6. Ford Fusion

Total sales: 248,067 | Percentage change: +13.2 percent

Ford had quite a good year with the Fusion, which posted its best sales year ever and improved from eighth to sixth in overall sales. Ford executives say the momentum from 2010 helped sales in 2011. After all, in 2010 the Fusion was named the Motor Trend Car of the Year as well as the North American Car of the Year by a panel of automotive journalists. Both honors came after a substantial midcycle update for the 2009 model year, not a complete redesign. We like the current model's spacious interior and efficient hybrid powertrain, but we're looking forward to the redesigned Fusion, which is due late this summer.

View Slideshow:  2011 Best Cars for Families

7. Ram Pickups

Total sales: 244,763 | Percentage change: +22.6 percent

Not only did the sale of Ram pickups — which include the half-ton 1500 and the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 — increase in 2011, but Chrysler Group's full-size pickups gained 1.5 points of market share. It seems consumers finally accept that Ram is its own brand, and not just a model under the Dodge umbrella. In our opinion, the Ram 1500 is the best-looking full-size truck, and, thanks to a coil-spring rear suspension, it offers the most comfortable ride, too. We also like the strong and well-branded Hemi V8 engine and the innovative RamBox in-bed storage system.

Watch Video:  2011 Ram 2500-3500

8. Toyota Corolla/Matrix

Total sales: 240,259 | Percentage change: -9.7 percent

The Corolla sedan and Matrix hatchback remained in the top 10, but fell two spots to seventh overall. That's a pretty impressive performance, given Toyota's production struggles and the vastly improved competition. The Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are all excellent cars and their sales are on the rise. Their ride, handling and interior quality surpass the Corolla/Matrix, making us wonder if Toyota will respond with improved compacts any time soon. In terms of reliability and resale value, however, the Corolla/Matrix is still a good buy.

View Slideshow:  10 Cheapest Cars to Maintain

9. Honda Accord

Total sales: 235,625 | Percentage change: -16.9 percent

The natural disasters in Japan and Thailand really put a crimp in Honda's 2011 sales. The automaker didn't get all of its operations back up and running until November, and inventory levels won't return to normal until spring. As a result, overall company sales were down 6.9 percent; the Accord took a 16.9 percent hit. The Accord is still a fine vehicle, with plenty of space, good engines and decent handling, but it's getting a little long in the tooth. It's due for a redesign this year. Hopefully, Honda will take a larger step forward than Toyota in response to the improving competition.

Compare: Honda Accord vs. Ford Fusion vs. Nissan Altima

10. Chevrolet Cruze

Total sales: 231,732 | Percentage change: +846 percent

Entering 2011, Chevrolet's goal was to sell 200,000 compact Cruzes while maintaining midsize Malibu sales. It beat both of those projections. The highlight was Cruze sales, which were up an astonishing 81 percent in 2011 over combined Cruze and Cobalt sales for 2010. Why? Quality. In our opinion, the Cruze is the best compact in Chevrolet's 100-year history. It's incredibly refined and fun to drive. The styling is modern and progressive but not overdone, and the Eco trim gets 42 mpg on the highway — and it does all that with prices starting at only $16,720. Pretty good.

See: New Fuel-Efficient Cars Under $20,000

Sales Data: Automotive News Data Center, Automobile Manufacturers

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.

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