Economy Cars: Ratings of Sources
Total of 27 Sources
For an explanation of how we rank reviews, see our ratings criteria page.
Recommended Small Cars
by Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Our AssessmentConsumerReports.org extensively tests a variety of vehicles, rating them and ranking the best and worst ones in each class. ConsumerReports.org also focuses on some issues other reviewers ignore, such as safety ratings, predicted reliability and real-world fuel economy. The reviews at ConsumerReports.org are thorough and easy to understand. They target the average car buyer rather than automobile enthusiasts. Reviews and ratings are available online, but a subscription is required to access them.
2011 Sedan Buying Guide: Top Recommended Sedans
by Editors of Edmunds.com
Our AssessmentEach year, the editors of Edmunds.com extensively test and list their recommended cars in a variety of categories and price classes. For 2011, three economy cars make the list of recommended sedans: the new Ford Fiesta, the Honda Fit (a hatchback) and the Mazda3. The Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Golf and the Kia Forte Koup share the top spot for best coupe. The Volkswagen Golf TDI is the only small car named as a winner in the Top Recommended Diesel class. Clicking on each vehicle brings up a list of models with pricing and a link to a full detailed review.
2011 10Best Cars
by Editors of Car and Driver
Our AssessmentThis article represents the culmination of Car and Driver's annual evaluations of all new 2011 vehicles. Two economy cars -- the Honda Fit and Volkswagen Golf -- make the 10Best list for 2011. The Honda Fit is the cheapest car on this list, and the editors say that it "offers a fun-to-drive quotient that proves basic transportation isn't always basic." The 2011 Volkswagen Golf is praised for its practicality and refinement that makes it seem like a "mini-Mercedes."
2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year: Contenders and Finalists
by Editors of Motor Trend
Our AssessmentFor the past 60 years, Motor Trend's editors have evaluated all new and significantly redesigned vehicles entering the market in a given model year and awarded the winner their Car of the Year designation. Ratings are based on a slew of categories: advancement in design, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value and intended function. From a long list of candidates, 10 finalists are announced, along with one winner. Among the finalists are the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta and the 2011 Scion tC. The VW Jetta TDI is called "the gem of the [Jetta] line-up" for its impressive fuel economy. The Scion tC is praised for its good all-around value, but it remains only a finalist because "lacks the uniqueness that should make Scion something special".
2011 Best Buy and Recommended Awards
by Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
Our AssessmentConsumerGuide.com's editors perform road tests on the top-selling cars on the U.S. market and use those results to rank each one against a class average. Top-ranking cars earn a Best Buy award, while runners-up get a Recommended rating. Small cars with Best Buy accolades for 2011 fall into the subcompact, compact and sporty/performance categories. They include the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI. The Chevrolet Cruze, Mini Cooper, Scion tC and Suzuki SX4 earn Recommended ratings. We'd like to see a little more discussion in the reviews, but there's enough here to get a good grip on what the editors like -- and dislike -- about each car.
2011 Automobile Magazine All-Stars
by Editors of Automobile Magazine
Our AssessmentBased on testing by the editors, Automobile Magazine names an Automobile of the Year along with nine All-Star picks that just miss that title. Most of the winners are sports cars and luxury sports sedans, but one economy car makes the cut: the 2011 Volkswagen GTI, which is the sportiest guise of the Golf. According to associate editor Eric Tingwall in the brief award write-up, the GTI's "enduring appeal stems from passionate performance, subtle restraint and detailed execution." The website also offers full reviews and comparisons of many new cars.
New Best Bets
by Editors of Cars.com
Our AssessmentCars.com considers issues like safety, practicality, comfort and performance when selecting its annual Best Bets award winners. This is a fairly long list that includes more than just economy cars, and the attached reviews may or may not include a road-test report, but they do offer a balanced approach thanks to the above-listed criteria. Cars.com also provides links to other expert and consumer reviews, a side-by-side comparison tool and other useful car-shopping aids.
Recommended Shopping Lists: Gas-Mileage Champs/Small Cars
by Editors of Kelley Blue Book
Our AssessmentThe Kelley Blue Book website contains detailed, user-friendly reviews for most cars on the market, culminating in a list of recommended cars. The Small Cars category includes five budget picks: the Honda Civic, Honda Fit, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Mini Cooper. In the same category are the Audi A3 and Volvo C30, which are pricier than the other small cars but approach entry-level luxury. The diminutive Smart ForTwo can be found on the Gas-Mileage Champs recommended list as it gets an EPA rating of 33 mpg city/44 mpg highway.
