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5 of the Best All-American Subcompacts

Story Provided - November 27, 2012 09:49 AM

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Chevrolet Spark ($12,245) The automatic gets 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The manual can claim 32/38 mpg.

GM
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Chevriolet Sonic ($14,200) This car puts an emphasis on safety that starts with 10 airbags. It got five stars from the NHTSA and was a top pick by the IIHS.

GM
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Ford Focus ($16,500) The automatic transmission base S model gets 27 city/38 highway mpg. If the fuel economy package is added, this can raise to 28/40 mpg

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Chevrolet Cruze ($17,130) The base engine only gets 22 mpg city but it can pull 35 mpg highway. Eco models can boost that to 42 mpg on the highway.

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Ford Fiesta ($17,500) For the price, the Fiesta has a fairly upscale, comfortable cabin. It’s perfect for urban living, fitting into tight parking spaces, and commuting

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American subcompacts have good fuel economy and are made to fit into tight spaces. The 2012 Ford Fiesta, for instance, can claim 29/40 mpg, which matches many hybrids. When their low prices are combined with their fuel economy, it seems as if these cars can pay their own way in terms of money saved at the gas pump.

Chevrolet Spark, base $12,245
The all-new Chevrolet Spark is a subcompact that actually claims to seat four, and that’s more realistic than many competitors that try to squeeze in that fifth seat. Many see this as strictly a city car. It has an 84 horsepower engine which, despite the implications of a name like Spark, doesn’t have an electric motor boost. The automatic gets 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The manual can claim 32/38 mpg. Like the Cruze, Chevy has given it 10 airbags. Most have noted that the car’s price doesn’t allow it to offer many tech features. The MyLink infotainment system is available, but navigation is not an option. With a price that rivals used cars, this is Chevy's attempt to outmaneuver the expensive, smaller SmartCar.

Chevrolet Sonic, base $14,200
This hatchback is Chevy’s answer to the Ford Fiesta. It too comes in many fun colors, has a clever exterior and is able to offer high gas mileage. Like the other Chevys, this one puts an emphasis on safety that starts with 10 airbags. It got five stars from the NHTSA and was a top pick by the IIHS. The turbocharged engine offers a healthy 40 mpg on the highway. For tech equipment, drivers can add MyLink Radio and a fun seven-inch color touchscreen. This small car even managed to earn Ward’s 10 Best Interiors, which shows how much better the materials are than you would expect in a car this inexpensive.

Ford Focus, base $16,500
This car ranks high for safety, but it suffers from a rather boring interior. The exterior is sporty and aggressive compared to other, more meek and mild subcompacts. Whether it’s the base or a higher trim level, the Focus manages to be near the top of its class for gas mileage. In fact, for a slightly bigger car, it beats other subcompacts. The automatic transmission base S model gets 27 city/38 highway mpg. If the fuel economy package is added, this can raise to 28/40 mpg. The Focus also gets high marks for excellent handling, which is great for a small car. The main complaint against it is that it has poor rear visibility.

Chevrolet Cruze, base $17,130
The Chevy Cruze has a bit more technology and a large trunk compared to its rivals. It offers a USB port and Bluetooth, for instance. It has 10 airbags, and consumers can choose important safety features such as a rearview camera, a rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. Its high gas mileage ratings are complemented by a comfortable ride and accurate steering. The base engine only gets 22 mpg city but it can pull 35 mpg highway. Eco models can boost that to 42 mpg on the highway. Overall, this is a bigger car, but it is still small enough to squeeze out subcompact gas mileage.

Ford Fiesta, base $17,500
This car often gets the highest scores on performance and safety. It’s exterior and interior are fairly high-rated, too, which is surprising for the low price. Just like the competing Mini Cooper the Fiesta is offered in many fun colors, which makes it a favorite among young, first-time car buyers. The high gas mileage comes with the Fiesta’s optional Super Fuel Economy package. The Ford Fiesta comes only as a sedan in the base model S or the SEL. You can only get the five-door hatchback from the SE and SES trims. For the price, the Fiesta has a fairly upscale, comfortable cabin. It’s perfect for urban living, fitting into tight parking spaces, and commuting. For its price, it also offers some luxury options such as heated seats, leather trim, automatic climate control, keyless entry, push-button start, and heated outside mirrors.

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