With all the new car intros at recent auto shows in the U.S. and abroad, it may be tough to focus on the best compact cars 2011 that are available right now. Not to worry, we’ve got it covered. Here are our suggestions for the best of the lot.

  • 2011 Chevrolet CruzeAll-new, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a compact sedan that not only turns heads, but garners top  marks for safety, fuel efficiency (up to 42 mpg highway with Cruze Eco, 36 mpg highway in other trims), and overall well-rounded abilities. Cruze comes with 10 standard airbags –- including driver and front passenger knee airbags. Along with standard electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), such distinctive features make the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze an outstanding pick for best compact cars 2011. Edmunds comments: “After all the calculations are done, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze should provide comfort and space and build quality never before seen in this segment at this price.” Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is $16,275.
  • 2011 Honda CivicAffordable, comfortable, and boasting the Honda brand name and legendary reliability, the 2011 Honda

    Civic is another excellent choice for best compact cars 2011. The ride is responsive and fun, but Civic falls a little short of some of the competition with respect to interior comfort, cargo capacity and, well, exterior styling. But for a practical commuter car that’s easy to drive, gets great fuel economy, and is reasonably priced, you can’t beat a Civic. Available in sedan, coupe, Hybrid and Civic GX natural gas vehicle, starting MSRP for the 2011 Honda Civic is $15,805.  Consumer Guide observes: “What no competitor matches is this compact sedan’s Best Buy fusion of engineering, style, value, and reputation for reliability and strong resale value.”

  • 2011 Hyundai ElantraAll-new for 2011, the Hyundai Elantra proves good things come in small packages. With six standard

    airbags, EPA-estimated 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway fuel economy, and more room inside than Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Nissan Maxima, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra just begs to be driven. AutoWeek comments: “Howlin’ enthusiasts might want a more sporty Mazda 3 or a Civic, but the majority of buyers in this segment aren’t enthusiasts. For them, Hyundai has offered a solid option to consider in the class, loaded with available features such as a seven-inch navigation screen, 360-watt premium audio and proximity entry key.” MSRP begins at $14,830 for the 2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS.

  • 2011 Mazda Mazda3Redesigned for 2010, the 2011 Mazda Mazda3 is unchanged this year. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a

    prime candidate for best compact cars 2011. Why? Try zippy handling and a total blast-to-drive experience. Consumer Guide names it a Best Buy, for good reason. Editors say: “It’s little wonder why the Mazda3 is the brand’s best-selling car. It boasts a stable ride, solid cabin appointments, a versatile hatchback body style, and a fun-to-drive character unmatched by most like-priced rivals of any size.” Starting MSRP for the 2011 Mazda Mazda3 sedan is $15,800 and $20,045 for the five-door hatchback.

  • 2011 Volkswagen GolfAvailable in coupe and sedan, with 170-horsepower 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder engine or 140-horsepower 2.0-liter TCI clean-diesel engine, the 2011 Volkswagen Golf provides some seriously fun driving with fuel-stingy powerplants. Starting MSRP for the 2011 VW 2.5L coupe is $17,995, while the 2.5L sedan is $17,995. Opt for the TDI clean diesel coupe and the MSRP begins at $23,225, with the TDI clean diesel sedan starting price is $23,885. No question that the diesel offers stellar fuel economy, rated at 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway by the EPA (compared to 23/33 mpg for gasoline-powered coupe and 24/31 mpg for the sedan). Car and Driver remarks (of the 2010 VW Golf TDI): “So they’re a little expensive, but based on our drive, folks who pony up the cash are likely to end up mighty satisfied.”

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