2011 Honda Fit
2011 Honda Fit

Best economy car, hatchback

The Honda Fit is tiny but versatile, hiding a remarkable amount of passenger room within its subcompact, four-door hatchback frame. Its easy-to-fold rear seat opens up 57 cubic feet of cargo space -- as much as some small SUVs. Reviewers universally praise the Fit for its great handling and fun-to-drive nature, and many say it feels like a more expensive car. The 117-horsepower Honda Fit gets excellent fuel mileage for a nonhybrid car, averaging 28 to 35 mpg in real-world mixed driving. However, despite the Fit's good crash-test results -- for a subcompact -- the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says cars this small aren't as safe as bigger economy cars like the 2011 Honda Civic sedan (Base MSRP: $15,605 to $25,490), sporty 2011 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback (Base MSRP: $15,800 to $23,010), and 2011 Volkswagen Golf (Base MSRP: $17,995 to $19,755).
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Base MSRP: $15,100 to $16,860 Estimated Price
2011 Hyundai Elantra
2011 Hyundai Elantra

Best economy car, sedan

Reviewers say the 2011 Hyundai Elantra has redefined what an economy sedan can and should be. Not only is the Elantra stylish inside and out, but it also delivers some of the best fuel-economy figures of any compact car, achieving 29 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway in all configurations. Performance and driving experience are as good as or better than the competition, say reviewers. The icing on the cake is the Elantra's cheap price; it bests nearly all competing economy cars when similarly equipped. The all-new 2012 Ford Focus (Base MSRP: $16,270 to $22,765) is as highly praised by reviewers as the Elantra, but it is more expensive. Expect the upcoming 2012 Honda Civic and a host of already available competitors like the 2011 Mazda3 (Base MSRP: $15,800 to $23,010) to be excellent alternatives.
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Base MSRP: $14,830 to $19,980 Estimated Price
2011 Volkswagen GTI
2011 Volkswagen GTI

Best sporty compact car

The Volkswagen GTI, based on the Golf, is the original "hot-hatch" that carries on the tradition of delivering the most fun per dollar. Available as either a two-door or four-door hatchback, the GTI packs a 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers a smooth 200 horsepower. While competitors like the Mazda3-based MazdaSpeed3 and 2011 Honda Civic Si can be quicker, experts often prefer the GTI over those compact cars for its sophisticated ride, impressive comfort and unmatched interior quality. The GTI's Achilles heel is its high base price, $23,695 at its cheapest, which pushes the boundaries for what can be considered an economy car.
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Base MSRP: $23,695 to $29,825 Estimated Price
2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI
2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Best nonhybrid fuel economy

Of all standard-sized, nonhybrid economy cars, the fuel-economy champion for 2011 is the Volkswagen Golf TDI hatchback. Its 140-horsepower, clean diesel, four-cylinder engine achieves 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway -- almost as good as many hybrid cars -- while it out-muscles other economy cars with 236 pound-feet of torque. Critics also admire the Golf TDI's solid, refined feel. New well-reviewed gasoline-powered competitors, such as the 2011 Ford Fiesta (Base MSRP: $13,320 to $17,120), 2011 Hyundai Elantra (Base MSRP: $14,830 to $19,980) and 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (Base MSRP: $16,275 to $22,225), achieve impressive mileage that is almost as good as the Golf TDI's, giving the consumer more options than ever for maximizing fuel efficiency. The Golf TDI's sedan counterpart, the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Base MSRP: $22,095 to $22,995), has the same fuel efficiency but lacks the Golf's 46 cubic feet of maximum cargo space and has interior materials that experts deem to be of lower quality than those found in the Golf.
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Base MSRP: $23,225 to $23,885 Estimated Price
2011 Nissan Versa
2011 Nissan Versa

Best cheap compact car

The base 2011 Nissan Versa comes in with a sticker just under $10,000, making it one of the lowest-priced compact cars in the U.S. However, that base sedan is sparsely equipped, with a small engine and few extras -- not even air conditioning, power windows or a stereo. The step-up Versa sedan or five-door hatchback, with a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine, is more nicely equipped, and it represents an excellent value according to reviewers. Although it's the size of a compact car outside, the Nissan Versa impresses testers by offering more backseat legroom than a midsize Honda Accord. Still, among economy cars, the time-tested 2011 Honda Civic (Base MSRP: $15,605 to $25,490) and sporty 2011 Mazda3 (Base MSRP: $15,800 to $23,010) earn higher safety and reliability ratings -- and more recommendations from experts.
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Base MSRP: $9,990 to $17,190 Estimated Price
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Economy Cars Runners Up:

2011 Ford Fiesta Base MSRP: $13,320 to $17,120

8 picks including: ConsumerGuide.com, Car and Driver…

2011 Volkswagen Golf Base MSRP: $17,995 to $19,755

8 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Honda Civic Base MSRP: $15,605 to $25,490

5 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Mini Cooper Base MSRP: $19,400 to $31,300

5 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Mazda3 Base MSRP: $15,800 to $23,010

5 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Volkswagen Jetta Base MSRP: $14,995 to $22,995

5 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Car and Driver…

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Base MSRP: $16,275 to $22,225

4 picks including: About.com, ConsumerGuide.com…

2011 Scion tC Base MSRP: $18,275

4 picks including: About.com, ConsumerGuide.com…

2011 Toyota Corolla Base MSRP: $15,600 to $17,470

4 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Kia Forte Base MSRP: $14,995 to $18,895

4 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Audi A3 Base MSRP: $27,270 to $30,850

4 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Mazda2 Base MSRP: $14,180 to $15,635

3 picks including: ConsumerGuide.com, Car and Driver…

2011 Toyota Yaris Base MSRP: $12,995 to $13,715

3 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Suzuki SX4 Base MSRP: $13,499 to $18,999

2 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Volvo C30 Base MSRP: $24,600 to $26,950

2 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Scion xD Base MSRP: $15,045 to $16,905

2 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Smart ForTwo Base MSRP: $12,490 to $17,690

2 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Subaru Impreza Base MSRP: $17,495 to $28,995

2 picks including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2012 Ford Focus Base MSRP: $16,270 to $22,765

1 pick including: Car and Driver, Cars.com…

2011 Ford Focus Base MSRP: $16,640 to $19,670

1 pick including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Base MSRP: $15,195 to $ 27,695

1 pick including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Toyota Matrix Base MSRP: $18,545 to $21,415

1 pick including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

2011 Nissan Sentra Base MSRP: $15,540 to $20,400

1 pick including: FuelEconomy.gov, Edmunds.com…

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