Bud Light is a means to an end. You don’t drink watered-down, fizzed-up yellow beer for the taste. You drink it to get drunk. If you’re cheap, if you’re playing beer pong, or if you’ve planned far enough in advance to know that you’ll be vomiting before the night is over, that’s when you drink Bud Light.
Compact cars were once the light beers of the car world — a means to an end. They sold on passionless attributes like price, gas mileage, and reliability and made fine little appliances for getting to and from work. People gobbled them up, not because they were exciting or pleasing to drive, but simply because they fit the bill.
Thankfully, demanding customers and accommodating automakers are creating new standards for small cars. Catering to downsizers and tech-savvy youngsters, the industry now offers a batch of compact cars that are better equipped, better looking, and better to drive. These new contenders aren’t just improved in an incremental, cars-are-always-getting-better kind of way. They’re leaving stodgy reputations behind and challenging the stalwarts.
The industry’s newfound respect for the small car means that the competition is tighter than ever before. The standouts from the last generation of compacts have largely been standing still while the also-rans have made monumental improvements. Even better, it seems that automakers have recognized that building a competitive car means much more than benchmarking Toyota and Honda. The result is a set of cars with fresh competence, unique character, and palpable emotion.
In search of the best small car in America, we rounded up the hungry newcomers — the Chevrolet Cruze, the Ford Focus, and the Hyundai Elantra — and the old standbys — the Honda Civic, the Mazda 3, and the Toyota Corolla — for a six-way shoot-out. We had planned to include Volks-wagen’s new Jetta in this comparison as well, but the car that showed up — a diesel with a six-speed manual — was a ringer. Since we know that a gas-fed Jetta with an automatic transmission is not a ringer, you can rest assured that the VW’s absence didn’t affect the front-of-the-pack results of this test.
Better cars don’t come cheap. Although you can buy into the compact segment for less than $17,000, every one of our test cars cost more than $20,000, topping out at $24,205 for the Honda Civic EX-L. Those extra dollars buy better equipment, as the segment now offers near-universal availability of leather upholstery, heated seats, navigation, and Bluetooth. More than that, though, we’ve calibrated our expectations to demand more in the compact driving experience. The best small cars deliver a composed ride, an enthusiastic engine, a dynamic chassis, and an interior worth spending time in.
We demand more from our beer, too. Not the Automobile Magazine staff we, but the America we. There haven’t been this many breweries operating in the United States since the late 1800s, and while overall beer sales were down in 2010, craft-beer sales climbed eleven percent. This is how we weave a tour of great breweries into a search for great small cars. You shouldn’t drive crappy cars, and you shouldn’t drink crappy beer. Michigan, with the fifth-largest brewing industry in the country, obliges. Our resident beer expert and senior web editor, Phil Floraday, theorizes that craft brewing thrives in regions with certain geographic characteristics — something about four seasons and access to water. We’d add that a blue-collar mind-set and a seriously unstable job market probably helps, too.
Financial difficulty seems to have worked surprisingly well for General Motors, too, which emerged from bankruptcy with a compact car that can finally be taken seriously. For starters, the company with notoriously bad interiors now rivals Hyundai for the best among this group. The Chevrolet Cruze’s cabin is pleasantly designed, with impressive build quality and fabric inserts that guard against plastic monotony. The center stack is user-friendly and has far fewer buttons than is typical for GM’s new products. Only the seats, which have a bottom cushion that lacks thigh support and is too flat and firm for long trips, leave us wanting.
Under the hood, Chevy uses the smallest-displacement four-cylinder here, with a turbocharger bolted on to produce 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque from 1.4 liters. Despite torque peaking at a low 1850 rpm, it takes a lot of revs to accelerate the 3102-pound Cruze both in casual city driving and spirited back-road bombing. The Cruze feels like the slowest car in our group, but on the highway, the engine hums along with a quiet, refined, and effortless lightness.
Any virtue of the engine, though, is quickly erased by a six-speed automatic transmission that, bewilderingly, alternates between painfully slow and painfully harsh shifts. With the gear selector pushed into the manual shift gate, you can count out loud, “one, two, three,” before it completes a fifth-to-fourth downshift. Left to choose gears on its own, the transmission often delivers a clumsy clunk with each shift. And occasionally, the gearchanges are both sluggish and abrupt at the same time, with a pause followed by an unusually sharp kick as the next gear engages. In the fuel-economy war, the Cruze is a letdown. EPA-rated at 24/36 mpg city/highway, the one-year-old Chevy’s gas mileage is already near the tail end of the pack.
