Hot New Passenger Cars for 2011

More than ever, affordable cars are king. The new Chevrolet Cruze and redesigned Volkswagen Jetta jump into a segment dominated by the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Even more affordable, the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 signal even more choices for anyone shopping entry-level cars. The Scion iQ, meanwhile, takes on a microcar segment still in its infancy. Higher up, family-car shoppers have the redesigned Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima to consider.

Hot Passenger Cars for 2011
All cars are listed in alphabetical order and are from the 2011 model year.
$16,275 - $21,975

A replacement for the Cobalt, the Cruze sedan offers a fairly large interior for its class, with a trunk as spacious as most midsize cars'. Chevrolet says the Cruze's high-mileage Eco trim, with an optional turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder, will achieve an EPA-rated 40 mpg highway.

  • New model replaces Cobalt

  • Sedan body style

  • 1.8-liter or turbo 1.4-liter engine

  • Six-speed manual or automatic

  • 10 airbags

  • High-mileage Eco model


$13,320 - $17,120

Resurrecting a nameplate absent from the U.S. since 1980, the Fiesta comes straight from Ford's European operations. It's available as a sedan or four-door hatchback, and with an advanced dual-clutch automatic transmission, one trim level gets 40 mpg highway.

  • All-new subcompact model

  • Sedan or four-door hatchback

  • Manual and automatic transmissions

  • Optional Sync system can run some smart phone apps

  • Seven airbags, stability control standard

  • Upscale options


$19,195 - $27,045

Sporting Lexus-like styling, the redesigned Sonata looks little like its predecessor. The standard four-cylinder's 35-mpg highway rating leads other family cars. Later on, expect a 274-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder and a 40-mpg hybrid to join the mix.

  • All-new exterior and interior design

  • Turbocharged and hybrid variants

  • Six-speed manual or automatic transmissions

  • Available sport-tuned SE trim



Sharing a platform with its sister sedan, the Hyundai Sonata, Kia's redesigned Optima offers similar drivetrains to the Hyundai — including a turbocharged four-cylinder and, later on, a hybrid variant — plus a slew of upscale luxury options.

  • Redesigned for 2011

  • Choice of two four-cylinders, including a 274-hp turbo engine

  • Available hybrid version (beginning in 2011)

  • Available heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel

  • Available voice-recognition audio system (beginning in 2011)



Long a purveyor of small cars, Mazda finally adds a subcompact with the Mazda2, a four-door hatchback that's well-equipped but relatively expensive. Arriving in a segment that's seen a lot of activity in the past five years, the Mazda2 competes with the Honda Fit, Chevy Aveo and Nissan Versa.

  • New entry-level addition to Mazda's lineup

  • Four-door hatchback

  • 1.5-liter four-cylinder

  • Manual or automatic

  • Seats five



Denizens of the urban jungle will want to check out the Scion iQ, a microcar from Toyota's youth division that competes with the Smart ForTwo and forthcoming Fiat 500. With a tiny four-cylinder engine and a kid-sized backseat, the iQ will get combined gas mileage in the high 30s, Scion says.

  • New model

  • One of the smallest cars in the U.S.

  • Seats three or four

  • 1.3-liter four-cylinder

  • Continuously variable automatic transmission

  • Ten airbags


$32,445 - $35,685

Toyota updated the Avalon's exterior for 2011. The cabin, featuring a redesigned dashboard, received more comprehensive changes. Like other full-size sedans — the Ford Taurus, Buick Lucerne and Chrysler 300 — the Avalon offers a large backseat and comfortable ride.

  • Restyled for 2011

  • New dashboard

  • Standard V-6 and six-speed automatic

  • Slightly improved gas mileage

  • Full-size dimensions

  • Reclining rear seats



Larger and less expensive than its predecessor, the Jetta aims to move toward the more-affordable domain of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Volkswagen is bringing back its 2.0-liter four-cylinder as the base engine; it joins a carryover 2.5-liter five-cylinder, a high-efficiency diesel engine and, later on, a turbocharged four-cylinder.

  • Redesigned sedan for 2011

  • Significantly lower starting price

  • Gas or diesel power

  • Increased backseat room

  • Wagon continues in previous form


© 10/25/2010