As Hummer hobbles toward its demise and SUV lovers salivate over station wagons, value-driven consumers are embracing compact cars they once derided as "econoboxes." While customers two decades ago derided Ford's subcompact Festiva and Aspire models -- the latter mocked for suggesting drivers "aspire" to economy class -- Ford's 2011 Fiesta is getting a lot more love. After offering buyers navigation systems, premium sound, keyless entry and ignition, heated leather trim on the seats and a choice of nine exterior colors, Ford received more than 105,000 queries, 8,000 reservations and 2,500 orders for a car that's not produced in North America yet.
This is the gold standard against which the little guys are measured. The 1.5-liter engine is peppy and fuel-efficient, but the interior is the moneymaker. A telescoping steering wheel, 40 inches of headroom in the front and rear, 60/40 fold-down rear seats that can be reconfigured three ways without removing headrests, Apple iPod-compatible audio system with USB ports, up to 10 beverage holders and optional navigation system are mere toys compared to its more than 57 cubic feet of storage space.
Mpg: 24 city/34 highway
This vehicle has sedan versions that are cheaper, but the hatchback is a value even at its elevated price. For used-car cost, you can get Bluetooth, keyless entry and ignition, satellite radio, iPod hookups and options like steering wheel audio controls, navigation and sunroof.
Fuel economy's great, but it won't win you any races against Vin Diesel or Paul Walker. To all of you wannabe gearheads who think muscle cars all came out of the '70s and go by names like Camaro, Charger or Testostero, there's a generation of racers straight out of The Fast and The Furious just waiting to shut down your GTO with their little hatchbacks.
One of the bigger models among these hatchbacks is this 305-horsepower, turbocharged Impreza, which goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Want fuel economy? Ride a moped. Want a decent navigation system and a stereo that sounds better than a transistor? There's a Ford Focus out there with your name on it. Want to blow a BMW 3 Series off the line during Friday rush hour? Two words: Impreza hatchback.
Mpg: 21 city/29 highway
Mpg: 25 city/28 highway
Volkswagen Golf TDI
Mpg: 30 city/42 highway
Mpg: 28 city/37 highway
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