The Cruze’s chassis is respectable without being commendable. It rides better than it handles, with a decent amount of roll in hard turns. The hyperquick steering is extremely sharp and responsive, but a large part of its enthusiasm is accomplished by practically eliminating all dampening character from the electric assist. Side effect: an artificial feel that undermines the inherent goodness in the hardware. Had the engineers tuned to feel rather than calculable metrics, the Chevy’s steering could have been exceptional.
Despite those qualms, multiple staffers stepped out of the Cruze speaking words like “impressed” and “surprised.” You might suspect that decades of setting the bar at floor level helped the Cruze achieve that kind of praise, but we were driving the Chevy back-to-back with proven and respected peers. It truly is a new era for Chevrolet’s small car.
At Traverse City’s North Peak Brewing Company, head brewer Dave Hale respects the four ingredients of beer and the German beer-purity law, crafting beers that are far more traditional than anything else on our tour. But that shouldn’t be confused with playing it safe. In May, the brewery dropped its two most popular beers from the tap, trading them for brews that are bottled and sold in retail stores under the North Peak name. And while most breweries do their best business with lighter, more accessible beers, North Peak is challenging its customers by replacing a pale ale with a hoppier IPA. It’s a gutsy move, as if Akio Toyoda, smitten with his Lexus LFA, decreed that Toyota would stop selling the Corolla and Camry for cars that could — gasp! — polarize opinion.
But we digress. Even though the Corolla had a modest update for 2011, it is the same car it was in 2009, which was essentially the same car it was in 2003. Other than exterior cosmetic tweaks, the biggest changes for this year are the addition of a brake-override system (thank you, confused septuagenarians) and standard stability control. The Corolla’s biggest weakness is a powertrain that’s unrefined and unnecessarily taxed by acceleration. The 132-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder is backed by an automatic transmission with just four forward gears, the likes of which Toyota has been using in the Corolla for twenty-seven years. Its age is further confirmed by the fact that Toyota is the only automaker present that achieves better fuel economy in typical trim with a manual (28/35 mpg) than an automatic (26/34 mpg).
The Corolla’s rigid body and stout suspension have aged quite well. Over rough roads, its composure is a reminder of what made this car so great three, five, and eight years ago. The ride is no longer a standout, but it is entirely acceptable. The steering is lifeless and the handling fairly flaccid. The interior, while it looks like an eight-year-old design, at least looks like an eight-year-old Toyota design. That is to say, the ergonomics are foolproof. If you fear that grandma will veer off the road trying to turn up the volume on the radio — a very reasonable fear with modern infotainment designs — buy her a Corolla and put a flowery needlepoint pillow on top of the intolerably hard center armrest.
The Corolla is the Bud Light of this comparison, offensive to few, and yet so flavorless that you can’t actually enjoy it. Toyota, which typically sells on rationality rather than passion, even disappoints in the utility and comfort categories by not offering leather, heated seats, or navigation.
Larry Bell got his commercial brewing start in 1985, selling beer out of his small home-brewing supply store. This year, the Kalamazoo institution, Bell’s Brewery, will distribute 180,000 barrels of beer in eighteen states plus Puerto Rico. Despite his remarkably successful commercial operations, the founder stays true to his roots, still selling home-brewing supplies in the retail store attached to Bell’s pub, the Eccentric Cafe. “Home brewers are our minor leagues,” he says of enabling scores of beer aficionados. His success has helped launch more than a few careers, as almost every brewer we meet has either worked for Bell or at the very least names him as an inspiration.
Likewise, today’s compact-car segment owes much to the Honda Civic. Even as the Corolla has become increasingly dull, the Civic has remained a symbol of small done well; a small car can be good to drive, appeal to the masses, and yet not be entirely soulless. Even if Ford, Hyundai, and Chevrolet aren’t chasing the feel and characteristics of the Civic, they’re unabashedly gunning for the success that Honda has found in this segment. And the Honda formula — impressive fuel economy, well-rounded driving dynamics, and a clever package — is still the core of what makes a good compact.
Honda’s ninth-generation Civic is the newest arrival, and yet you’d hardly know that from looking at it. Both inside and out, it retains the signature cues from the previous car, with its single-arc profile and two-tier dashboard. There are few changes to report under the hood, either, as the 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a five-speed automatic carry over. The Civic’s engine is only marginally more refined than the Corolla’s, but the extra gear makes for a significant advantage. There’s better acceleration at any speed, although the most noticeable improvement comes in passing maneuvers between 50 and 70 mph, when the Toyota needs second but the Civic can muster just as much confidence and make a smoother downshift with third gear.
