting those who want a mid-size car but don't want to pay for it. Both inside and out, the Cruze feels bigger than it is.

On the road, it feels laid back and comfortable, not quick and twitchy. The Cruze does offer good performance and cornering, though they're just not the car's highlights.

Hyundai Elantra

Price: $14,945 - $20,195
29 City / 40 Hwy

The new Elantra's already making a big impression, having been named the named the Top Pick in its category by Consumer Reports magazine.

The Elantra has a richly appointed and nicely designed interior that wouldn't look out of place in a luxury car. It's also fun to drive but not overly aggressive.

The Elantra's successful makeover has contributed to an almost 75% increase in sales for the model so far this year, according to data from Edmunds.com.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco
2011 Hyundai Elantra
2011 Hyundai Elantra

Honda Fit

The Fit has become a stand-by in the subcompact segment with its good performance and its roomy and very flexible interior space. With rear seats that fold in a few different ways, the Fit almost makes compact SUVs unnecessary.


Price: $15,100 - $16,860
Mileage: 27 City / 33 Hwy

The Mazda3 is surprisingly comfortable and roomy while still being fun to drive. It offers a nice package of technology options. In an ever more competitive market, newer models threaten to overtake even this excellent small car but it remains one you've got to consider.

Ford Fiesta

Price: $13,320 - $17,520

Mileage: 28 City / 37 Hwy

The Fiesta's a cool-looking, fuel efficient and fun little car. It's high-tech transmission—the same sort of twin-clutch six speed found in the larger Focus—helps provide the Fiesta's feeling of responsiveness.

It's not the roomiest car you can get in this class, though, and its entertainment controls can be a little confusing.

Mini Cooper

Price: $19,400 - $24,850

Mileage: 29 City / 37 Hwy

While most cars try to feel roomier than they are, the Mini makes a point of its teeniness with high door sills and small windows. But it's all designed to make you feel so very cool and it works.

The Mini is also quick, super-responsive and great on gas.


2011 Honda Fit Sport
2011 Honda Fit Sport
2011 Mazda3
2011 Mazda3
2011 Ford Fiesta
2011 Ford Fiesta
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper