Small cars, big attitude
Six pint-sized wonders from the 2011 Chicago Auto Show that are fun to drive and inexpensive to own.
These days you don't have to be paranoid about rising fuel prices to opt for a smaller car. Forget the annoyance of having to make do with wind-up windows and tinny-sounding stereos (or no stereo at all). Those days are long gone. This new breed of small car has style and attitude to match frugal running costs and easy-to-park proportions.
We've chosen six of the best small cars here at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show. They range from a sporty "3-door coupe" to an Italian city car that's cuter than a basket of puppies. An American manufacturer also makes the cut, despite the long dominance of foreign automakers in this highly competitive segment.
Want to spend your money on things other than hefty fuel bills and sky-high insurance rates? Here are some of the smartest small cars on the market (or coming soon).
2012 Hyundai Veloster
The looks are unique and, to be honest, we're not even sure what to call it. The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is hard to categorize and that's why we think it could be a hit when it arrives this summer. It might look like a coupe, but the Veloster actually sports three doors: one on the driver's side, and two on the passenger's side. It's much less strange than it sounds, and credit Hyundai for making the asymmetrical design look so cool.
There's a lot going on in the shape, with perhaps a few too many air intakes and scoops (some of them fake) in the front. Yet we believe many people will love the Veloster simply because it takes a chance at being different. Hyundai says the direct-injected 138-bhp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine will offer "at least" 40 mpg during highway driving. With an estimated base price of $17,000, the Veloster should have plenty of buyers willing to take a chance on this funky 3-door.
2011 Ford Fiesta
Nimble, attractive and fun to drive. For years you might have automatically associated "foreign-built" to these fine attributes. The 2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback and sedan are bucking the long tradition of weak-willed domestic small cars. Designed with the global market in mind, the Fiesta has a handsome shape (especially in hatchback form) and driving manners that meet, or exceed, the competition.
With a starting price of just over $13,000, the base Fiesta is a bargain that doesn't sacrifice its driving soul for economy. The 120-bhp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder is efficient (39 mpg on the highway) and offers enough power to keep you zipping along in traffic. Higher up the Fiesta food chain, you'll find options like a power moonroof and Ford's Sync in-car connectivity system, which permits hands-free calling and voice controls for other vehicle functions.
2012 Fiat 500
Face it; nobody is going to buy a Fiat 500 because of its power. The 101-bhp 16-valve 1.4-liter four is fine, most of the time. But passing another vehicle on a two-lane road should only be done with plenty of patience and lots of room. So what does the Fiat 500 have more than the competition, or even cars costing double its price? The answer: style. Sure it can get cramped with four onboard, but this adorable little 2-door can't help but make you smile when you see it.
A Mini Cooper has sharper steering, but the softer ride and handling combination of the Fiat 500 is still plenty fun. And like a MINI — or Toyota's youth-oriented Scion brand — one of the keys to the Fiat 500 is its high degree of customization. You can add stripes, larger alloy wheels, Italian flag decals, and even an in-car perfume dispenser. Fuel economy in the mid-30s is also pretty good. Just be wary with the options since range-topping 500s can break the $20,000 barrier.
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Diesel is the answer: how much can a TDI engine save you over the course of the vehicle? Here in south Texas, as of Saturday, diesel is 45 cents per gallon more expensive than regular unleaded. And that rate of rise has been continuing over the past few months.
I agree that America's dependency on foreign oil is our own noose; until Washington (and auto-makers) quit dolling out incentives for gas guzzlers and pulling stunts like the EV1 recall fiasco...the fat cat Arabs will only get richer while Americans keep bending over at the pump.
crappy ethanol 10% is up to 45 cents cheaper here in okla but 100% gas is only 30 cents less and super unleaded is 10 cents less. Usually there is a 20-40 cent difference but lets use your area's difference and not take into account the loss from ethanol.
My wife's honda accord gets 23 city(100% gas) vs my Jetta at 35.3 city (worst tank ever)
According to houstongasprices reg gas is 2.83/gals and Diesel is 3.19/gals. or a difference of .36cents.
I have 125,000 miles on my 06 jetta so 125,000/23= 5434 gals vs 3541
5434*$2.83= $15,373 vs $11,295 or a difference of $4,078
For my wife's accord to equal the saving of my TDI her car would have to jump form 23 mpg city to over 31 mpg city.
Also I have very little maint on this car other than oil changes and timing belts. I only have to change the oil every 10K miles and no need for tuneups since its a compression motor no plugs :)
Glad to see the Nissan Versa in there. It seems to be one of the most under-rated vehicles out there. I bought a Hatchback for my daughter last year and was so impressed I'm thinking of getting one for myself.
- but the Fiat 500? You've got to be kidding me
....although I guess an "in-car perfume dispenser" will come in handy after it comes back from the shop...again