Honda’s multilink rear suspension is more planted and more comfortable than the torsion-beam arrangements used by Chevrolet, Hyundai, and Toyota, but it shows little handling advantage on smooth roads. On-center, the steering is dull and even unpredictable. Small adjustments are met with varying resistance; sometimes it comfortably resists, at other times the wheel is featherlight and vague. Making minor corrections on the highway to maintain lane position can become a major chore.
Inside, the Civic loses ground to the hungry newcomers. The fundamentals are largely unchanged, leaving the overripened, untextured plastics to languish for a few more years. New additions like the cheesy, retro-modern, 3-D-esque lighting in the
instrument panel and the gathered leather seats (apparently inspired by a 1990s-era Lexus) fall flat. We’re grateful for the much-improved touch-screen interface, but the navigation system is still crippled by small, brittle buttons that flank the display. A crisp, full-color trip computer that shows redundant navigation or audio information to the right of the speedometer is a nice, well-executed touch. Refining their trademark craft, the engineers from Honda have also managed to carve an additional 3.7 cubic feet of interior volume from an exterior that’s unchanged in size. Although the technical measurements don’t show any significant advantage over the competition, the Civic’s cabin feels the most spacious of this group, and there are smart trays, bins, and pockets for stashing carry-on gear.
We’re underwhelmed — disappointed, even — that Honda couldn’t come up with more substantial, more exciting changes to set this Civic apart from its predecessor. In more than one instance, the changes even appear to move the Civic backward relative to the competition. Yet we can’t discount the Civic’s competent road manners, which still make it one of the better-driving compact cars.
An out-of-the-way neighborhood in Grand Rapids isn’t the most natural place for a brewery, but Jason Spaulding couldn’t resist the opportunity to take over a former funeral home. With a vaulted ceiling, exposed beams, and stained-glass windows, the old chapel becomes a monastery in the Belgian and French inspiration of his Brewery Vivant. The taproom has been open for less than a year, but a loud dinner crowd fills the place on a Thursday night, with the twenty-foot-long community tables forcing strangers to sit inches apart. Down the hall, the first cans of Triomphe, a Belgian IPA, are being filled and sealed, making Brewery Vivant one of the first small breweries in Michigan to can beer, an idea that’s quickly gaining traction in the craft-brewing industry. Spaulding’s vision is all about sustainability — environmentally, socially, and financially. He intends to increase production to 5000 barrels a year and then hold the line.
It’s a philosophy shared by Joe Short, whose casual, happy-go-lucky personality and fresh face is much younger than his thirty-two-year-old body. His Short’s Brewing Company is set in the quiet, seasonal town of Bellaire, and yet the company has built a name that extends far beyond Michigan’s border for its quirky, anything-goes approach to beer-making. Key Lime Pie is brewed with graham crackers and marshmallow fluff and has a finish that’s just as sweet as the dessert. In the pub, they’ll mix fruit-infused rye ale with Peanut Oatmeal Stout to create PB&J Stout. Short doesn’t have a volume cap for his expansion, but he’s made a conscious decision to keep distribution within Michigan. “The power of smallness is being able to do the things you want,” Short acknowledges. The company recently picked up a 1950s Chevrolet fire truck, and Short plans to pump beer from it someday. “Maybe we’ll take advantage of Michigan’s home-delivery option,” he says with a smile.
Staying small has worked well for Mazda, the rare automaker unwilling to trade its brand integrity for sales. Its best-selling car, the 3, has thrice been an Automobile Magazine All-Star for its excellent chassis and engaging driving feel that still accommodates the basic needs of the mainstream buyer. Equipped with the optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder, as our car was, the Mazda 3 is for fun seekers rather than fuel misers. It’s the most powerful car in this group with 167 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque, but it returns just
22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The sedan’s standard 2.0-liter is good for 24/33 mpg with the automatic at the expense of 19 hp, and a new engine for the 2012 model will deliver 40 mpg on the highway. While not the smoothest-running four-cylinder, the 2.5-liter’s plentiful torque makes it a punchy car in city traffic and a delight in the twisties. The five-speed automatic can be abrupt with downshifts, especially at low speeds, but the transmission is always responsive to right-pedal inputs and reliably chooses the right gear.