Top Safety Picks 2011
by Editors of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Our AssessmentIf you're concerned about the safety of small cars, you'll find a wealth of reliable crash data at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's website. The IIHS stringently crash tests vehicles -- including a new rollover roof-strength test -- and then gives the highest performing models its Top Safety Pick designation. This year that group includes more small cars than in 2010, with the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion tC, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf earning Top Safety Pick ratings in the Small Car category. The new Ford Fiesta is the only Top Safety Pick in the Minicars category. IIHS also conducts fender-bender tests to see which cars' bumpers best protect them from costly damage; most do a poor job.
by Editors of SaferCar.gov
Our AssessmentThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the safety of most 2011 vehicles based on front, side and rollover tests. The tests are conducted slightly differently compared with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's tests -- crashing similar-sized cars head-on, rather than on the front corner, for example -- so the results sometimes differ, but the two organizations' tests taken together provide a fuller safety picture. For the 2011 model year, NHTSA introduced new, more rigorous safety standards. This means that 2011 NHTSA safety ratings cannot be directly compared to safety ratings from 1990-2010. For 2011, the Chevrolet Cruze gets the highest safety-protection rating of the limited amount of small cars that have been tested. The Cruze earns three 5-star ratings and one 4-star rating, a nearly perfect score.
2011 Most and Least Fuel Efficient Vehicles
by Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
Our AssessmentThe Environmental Protection Agency makes it easy to compare cars' fuel economy on this website. This chart lists the best fuel-sippers and worst gas-guzzlers in each size class (most of the guzzlers are sports cars). As expected, many small cars are picked by the EPA for their impressive mileage; the Mini Cooper, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, Audi A3 and Kia Rondo all make the most-efficient list.
Dependability Ratings by Category
by Editors of J.D. Power and Associates
Our AssessmentJ.D. Power and Associates presents numerous car awards based on its big owner surveys. The most useful of these is the dependability study. J.D. Power tracks down people who bought a car three years before and asks them how the car has held up. Editors then name the most reliable cars in each class. In the 2010 survey, the only small car to receive top honors is the Honda Fit, which is ranked as the most dependable model in the sub compact class. While the Toyota Prius is given the distinction of being the most dependable compact car, the Toyota Corolla is a runner-up
Best New Cars of 2011
by Aaron Gold
Our AssessmentReviewer Aaron Gold compiles his own annual list of the best new and redesigned cars for the 2011 model year. The list of 12 cars includes three economy cars -- the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Elantra and Scion tC -- and provides a concise, paragraph-long justification for each choice. More detailed reviews are also accessible from here. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
by Editors of Autoblog.com
Our AssessmentAutoblog.com doesn't usually compare cars or rank them, but its road-test reviews paint a vivid picture of what it's really like to drive each car. Autoblog.com has reviewed several 2011 economy cars, including newcomers like the Chevrolet Cruze. Since many models are carryovers from the 2010 and 2009 model years, these older reviews archived on the website are still useful.
by Editors of TheTruthAboutCars.com
Our AssessmentThis car-enthusiast news and review website is known for its provocative reviews. Of the new small cars reviewed, the 2012 Ford Focus and the 2011 Hyundai Elantra are given positive feedback. Review quality and content varies by reviewer. Testers here consider driving fun to be paramount, but most consider practical matters like fuel economy, too. Reviewers are not afraid to point out the negatives they encounter with each vehicle.
News and Rants
by Editors of MotherProof.com
Our AssessmentMotherProof.com's real-life moms discuss cars from a family point of view. They don't test many compact cars (and none make their list of 2011's best small family cars), but they do test a few. Reviewers live with the cars for about a week and evaluate their interiors, exteriors, safety, fuel economy and family friendliness. Generally, relatively low amounts of interior storage, space and fewer convenience features lead to small cars not gaining rave reviews here.
Auto Buying Guide
by Editors of Kiplinger.com
Our AssessmentFor its annual car rankings, Kiplinger.com editors test new vehicles to judge their performance and style, but they also give a lot of weight to practical aspects, including resale value and ownership costs. The Volkswagen Golf wins the under-$20,000 category for the second consecutive year. The Hyundai Elantra is named Best New Model Under $20,000 for its impressive interior space, features and fuel efficiency.
by Editors of Autos.ca
Our AssessmentAutos.ca, formerly CanadianDriver.com, tests a wide range of cars and produces easy-to-read reviews. Testers cover many 2011 small cars, including multiple reviews on the various body styles in some models. Don't let the reviewers' use of the metric system fool you; the Canadian models tested are almost always identical to their U.S. counterparts.
