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Thread: 2011 econo-car preview

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2011 econo-car preview

    * 2011 Chevy Cruze (base price $16,275) -

    Chevy hopes the Cruze will have the Right Stuff to meet segment leaders like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla on equal terms - unlike previous efforts such as the so-so Cobalt (and the downright awful Cavalier).

    The Cruze is all-new "premium" compact economy sedan equipped with standout features like 10 (count 'em) air bags, including a driver's knee air bag as well as front seat and rear seat side-impact bags, a six-speed manual transmission, air conditioning and 40 mpg highway fuel economy potential - if you choose the ECO version. It comes with low rolling resistance tires and a 1.4 liter turbocharged engine designed for maximum economy with acceptable on-demand acceleration (0-60 in about 9.2 seconds).

    The only obvious downsides to this car are its fairly high $16k-ish base price - expensive for the segment - and the fact that at least for now, the Cruze is only available in sedan form while many of its competitors are also available as coupes or hatchback wagons.

    But given the features you get (such as standard rear seat side-impact air bags, which aren't even available as extra cost options in the competition) the price may well be worth paying.

    * 2011 Honda CR-Z (base price, $19,200)

    Can hybrids be fun as well as fuel-efficient? That's the question Honda hopes it can answer with the new CR-Z coupe.

    The compact two-seater has a drivetrain that's similar to the late '90s-era Insight hybrid, but it's set up to do more than just get really good gas mileage, as the Insight was.

    A slightly larger, significantly stronger 1.5 liter gas engine (vs. 1.3 in the old Insight) supplemented by an electric motor/battery pack together produce 125 hp. A six-speed manual transmission is available, too. The CR-Z's six-speed manual transmission is a rare, sporty feature to find in a hybrid - almost all of which come with a CVT automatic as the only available transmission.

    Official stats weren't available at the time of this report, but Honda claims the CR-Z will be capable of 40 mpgs on the highway and close to that in city-type driving, too (where its electric-assist drivetrain is most efficient).
    This isn't as impressive as the old Insight's 60-ish mpg, but the CR-Z is much more fun to drive and even has a reasonably sized trunk/cargo area (25 cubic feet) which is a vast improvement over the Insight's 16 cubic foot trunk capacity.

    The only potential downside is the two-seater layout, which will probably limit the CR-Z to being a single-person's car, a commuter car - or a second car.

    * 2011 Mazda2 (base price $13,980) -

    With money tight and people (rightly) freaked out that gas prices could shoot back up to $3 per gallon (or more) at almost any time, it's likely we'll soon be seeing more and more European-style, value-priced subcompacts like the new Mazda2 on American roads.

    The 2 weighs just 2,300 pounds and is only about twelve feet long, nose to tail. To get a sense of that, compare the 2 to the "compact" sized Toyota Corolla, which weighs almost 2,800 pounds and is nearly two feet longer overall (178.7 inches vs. 155.5 for the Mazda).

    But though it's small outside, the 2 still manages to be reasonably roomy inside - with five-person capacity and more front seat head and legroom (39.1 inches and 42.1 inches, respectively) than a physically larger (on the outside, at least) compact sedan like the Corolla (38.8 inches and 41.7 inches). Back seat legroom is tighter in the 2, but still serviceable for carrying most average-sized adults - and the car's trunk space (28 cubic feet) is more than twice as much as the best-selling Corolla's 12.3 cubic foot trunk.

    The one downside to the flyweight, Mini Me-sized Mazda 2 may be that it'll feel a bit outclassed on American highways - where the slipstream of passing semis may require a firm grip on the wheel.

    * 2011 Ford Fiesta (base price $13,320) -

    Anyone over 40 today knows what economy cars used to be like yesterday. But while the new Fiesta is inexpensive, it's far from being low-rent. Build quality (fit and finish, materials used, overall sense of put-togetherness) is better than the best mid-priced cars of the Bad Old Days. And equipment that wasn't even available on high-end cars back then - such as a capless fuel filler system, electric-assist power steering, push-button ignition, dual-clutch six-speed automatic, voice-activated "Sync" connectivity for audio and communication - is either standard in the '11 Fiesta or available optionally. You can even get seat heaters in this thing - another unusual feature to find in this price range.

    Another plus is the Fiesta's two available bodystyles - sedan and five-door hatchback wagon. Ford says it'll get 40 miles-per-gallon on the highway, too.

    The only fly in the pie is that GPS isn't available. However, Ford may have decided to skip this feature because aftermarket units are becoming more popular than factory-installed systems. They're also less expensive, not hard-wired to that specific car and can be swapped out for a newer,more up-to-date model much more easily.

    * 2011 Scion iQ (base price $14,215) -

    The two-seat Smart Car apparently wasn't so smart, mainly because it barely had room for two people and was just too rickety-feeling to take out on the highway. Scion's new iQ has room for four, which may just be smart enough to make this pint-sized urban commuter-car work.

    Just ten feet long, the iQ could be the ideal city transport module. It'll fit into motorcycle-sized parking spots and tuck into tight alleys and other places no other car - even a "compact" - could hope to negotiate. The Smart Car could do all that, too - but it barely had enough room inside for the driver and one passenger, which gave it about the same practicality as a motorcycle.

    The iQ may not be a family hauler, but with a pair of rear seats, you can carry more than one passenger - or groceries.

    The iQ doesn't arrive at dealerships until late 2010, so performance/mileage figures weren't officially available at the time of this writing. But Toyota is talking high 30s in city driving, so highway mileage ought to be well into the mid 40s.

  2. #2
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    I sat in a Fiesta at a local auto show a few months ago.

    It appears to be that rare beast -- a small car that doesn't make you feel like you lost the lottery.

    Chip H.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    I sat in a Fiesta at a local auto show a few months ago.

    It appears to be that rare beast -- a small car that doesn't make you feel like you lost the lottery.

    Chip H.
    My impression also. It's a very decent little car that I could see buying even if I could afford to spend a lot more.

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    There's also a new Jetta out this year. VW has decontented it to get the price down under $16k (no more Audi-grade interior - more like Kia-grade from what I'm reading...)

    Chip H.

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    And word is in the Honda-fan forums is the CR-Z is a tubby. Waay too heavy to be considered as heir to the CRX.

    But... probably isn't as much of a death-trap as the CRX was, either.

    Chip H.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiph View Post
    There's also a new Jetta out this year. VW has decontented it to get the price down under $16k (no more Audi-grade interior - more like Kia-grade from what I'm reading...)

    Chip H.
    Yep; it's coming... doing this in sections. Family cars up next!

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