The willing powertrain works seamlessly with the inviting chassis. The Mazda boasts supreme balance, predictable behavior, and confident poise, unlike the Honda, Chevy, Toyota, and Hyundai. The 3 isn’t as isolated from road imperfections as the Civic, but it doesn’t punish riders, either. And when the road asks the car to both change directions and dance over imperfections, it’s the Mazda that masters the task best. You won’t find better steering in a compact car than what you get with the Mazda 3. It is low-effort, high-precision art that’s naturally weighted in all situations and provides uncanny amounts of road feel back to the driver.
The 3 is stylish and functional inside, but it doesn’t feel as roomy as the Civic or the Corolla, nor is it as plush as the Cruze or the Elantra. But that minor compromise is well worth making for the driving joy. The quality of the fits isn’t tops, and we’re still irked by the dichotomy of the trip computer and the audio display that sit next to each other high on the dash. The more meaningful matters, like seat comfort and positioning, the steering wheel, and the controls layout, are all exceptional. In all, Mazda’s cohesive execution of its compact sedan is proof that success can’t be measured by sales alone.
Right Brain Brewery lacks signage and a distinct entrance, but it nonetheless has drawn a full house for Tuesday’s superhero trivia night. At the end of the bar, owner Russell Springsteen, mellow and relaxed, talks with anxious ambition about his plans to get Right Brain onto more taps in northern Michigan. It’s not easy; to get a new beer on tap means another brew has to be kicked out. But Right Brain’s reputation and reach are spreading. “I have a very slow, methodical plan that’s happening very fast,” he says of the brewery’s rapid growth since he sold his hair salon and opened Right Brain four years ago.
It’s much like the rapid rise of Hyundai — in this case driven by bargain prices, ten-year warranties, and then, boom, the new Sonata. The expectations for the Elantra are high, based on the success of its bigger brother, and in many ways the two drive very similarly. As in the Sonata, the Elantra’s four-cylinder spins smoothly and revs quickly. It feels light on torque (it is, with just 131 lb-ft) but makes easy work of the low 2877-pound mass. The 148-hp 1.8-liter is paired with a slick-shifting six-speed automatic that downshifts more fluidly than anything here except the Focus. Hyundai doesn’t hesitate to trumpet the Elantra’s fuel economy, and its 29/40 mpg tops the pack. At the same time, we should point out that when the entire class is as efficient as these small cars, purchasing for an extra mile per gallon or two has debatable merit.
Hyundai has improved its proficiency at tuning electric power steering since it released the Sonata. The Elantra’s system is much more evenly weighted, with more linear changes in effort. The Elantra rides decently, but the suspension is easily the least solid of these six cars over rough roads. It’s clunky at lower speeds and noisy at higher speeds. It’s also more likely than the rest to be pushed around by wind gusts and the turbulent wake of commercial trucks in the next lane.
Hyundai’s remarkable rise has as much to do with style and interiors as it does with driving behavior, so it’s no surprise that the Elantra offers the best mix of comfort, space, features, and usability for front-seat passengers. However, the Elantra was the only car that came up short on rear-seat headroom for this six-foot-two author. There’s a simplicity to the audio, climate, phone, and navigation controls that makes the cockpit divine for tech junkies and Luddites alike. The seats are more comfortable than those in the Sonata but could still be softer for long-distance travel.
For the massive improvements in the Elantra, we’re impressed to find that it remains a value buy as well. At $22,830, it is cheaper than the Cruze and the Civic and is equipped with options that were absent from or unavailable on the competition, such as a backup camera, heated rear seats, and navigation.
The Elantra is, by most measures, just as extraordinary as the Sonata that debuted last year. But while that mid-size sedan has gobbled up accolades — an All-Star award from this magazine and many more honors elsewhere — don’t count on the Elantra for a repeat performance. As good as the car is, part of the Sonata’s success was simply a matter of timing, arriving smack in the middle of a product lull from the competition. When the Sonata showed up, the freshest car on the market was the face-lifted 2010 Ford Fusion. It’s a tougher crowd for the Elantra, which arrives just as the segment resets with new cars from Chevy and Ford and an updated Civic.
Like most beer-making operations, Founders Brewing Company was born from passion. But in making brewing their business, Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens settled for inoffensive but unexceptional beer. They came perilously close to bankruptcy before committing to the kind of beer that they loved: aromatic, big-flavor brews. It saved the company. Founder’s was the nation’s second-fastest-growing brewery in 2009 and is now globally recognized.
Alan Mulally mortgaged billions of dollars worth of company assets shortly after he arrived at Ford in 2006, but the Blue Oval won’t be saved by a financial decision. It’s rising from the depths of hell on the wheels of the cars that were funded by those dollars. The Focus is the latest evidence of a reinvigorated Ford and proof that a game plan narrower but deeper than “mainstream” can work. Ford’s flavor of European sophistication and dynamics isn’t without trade-off. To merge the European and American Focuses meant cutting almost three inches of rear-seat legroom compared with the last-generation car. That’s a small sacrifice for a car this good.
The Focus’s supple but certain chassis provides both the best ride and the best handling of any compact car out there. Body roll is minimized and yet it speeds over bumps with the gentility of a larger, more expensive car. The Focus’s weightier steering is a touch heavy compared with the 3’s, but it communicates and dictates between driver and road with the same clarity.
Excellent powertrain flexibility means that the 160-hp 2.0-liter remains responsive throughout the rev range. Or you can pin it to 5000 rpm and it will happily churn out power while you wend through corners and curves on the back roads. The shifts are slow, and Ford could learn a lot from studying Volkswagen’s excellent DSG transmission. Still, the Focus’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic is the best transmission here for its irreproachable shifts both up and down. And at 27/37 mpg, this capable performer is a practical commuter, too.
The Focus’s seats are supportive, but the cabin feels crowded and the audio controls are convoluted. Upgrade to the higher-end MyFord Touch and the interface becomes even more confusing.
The new Focus is redemption for the last-generation car that appeared to be benchmarked to a Chevy Cavalier more so than the true competition. But more important, it is the benchmark for the new generation of small cars. There are plenty of challengers capable of achieving what the Focus has done, and we’re eager to see how they react.
How do the cars stack up? The Toyota Corolla lands in last place, a tired relic that’s struggling to maintain relevance. Chevrolet’s Cruze takes fifth, hobbled by its cumbersome transmission. It’s a seriously competitive car and one quick, rev-matched downshift from overtaking a few rivals.
The Elantra lands in fourth with a good all-around package. A few greats would go a long way in upping the subjective allure and the Elantra’s ranking here. It’s a rational choice for those who care most about fuel economy and value.
The Civic lands in third for continued excellence in ride quality, efficiency, and packaging. But Honda should consider itself warned. A meaningful midcycle update from Hyundai or Chevy (not to mention an all-new Corolla) could bump the Civic back long before the tenth-generation version arrives.
Mazda’s 3 is number two to us, a mighty accomplishment given that three of the four cars chasing it are significantly newer. It continues to deliver chassis refinement and fun.
So Ford’s Focus takes the top prize, vaulting from one of the worst to first. With a great ride and inspired dynamic behavior, it stands far above the competition here in terms of suspension tuning. And yet we humbly admit that the Focus is flawed. Its interior is cramped and far from friendly to new users. There are plenty of justifications for choosing the Mazda, or the Honda, or the Hyundai, or the Chevy over the Focus. Which is why we ended our brewery tour at Hopcat, a bar with forty-eight taps, including beer from each of our stops (save Right Brain, which hasn’t made it as far south as Grand Rapids). For once, there’s an abundance of choices when it comes to buying a great small car. Cheers!
400 W. Front St.,
Traverse City, MI 231.941.7325
Shirley’s Irish Stout
A classic Irish dry stout that any Guinness fan will appreciate. North Peak is a pretty traditional brewpub that mostly conforms to standard beer styles and complements the beer with great food. What makes Shirley’s stout stand out is the nitrogen tap it’s poured from and the resulting creamy mouthfeel in the beer.
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo, MI
Two Hearted Ale
Bell’s is the godfather of Michigan’s craft-brewing scene, and Two Hearted is an excellent example of an American IPA. There are great hop and citrus notes on the nose and enough pine taste to feel at home on the actual Two Hearted River.
925 Cherry St. SE,
Grand Rapids, MI
This somewhat spicy Belgian ale is brewed with tellicherry black peppercorns and orange peel and finishes cleanly. It’s impressive enough on its own, but Zaison really stands out when paired with the delicious pork tenderloin offered on the dinner menu. Brewery Vivant excels with beer and food pairings.
