In the small car category, specifically compact cars, it pays to look at the year’s best-sellers. Now that the final tally is in, we have the list of the best selling compact cars in 2011.

1. Toyota CorollaJapanese automaker Toyota is really on a roll, racking up the number one compact in sales for 2011, as well as number one passenger car in the Toyota Camry midsize sedan. For December, the Toyota Corolla sold 21,009 units, while for the full 2011 calendar year, the total rang in at 240,259. With that many sales, the Corolla is way out front of the next best-selling compact cars in 2011.

2. Chevrolet CruzeBeing all-new for 2011 certainly helped boost the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze in the small car sales rankings, with the Cruze winding up last year in the number two spot. Sales in December amounted to 16,675 units, while 2011 calendar year numbers came in at 231,752. That’s up an incredible 846 percent over year-ago levels. The Cruze was just 8,527 units off first place.

3. Honda CivicThe Honda Civic, all-new for 2012, managed to propel the compact car up the sales ranks after a bit of a slow start early in the year. The Civic sold some 20,545 units in December alone, ending up 2011 with total sales of 221,235. That’s still off 15.3 percent compared with the same period in 2010.

4. Hyundai ElantraStyling, performance and fuel economy ratings were enough to keep the Hyundai Elantra in the top five best selling compact cars in 2011. Sales of 13,025 in December and 186,361 for January through December cinched the number four spot. The Elantra’s 2011 sales were up 41 percent year-over-year.

5. Ford FocusThe 2011 Ford Focus compact sedan hung on to fifth place for the 2011 calendar year, thanks to December sales of 14,281 and full-year sales of 175,717. That’s up 1.3 percent compared with the same period in 2010. Expect the Focus numbers to climb with the all-new 2012 model.

6. Volkswagen JettaRedesigned in 2011, the Volkswagen Jetta has a huge trunk and one of the most spacious back seats in the compact segment. It’s also affordably priced, at least in the lower trim levels. December Jetta sales of 12,422 and January through December sales of 150,515 were enough to slot the Volkswagen Jetta compact sedan in sixth place. That year-end tally, by the way is up 54.5 percent year-over-year.

7. Nissan Sentra – Although it may be outshined by other cars in its class, the Nissan Sentra is nonetheless a good value, is fun to drive and gets good fuel economy. With 8,710 sales in December, the Sentra closed out the year with total 2011 sales of 114,991, up 27.2 percent compared with the same period in 2010.

8. Mazda Mazda3 – All of Mazda’s product line offer true “zoom-zoom” personality and style, and the Mazda Mazda3 is no different. The compact Mazda3 sold 9,264 units in December and finished off calendar 2011 with sales of 102,417, off 4.3 percent year-over-year.

9. Chrysler 200With its powerful available V-6 engine, redesigned exterior and interior for 2011, the Chrysler 200 compact sedan is another competitive offering in this crowded segment. In December, the Chrysler 200 sold 9,213 units, while January through December sales totaled 87,033.

10. Kia FortePlenty of cargo room, standard Bluetooth and USB and quality interior materials mark the Kia Forte sedan and hatchback. December sales of both totaled 4,730, while full 2011 calendar year sales of 76,295 landed the Kia Forte in 10th place of the best selling compact cars in 2011.

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