Car Rankings: Affordable Small Cars
by Editors of U.S. News Rankings and Reviews
Our AssessmentU.S. News Rankings and Reviews researches other publications' reviews of compact and subcompact cars and translates them into numeric scores. Editors don't perform their own testing, but they provide a good summary of data. In the Affordable Small Cars category, the top-rated model is the 2011 Ford Fiesta, followed by the Honda Civic and Honda Fit. While the individual write-ups are helpful, editors don't try to compare and contrast the models.
The Best Vehicles by Class
by Editors of GreenerCars.org
Our AssessmentUnlike other sources that consider only fuel economy, GreenerCars.org also considers pollution emissions when picking the greenest cars. The site also provides a good explanation on pollution-classification guidelines and green-driving tips. Economy cars appear in the subcompact, compact, midsize and small-wagon categories. The best performers are collected in the Greenest Vehicles of 2011 section, which includes the Smart ForTwo, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Mini Cooper, Toyota Yaris and Mazda2.
Comparison Test: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ vs. 2012 Ford Focus Titanium
by Mike Monticello
Our AssessmentThis comparison test from Edmunds Inside Line pits two new American economy cars against one another, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and the 2012 Ford Focus. Both cars are considered big improvements over their respective predecessors in nearly every dimension. The new Ford Focus wins this comparison for its exceptional "drivability, livability and quality," and the reviewer concludes that these points "just might make it the best compact economy car in the world."
Long-Term Road Tests
by Editors of Edmunds Inside Line
Our AssessmentThe Edmunds Inside Line blog maintains a fleet of cars that editor's review on a long-term basis, providing real-world impressions in a blog format updated daily. The cars within the fleet are generally driven for about 20,000 miles. The blog entries are written by various contributors from the Edmunds.com staff, giving multiple perspectives on each model. Though there are only a few economy cars in the long-term fleet as of this writing, the models are covered very thoroughly.
Comparison Test: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2011 Honda Fit vs. 2011 Mazda2
by Editors of WindingRoad.com
Our AssessmentWindingRoad.com is an online automotive magazine that tends to review models from the driving enthusiast's perspective. Here the WindingRoad.com staff compares two new-for-2011 models, the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, against the highly rated Honda Fit. Of the three staff members reviewing the cars, each ends up picking a different model largely based upon subjective driving preference. Other reviews and information on these and other economy cars can be found on Winding Road's website.
by Editors of Road & Track
Our AssessmentRoad & Track offers expert reviews on new models in the form of first-drives, full road tests and long-term tests, among other articles. Reviews focus on sportier models, but there are a few new economy cars that have been tested, including the 2012 Fiat 500 and 2012 Ford Focus.
2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2010 Honda Fit, 2011 Mazda 2 -- Comparison Tests
by Michael Austin
Our AssessmentHere, the 2011 Ford Fiesta is compared directly with the new Mazda2 and the incumbent favorite, the Honda Fit. The Ford Fiesta places third out of the bunch mostly due to a diminished fun-to-drive factor compared to the European version; the reviewer notes that it "still ranks high overall in this subcompact class." The Mazda2 stands in second place for its driving enjoyment, and the Honda Fit claims the top spot for its combination of quality, driving demeanor and smart interior packaging.
Hybrids & Diesels: Do They Save Money?
by Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Our AssessmentThe editors of ConsumerReports.org address a question that many economy-car shoppers have asked themselves: In trying to save money, does purchasing a hybrid or diesel make sense? The editors analyze the costs associated with hybrid and diesel options -- most notably their higher base price -- as compared with the closest gasoline-powered equivalents. Depreciation, fuel costs, insurance, interest on financing, maintenance, repairs and sales tax are factored in as well. The conclusion is that while a few hybrids and diesels are likely to save the average consumer money, many will be more expensive to run than their gasoline equivalents. Unlike most other Consumer Reports online content, this article is viewable without a paid subscription.
Hybrid Cars: Not a Good Investment
by Editors of CarGurus.com
Our AssessmentCarGurus.com, an online automotive community that also operates a blog, concludes in this post that most hybrids don't save enough in fuel costs to overcome their higher base prices. Looking at the initial purchase price, lost value in terms of depreciation and total gasoline costs, math by editors of CarGurus.com shows that on average, hybrids cost over 25% more to own and operate than their nonhybrid counterparts. The article highlights that those interested in hybrids can maximize their savings by choosing a hybrid with a lower base price and larger difference in fuel efficiency when compared to the gasoline alternative.