121 N. Bridge St.,
The Soft Parade
As a brewery, Short’s falls somewhere between North Peak’s safe styles and Right Brain’s all-experimental approach. The Soft Parade is a rye beer with loads of strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry that avoids being overly sweet. Just be careful — you’d never know it packs nine percent alcohol by the taste.
221 Garland Street,
Traverse City, MI
Northern Hawk Owl Amber
Right Brain Brewery isn’t concerned with brewing traditional recipes with classic ingredients. Northern Hawk Owl is an amber ale brewed with Maris Otter, a very biscuity-flavored English pale malt. It tastes nothing like an American amber ale, but you’ll remember the distinct flavor for a long time.
235 Grandville Ave. SW,
Grand Rapids, MI
A Scottish wee heavy ale with a substantial
8.5 percent alcohol, Dirty Bastard initially tastes of caramel with a rich malt backbone and finishes with a bit of alcohol hotness. On occasions when you want to drink only one good beer, this is a solid choice.
1. 2012 Ford Focus SE
As tested $20,380
Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement 2.0 liters (122 cu in)
Horsepower 160 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque 146 lb-ft @ 4450 rpm
Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
L x W x H 178.5 x 71.8 x 57.7 in
Wheelbase 104.3 in
Track F/R 61.2/60.4 in
Weight 2935 lb
Headroom F/R 38.3/38.0 in
Legroom F/R 41.9/33.2 in
Passenger volume 90.7 cu ft
Luggage capacity 13.2 cu ft
Fuel capacity 12.4 gal
EPA mileage (city/hwy/combined) 27/37/31 mpg
2. 2011 Mazda 3s Sport
As tested $22,560
Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement 2.5 liters (152 cu in)
Horsepower 167 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
L x W x H 180.9 x 69.1 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase 103.9 in
Track F/R 60.2/59.6 in
Weight 3098 lb
Headroom F/R 38.1/37.4 in
Legroom F/R 42.0/36.2 in
Passenger volume 94.1 cu ft
Luggage capacity 11.8 cu ft
Fuel capacity 15.9 gal
EPA mileage (city/hwy/combined) 22/29/25 mpg
3. 2012 Honda Civic EX-L with Navi
Engine 16-valve SOHC I-4
Displacement 1.8 liters (110 cu in)
Horsepower 140 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque 128 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
L x W x H 177.3 x 69.0 x 56.5 in
Wheelbase 105.1 in
Track F/R 59.0/59.9 in
Weight 2795 lb
Headroom F/R 37.9/36.2 in
Legroom F/R 42.0/36.2 in
Passenger volume 92.1 cu ft
Luggage capacity 12.1 cu ft
Fuel capacity 13.2 gal
EPA mileage (city/hwy/combined) 28/39/32 mpg
4. 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited
As tested $22,830
Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement 1.8 liters (110 cu in)
Horsepower 148 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque 131 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
L x W x H 178.3 x 69.9 x 56.5 in
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Track F/R 61.1/61.6 in
Weight 2877 lb
Headroom F/R 40.0/37.1 in
Legroom F/R 43.6/33.1 in
Passenger volume 95.6 cu ft
Luggage capacity 14.8 cu ft
Fuel capacity 12.8 gal
EPA mileage (city/hwy/combined) 29/40/33 mpg
5. 2011 Chevy Cruze 2LT
As tested $23,185
Engine 16-valve DOHC turbo I-4
Displacement 1.4 liters (83 cu in)
Horsepower 138 hp @ 4900 rpm
Torque 148 lb-ft @ 1850 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
L x W x H 181.0 x 70.7 x 58.1 in
Wheelbase 105.7 in
Track F/R 60.7/61.3 in
Weight 3102 lb
Headroom F/R 39.3/37.9 in
Legroom F/R 42.3/35.4 in
Passenger volume 95.0 cu ft
Luggage capacity 15.4 cu ft
Fuel capacity 15.6 gal
EPA mileage (city/hwy/combined) 24/36/28 mpg
6. 2011 Toyota Corolla LE
As tested $20,485
Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement 1.8 liters (110 cu in)
Horsepower 132 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 128 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
L x W x H 180.0 x 69.4 x 57.7 in
Wheelbase 102.4 in
Track F/R 61.2/60.4 in
Weight 2800 lb
Headroom F/R 37.9/37.1 in
Legroom F/R 41.7/36.3 in
Passenger volume 90.8 cu ft
Luggage capacity 12.3 cu ft
Fuel capacity 13.2 gal
EPA mileage (city/hwy/combined) 26/34/29 mpg